Writing with APAYou’re just about to get started writing an amazing term paper, and as you are reading the requirements, you freeze. APA Style? What’s APA?

A quick Google search reveals that “APA” stands for the American Psychological Association, which just makes the whole endeavor even more confusing. Why is a psychological association writing a style guide? Why do you need this for your paper?

Don’t worry! You may have a lot of questions about the format, but APA style becomes easier and even intuitive once you learn the meaning behind the rules.

Here are some tips and other basic information to help you turn your APA paper into a standout piece of writing:

1. What is APA?

APA is a classic writing style that has been used for more than eight decades. It was originally established by the American Psychological Association to help ensure consistency among papers published in the psychological field. This quickly expanded to cover all social sciences. Humanities and hard sciences have their own special styles, but APA is mostly associated with psychology, sociology, business, and other similar fields. It helps both writers and readers by providing them with an easy format for their papers. Writers have a simple structure to use as the foundation of their work, and readers no longer have to puzzle over sloppily written citations and reference lists.

2. Why should you use APA?

It may seem like a waste of time to bother learning an entirely new style of writing and citation, but it is very important. Whether you are writing a college paper or one for a very specific field or industry, you have to understand and abide by the standards set by your professor or industry professionals. It shows that you are respectful of others and can adapt quickly to new situations. Simple things like using the right format make your paper look polished!

3. What makes APA special?

The best way to understand APA is to look at the fields in which it’s used. Social sciences require simple, straightforward writing. They also put a major emphasis on the date of the publication you are citing. Social sciences are always moving forward. New studies give scientists new perspectives on their own work. With another format, no one may notice if you are using a scientific paper published in 1901 as a reference. With APA, the dates are near the front of any in-text citation and reference. This forces you to seek out the timeliest sources. Writing with the APA style forces you to write a more relevant paper.

4. How do you use APA?

There are many subtleties to APA, but the four major components the style covers are structure, format, reference lists, and in-text citations.


A. Structure

APA dictates that you have four sections to your paper: a title page, an abstract, the primary content, and a list of references. By arranging your paper according to APA structure, you streamline the reading process.
For example, if John Smith is writing a paper called the “Beginner’s Guide to Writing in the APA Style,” the title page will look like this:

Beginner’s Guide to Writing in the APA Style
John Smith
Lorem Ipsum University

It should be centered on the first page of the paper.

Following the title page is the abstract for the paper. This is a quick summary of the information presented in the main section. It should be no more than 250 words. At the bottom of the abstract is a list of main keywords for the paper. For John Smith’s paper, it would look like this:

Keywords: APA style, writing, social sciences

After the abstract comes a new page and the beginning of the main section of the work. Here is your chance to shine and show readers why you believe this research is so important.
After the main section comes a list of references for the paper.

B. Format

The general format for an essay written in the APA writing style includes using 12-pt. Times New Roman font, double-spacing, and one-inch margins on all sides. A page header with the title of the paper and the page number is included at the top of each page. This is called a running head. John Smith’s running head would look like this on the first page:


The running head on all following pages would look like this:

C. References

The reference list will start at the top of a new page at the end of the paper. All references should be arranged alphabetically.

Let’s say the John Smith wants to cite a book written by Jane Doe. The book is called Everything You Need to Know about APA, and it was published in 2017 by Lorem Ipsum Publications in Los Angeles, California.

The reference would look exactly like this:

Doe, J. (2017). Everything you need to know about APA. Los Angeles, CA: Lorem Ipsum Publications.

There are several differences between this and other reference formats. The date of publication is prominently featured after the author’s last name and first initial. Aside from the first word and any proper nouns, no other word is capitalized in the title of the book.

D. Citations

When John Smith references Jane Doe’s research in his paper, his in-text citation will look like this: (Doe, 2017). If it is a direct quotation, his citation would also include the page number: (Doe, 2017, p. 3). Once again, the date of publication becomes an important aspect of the citation.


By understanding these basics of APA format, you can confidently begin your own writing. APA format isn’t meant to trip you up or make you struggle. It is genuinely meant to make your writing clear and comprehensive. As you delve deep into your particular social science, you’ll find that your knowledge of APA style will be a very useful tool. Focusing on the APA style can improve your writing skills!



One thought on “Beginner’s Guide to Writing in the APA Style

  1. angela says:

    Thank you for sharing this knowledge, I learned more in a few minutes than I have in hours of searching the web.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


CAPTCHA Creator Develops Duolingo

Jan 17, 2012 in Writing

Luis von Ahn, the man who created CAPTCHA (the little box into which all must copy letters and numbers to prove our humanity online), has…

starting a business tips

The Business Plan: Seven Questions You Need to Ask When Starting a Business

Oct 15, 2011 in Writing

Any company, from one plotting world domination to one selling jam at the local farmers’ market, can benefit from writing a business plan. But even…

9 Awesome Online Writing Resources

Sep 29, 2017 in Writing

The Internet is a fertile ground for writers seeking information, and the number of online writing resources seems to grow daily. That’s a bit of…

Subscribe to Our Blog

Subscribe via RSS