APA Outline and Format Guideline for Students

The APA format is the official writing style used in social sciences such as education and psychology. This writing style refers to how professional or college publications are formatted for submission and publication purposes. This article will guide you on the basics of creating a properly formatted academic paper following APA guidelines.

What is APA formatting in APA academic writing?

APA is the research paper writing form and documentation style of sources used by the American Psychological Association. This is the likely style of writing you will use if you are working on a scientific topic. Also, many social and behavioral sciences use the APA writing standards and guidelines.

How to format your APA reference page

An APA reference page is located at the back of a research paper, listing all the references for the paper’s in-text citations. This is where readers find who, when, what, and where information for each source you consulted.

  • A heading “References,” which should be centered one inch down, not bold, capitalized, or italicized
  • The citations should be double-spaced, and there should be no additional lines between them
  • For every reference that goes past the first line, there should be a hanging indent
  • All the reference citations should be in alphabetical order.

APA format guidelines: Formatting your paper according to APA style format

Formatting your paper according to the APA outline can seem like a daunting task to do. However, the trick is following the instructions to the letter, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s as directed. Let’s look at the different sections of the guideline for a good understanding of the guidelines.

Page layout rules

  • All the texts in the paper must be double-spaced with one-inch margins used on all sides of the paper. The margins can be more than an inch, but not smaller
  • Indent the paragraphs in the body and ensure the title is centered on the page with your name and institution beneath
  • Use twelve-point font all through and number all the pages in the upper right-hand corner
  • According to the guidebook, you should only one space after most of the punctuation marks

APA headings

There are five possible levels in APA headings: heading level 1 for main sections and heading levels 2 to 5 for subheadings.

  • Heading 1 text – begin on a new line, the first line indented, centered, bold, and in title case
  • Heading 2 – left-aligned, bold, and in title case, and should also begin on a new line – the first line indented
  • Heading 3 – left-aligned, bold, italic, and in title case, beginning on a new line, the first line indented

APA numbering

In APA format, numbers less than ten are written out in text; those more than are represented with numerals. Also, use numerals for numbers in graphs or tables and include a zero before a decimal point.

APA title page

The title page is the first page of the paper and comes with different formatting guidelines for professional and student papers. Generally, the title page should include the author’s name and institutional affiliation. Then, there should be the course name and code, the professor or instructor’s name, and the assignment submission date for student papers. Professional APA title pages should feature an author note and running head.

APA table of contents

There are no formatting guidelines for the table of contents in APA as it is not a required paper element. However, your instructor may want you to include a table of contents in your paper, in which case following the general guidelines is best. That is, put it on a separate page after your abstract but before the introduction page. Give the page a “Contents” heading, bold and centred; then, list the important headings with their corresponding page numbers.

APA body format

The body of an APA paper typically starts on the page after the title page or abstract (for professional papers). The general guidelines for the APA body format include the following:

  • Page number at the top of the page in the upper right corner of all pages – the title page included
  • Title in bold font and centered on the next line, not underlined or italicized
  • Start with the introduction and indent all the paragraphs in the body

Conclusion in APA

The conclusion page comes at the end of the beady section and does not carry a “Conclusion heading.” It should include information about conclusions or findings revealed during the research.


If you are in any social science field, this is the writing style you are expected to follow, whether the instructions say so or not. You can check several APA example formats in professional journals or articles to know how to format your paper.

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