HOW TO FORMAT A PAPER IN APA 1
How to Format a Paper in APA:
Helpful Hints for EHSL Research Paper
Johanna K. McCormick
Portland State University
CI-510 Engaging the High School Learner
August 11, 2011
HOW TO FORMAT A PAPER IN APA 2
You will not need to include an abstract for this assignment; however, if you did, please
do so by inserting it after the title page. Your abstract page should already include the
page header (previously described). On the first line of the abstract page, center the word
―Abstract‖ (no bold, formatting, italics, underlining, or quotation marks). Beginning with
the next line, write a concise summary of the key points of your research. (Do not
indent.) Your abstract should contain at least your research topic, research questions,
participants, methods, results, data analysis, and conclusions. You may also include
possible implications of your research and future work you see connected with your
findings. Your abstract should be a single paragraph double-spaced. Your abstract should
be between 150 and 250 words. You may also want to list keywords from your paper in
your abstract. Place it immediately following your abstract paragraph. To do this, center
the text and type Keywords: (italicized) and then list your keywords. Listing your
keywords will help researchers find your work in databases.
Keywords: APA, format, heading, citation, serialization
HOW TO FORMAT A PAPER IN APA 3
How to Format a Paper in APA:
Helpful Hints for EHSL Research Paper
Your essay should be typed, double-spaced on standard-sized paper (8.5" x 11")
with 1-inch margins on all sides. Paragraph tabs should be set at one-half inch. APA
recommends using 12–point Times New Roman font.
Include a page header at the top of every page. To create a page header, insert
page numbers flush right. Then type "TITLE OF YOUR PAPER" in the header flush left.
APA style requires authors to use the past tense or present perfect tense when using
signal phrases to describe earlier research, for example, Jones (1998) found or Jones
(1998) has found.
APA Style uses a unique headings system to separate and classify paper
sections. There are 5 heading levels in APA. Regardless of the number of levels,
always use the headings in order, beginning with Level 1. The format of each level is
illustrated in Table 1.
Thus, if the article has four sections, some of which have subsection and
some of which don’t, use headings depending on the level of subordination. Section
headings receive Level 1 format. Subsections receive Level 2 format. Subsections of
subsections receive Level 3 format. See Table 2 an additional example of headings.
When using APA format, follow the author-date method of in-text citation. This
means that the author's last name and the year of publication for the source should appear
in the text, for example, (Jones, 1998), and a complete reference should appear in the
reference list at the end of the paper.
HOW TO FORMAT A PAPER IN APA 4
If you are referring to an idea from another work but not directly quoting the
material, or making reference to an entire book, article or other work, you only have to
make reference to the author and year of publication and not the page number in your in-
text reference. All sources that are cited in the text must appear in the reference list at the
end of the paper.
If you are directly quoting from a work, you will need to include the author, year
of publication, and the page number for the reference (preceded by "p."). Introduce the
quotation with a signal phrase that includes the author's last name followed by the date of
publication in parentheses.
According to Jones (1998), "Students often had difficulty using APA style,
especially when it was their first time" (p. 199).
Jones (1998) found "students often had difficulty using APA style" (p. 199);
what implications does this have for teachers?
If the author is not named in a signal phrase, place the author's last name, the year
of publication, and the page number in parentheses after the quotation.
She stated, "Students often had difficulty using APA style" (Jones, 1998, p.
199), but she did not offer an explanation as to why.
Place direct quotations longer than 40 words (or over three lines) in a free-
standing block of typewritten lines, and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a
new line, indented 1/2 inch from the left margin, i.e., in the same place you would begin a
new paragraph. Type the entire quotation on the new margin, and indent the first line of
any subsequent paragraph within the quotation 1/2 inch from the new margin. Maintain
HOW TO FORMAT A PAPER IN APA 5
double-spacing throughout. The parenthetical citation should come after the closing
Students often had difficulty using APA style, especially when it was their first
time citing sources. This difficulty could be attributed to the fact that many
students failed to purchase a style manual or to ask their teacher for help. (p. 199)
If you are paraphrasing an idea from another work, you only have to make
reference to the author and year of publication in your in-text reference, but APA
guidelines encourage you to also provide the page number (although it is not required.)
ACCEPTABLE: According to Jones (1998), APA style is a difficult citation
format for first-time learners.
ACCEPTABLE: APA style is a difficult citation format for first-time learners
FAVORED: APA style is a difficult citation format for first-time learners
(Jones, 1998, p. 199).
When referencing a work by two authors, use both authors in the signal
phrase or in the parentheses each time you cite the work. Use the word "and"
between the authors' names within the text and use the ampersand in the
Research by Wegener and Petty (1994) supports...
(Wegener & Petty, 1994)
When referencing a work by three to five authors, list all the authors in the
signal phrase or in parentheses the first time you cite the source.
In-text/signal phrase: Kernis, Cornell, Sun, Berry, and Harlow, (1993)
HOW TO FORMAT A PAPER IN APA 6
Parenthetical citation: (Kernis, Cornell, Sun, Berry, & Harlow, 1993)
In subsequent citations, only use the first author's last name followed by
"et al." in the signal phrase or in parentheses.
(Kernis et al., 1993)
Periods and commas when used with a quote go inside the quotation marks in
APA style. Additional punctuation, such as a colon, semicolon, or question mark, may go
outside the quotation marks unless they are part of the original quote:
Jones asked if ―everyone was having a good time?‖
Did Jones care if ―everyone was having a good time‖?
While you should always be clear about the sex identity of your participants (if
you conducted an experiment), so that gender differences are obvious, you should not use
gender terms when they aren't necessary. In other words, you should not use "he," "his"
or "men" as generic terms applying to both sexes.
APA does not recommend replacing "he" with "he or she," "she or he," "he/she,"
"(s)he," "s/he," or alternating between "he" and "she" because these substitutions are
awkward and can distract the reader from the point you are trying to make. The pronouns
"he" or "she" inevitably cause the reader to think of only that gender, which may not be
what you intend.
To avoid the bias of using gendered pronouns:
Rephrase the sentence.
Use plural nouns or plural pronouns - this way you can use "they" or "their."
Replace the pronoun with an article - instead of "his," use "the."
HOW TO FORMAT A PAPER IN APA 7
Drop the pronoun - many sentences sound fine if you just omit the
troublesome "his" from the sentence.
Replace the pronoun with a noun such as "person," "individual," "child,"
Your instructor for this particular class allows the use of “he or she," "she or
he," "he/she," "(s)he," "s/he," or alternating between "he" and "she" as long as
subject-verb agreements and pronoun references are logically and correctly
maintained. Be aware of these common errors:
Incorrect. We must make sure a student like Hortence doesn’t cut
themselves off from others.
Correct. We must make sure students like Hortence don’t cut themselves
off from others.
Incorrect. A struggling student needs opportunities to choose for
Correct. Struggling students need opportunities to choose for themselves.
Clarity and conciseness in writing are important when conveying research in APA
Style. You don't want to misrepresent the details of a study or confuse your readers with
wordiness or unnecessarily complex sentences. Be specific rather than vague in
descriptions and explanations. Unpack details accurately to provide adequate information
to your readers so they can follow the development of your research or study. Balancing
the need for clarity, which can require unpacking information, and the need for
conciseness, which requires condensing information, is a challenge. Study published
articles and reports in your field for examples of how to achieve this balance.
HOW TO FORMAT A PAPER IN APA 8
You should even be careful in selecting certain words or terms. Within the
social sciences, commonly used words take on different meanings and can have a
significant effect on how your readers interpret your reported findings or claims. To
increase clarity, avoid bias, and control how your readers will receive your
information, you should make certain substitutions:
Use terms like "participants" or "respondents" (rather than "subjects") to
indicate how individuals were involved in your research.
Use terms like "children" or "community members" to provide more detail
about who was participating in the study.
Use phrases like "The evidence suggests ..." or "Our study indicates ..." rather
than referring to "proof" or "proves" because no single study can prove a
theory or hypothesis.
As with the other stylistic suggestions here, you should study the discourse of
your field to see what terminology is most often used.
The English language is somewhat vague about the presentation of numbers.
Therefore, most styles present rules for using even common numbers, such as when
to write a number as a word and when to write it as a numeral. Precise measures
are always presented as numerals in the metric system in APA style.
1. Spell out common numbers under 10. "Use figures to express numbers 10 and
above and words to express numbers below 10" as long as the numbers below
10 do not express precise measurements and are not grouped with numbers
above 10 (APA, 2009, p. 111).
HOW TO FORMAT A PAPER IN APA 9
2. Spell out common fractions, common expressions, and centuries (one-half,
Fourth of July, twentieth century).
3. Spell out all numbers beginning sentences (Thirty days hath September . . .).
4. To make plurals out of numbers, add s only, with no apostrophe (the 1950s).
5. When numbers below 10 must be mixed with numbers above 10 in the same
sentence they should be written as numerals. For example, write "the students
trying out for the soccer team included 5 girls and 16 boys."
6. Use words and numerals with two numbers in series (five 4-point scales).
7. Use combinations of numerals and written numbers for large approximate
sums (over 3 million people).
8. Use numerals for numbers 10 and above, for exact statistical references,
scores, sample sizes, and sums (multiplied by 3, or 5% of the sample).
9. Use metric abbreviations with physical measure (4 km) but not when written
out (many meters distant).
10. Use the percent symbol (%) only with figures/illustrations/tables (5%) not
with in-text written numbers (―five percent‖ or ―15 percent‖ or ―5 to 15
11. Put a leading zero before decimal fractions less than one (e.g., 0.25 km),
unless the fraction can never be greater than one, as with statistical
probabilities (e.g., p < .01).
12. Ordinal numbers follow the same rules as other numbers. Spell out ordinals
below 10: first, second, . . . ninth. Use numerals for ordinals 10 and above:
10th, 43rd, 99th, and so on. Exception—the twentieth century.
HOW TO FORMAT A PAPER IN APA 10
13. Use numerals for all numbers "that denote a specific place in a numbered
series, parts of books and tables, and each number in a list of four or numbers"
(APA, 2009, p. 115). Write Grade 6 (but sixth grade); Trial 5; Table 6; page
71 (do not cap page); chapter 8 (do not capitalize ―chapter‖); 2, 4, 6, and 8
words in a series.
14. Use numerals for all "numbers that represent time; dates; ages; sample,
subsample, or population size; specific numbers of subjects or participants in
an experiment; scores and points on a scale; exact sums of money; and
numerals as numerals" (APA, p. 124).
While bullets and were previously a “no-no,” they are now permitted when
listing items (also referred to as seriation).
Two other options are available for lists as well. The first involves using
letters to identify items in a series within a sentence or paragraph: The three
choices for the question are (a) true, (b) false, or (c) don’t know.
The second option involves numbering each item with an Arabic number
followed by a period and making each item its own paragraph:
1. Job training and counseling to reduce unemployment.
2. Resident-backed strategies to spur economic growth, reduce crime, and
combat housing discrimination and homelessness.
3. Mentoring programs for neighborhood youth.
4. Financial and technical assistance for new businesses.
HOW TO FORMAT A PAPER IN APA 11
If the seriated or bulleted phrases continue the preceding paragraph’s
sentence, neither a capital letter to start the phrase or a colon is used. A period is
used at the end of the last item only. An example might be something
or even this.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when considering APA formatting and style
considerations. It is always best to check the APA manual itself or go online. The
instructor’s Wiki has several links to help you with the details. Table 3 offers a few
additional common mistakes to avoid.
HOW TO FORMAT A PAPER IN APA 12
ACSD. (2006). The solution: The ASCD high school reform proposal. [Online Forum
Comment]. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/newsandissues/High%20
School%20Reform %20One %20Page%20Summary.pdf
ASCD. (2010, November). Is it good for our kids? [Online Forum Comment]. Retrieved from
Allen, J., & Allen, C. (2010). Escaping the High School 'Twilight Zone'. Education Week, 29(23),
22-3. Retrieved from Education Full Text database
Berliner, D. (2006). Our Impoverished View of Educational Research. Teachers College
Record, 108(6), 949-95. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9620.2006.00682.x
Bishop, J., Bishop, M., & Bishop, M. (2003). Make Middle-Schoolers Cool with School Success.
The Education Digest, 69(4), 51-3. Retrieved from Education Full Text database
Bishop, J., Bishop, M., & Bishop, M. (2003). Making It Cool to Succeed in Middle School.
Principal (Reston, Va.), 83(2), 60-1. Retrieved from Education Full Text database
Christodoulou, J. (2009). Applying Multiple Intelligences. School Administrator, 66(2), 22-6.
Retrieved from Education Full Text database. Retrieved from
Feden, P. (2006). Fiction High School: Where Things Have to Make Sense. Educational
Horizons, 84(2), 79-85. Retrieved from Education Full Text database
HOW TO FORMAT A PAPER IN APA 13
Table 1. APA Headings
1 Centered, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Headings
2 Left-aligned, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Heading
3 Indented, boldface, lowercase heading with a period.
4 Indented, boldface, italicized, lowercase heading with a period.
5 Indented, italicized, lowercase heading with a period.
HOW TO FORMAT A PAPER IN APA 14
Table 2. Additional Look at APA Heading Levels
Methods (Level 1)
Site of Study (Level 2)
Participant Population (Level 2)
Teachers. (Level 3) This is an example of a Level 3 heading. Notice that it
merges with the paragraph text.
Students. (Level 3)
Results (Level 1)
Spatial Ability (Level 2)
Test one. (Level 3)
Teachers with experience. (Level 4) This is an example of a Level 4 heading.
Notice that it merges with the paragraph text and continues as long as the
Teachers in training. (Level 4)
Teachers in training: Pre-service. (Level 5)
Test two. (Level 3)
Kinesthetic Ability (Level 2)
In APA Style, the Introduction section never gets a heading and headings are not indicated by
letters or numbers. Levels of headings will depend upon the length and organization of your paper.
Regardless, always begin with level one headings and proceed to level two, etc.
HOW TO FORMAT A PAPER IN APA 15
Table 3. Common APA Errors or Pitfalls
(Note: This is a poor APA table, since APA frown on vertical lines)
to/two/too Difference between em-dash and Possessives
their/there/they’re hyphen. Be careful that you use
socioeconomic em-dash — *** apostrophes appropriately.
hyphen - The student’s work should
Middle-class students are… be submitted today.
Gerbils are often—if not Students’ work should be
always—cute critters. submitted today.
first-grade class Whatever the students
middle-class family have worked on should be
two-way street submitted today.
5- to 10-minute ride
5 to 10 minutes before…
Periods and commas when used Semicolons (;) Colons (:)
with a quote go inside the Use a semicolon when you link Use a colon after an independent
quotation marks in APA style. two independent clauses with no clause when introducing a list.
Additional punctuation, such as a connecting words. For example: The catering facility offers the
colon, semicolon, or question I am going home; I intend to stay following entrees: fried catfish,
mark, may go outside the there. grilled chicken, pan-seared
quotation marks unless they are It rained heavily during the salmon, and sirloin steak.
part of the original quote. afternoon; we managed to have Use a colon after an independent
our picnic anyway. clause when introducing a
They couldn't make it to the quotation.
summit and back before dark; My teacher’s remark on my
they decided to camp for the final essay was very
night. complimentary: ―This essay
You can also use a semicolon coherently analyzes musical
when you join two independent trends of the late 20th
clauses together with a century.‖
conjunctive adverb (however, Use a colon between two
moreover, therefore, independent clauses when you
consequently, otherwise, want to emphasize the second
nevertheless, thus, etc.) For clause.
example: I don’t understand why
I am going home; moreover, I everyone shops at that store:
intend to stay there. everything there is so
It rained heavily during the expensive.
afternoon; however, we managed
to have our picnic anyway.
They couldn't make it to the
********************* summit and back before dark;
Hint: In Word, I make an em- therefore, they decided to camp
dash by typing a word, then for the night.
clicking the hyphen key twice in Use semi-colons between items in
a row, and then immediately a list that already use commas.
following with the next word. I have lived in Chicago,
Illinois; Kansas City, Missouri;
Hello—how (are you)? and Omaha, Nebraska.
The sweaters I bought today
were purple, blue, and green;
yellow, white, and red; and
pink, black, and grey.