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Citation Help for APA, 7th Edition: Formatting Your Paper

Help with common issues and questions with APA 7th edition

Paper Set Up

APA has a number of rules for setting up an APA style paper that your instructor may want you to follow. The following information came from the 7th edition of the APA Manual. See the page number that follows each style rule for more information.


Document Format


Margins - 1 inch all sides, including top, bottom, left and right (Sect. 2.22, p. 45)

Font preference and size - Most instructors prefer the font set at 12-pt Times New Roman. However, APA does allow for other font types and sizes, including Calibri 11-point, Arial 11-point, Lucida Sans Unicode 10-point, or Georgia 11-point. Consult your instructor for their preferences. (Sect. 2.19, p. 44)

Line Spacing - Double spacing should occur throughout the entire document, including title page, reference list, and quotations of 40 or more words. NOTE: There are a few exceptions. (Sect. 2.21, p. 45)

Page Numbers - Page numbers should be located in the right corner of the header unless specified differently from your instructor. Be sure to include a page number on the title page, too! (Sect. 2.18, p. 44)

Paragraph Indentation - Paragraphs should be indented 1/2 inch. For consistency throughout the paper, click your Tab key one time. (Sect. 2.24, pp. 45-46)

 Additional Resources

Setting up your Paper in Proper APA Style  (Coming Soon!) - this is a video tutorial created by the CSS Library. It will demonstrate how to set up a paper in proper APA Style in Word for a PC. 

Paper Format Checklist - basic formatting requirements for setting up an APA paper (Google Doc Version). 

Title Page for a Student Paper - guidelines from APA for setting up the title page for a student paper. 

More Information

For more information about formatting your paper, see the section numbers and additional resources outlined above and Chapter 2 of the APA Manual, 7th edition.

NOTE: Your instructor may prefer slight changes to these rules. Check with your instructor for any variations.


APA Section Labels

Organization of an APA Paper

APA style includes section levels to organize the pages or major sections of the paper. Each new of these new pages or sections should begin on a new page. An APA paper should be organized as follows

  • Title page - begins on page 1
  • Abstract - begins on page 2 (NOTE: This is optional for most course papers. Review your assignment instructions or contact your instructor to determine whether or not an abstract should be included in your paper. )
  • Body or text of the paper - begins on page 3 (if there is an abstract) OR page 2 (if there is no abstract)
  • References - begins on the first page after the text of the paper
  • Appendices - begins on the first page after the references. Additionally, if there is more than 1 appendix, each appendix should begin on a new page. (NOTE: This is optional for most course papers. Review your assignment instructions or contact your instructor to determine whether or not an appendix should be included in your paper.)

Note: there are options for additional sections that may be added to an APA paper. The sections outlined above are the pages or sections most commonly found in a course paper. 

Starting a New Page

When starting a new page or section of the paper, you are advised to include a page break or section break (in Word press CTRL + ALT + Delete all at one time). Do not click "Enter" until you get to a new page. This may cause problems with the accessibility of your paper or throw off your formatting of the paper if you add or delete information from your paper. 

Section Labels

To begin a new page or section, include a section label. For abstracts, the body of the paper, references, and appendices, the section label should be located on the very first line of the new page. The section label should be bold and centered. Additionally, capitalize all major words. 

The section label for each new page or section is as follows:

  • Title page = the title of your paper (begin 3-4 double spaces from the top of the page)
  • Abstract = Abstract
  • Body or text of the paper = the title of your paper (use proper title case - all major words are capitalized)
  • References = References (if there is only 1 reference label it as Reference)
  • Appendix = Appendix (if only 1 appendix). If there is more than 1 appendix, add a letter after "Appendix." (e.g., Appendix A, Appendix B, etc.)

More information

For more information about the organization of the pages or sections of an APA paper or section labels, see Section 2.17 on page 43 and Section 2.28 on pages 49 of the APA Manual, 7th edition. Additionally, review the APA 7th edition Checklist and see the example of a short student paper and the example of a long student paper.

APA Headings

To organize the parts within the body of your paper, APA has five different levels of headings. Think of these levels similar to what an outline has and how the main topics have Roman numerals, subtopics have capital letters, the next level has Arabic numbers, and so on.

When considering the addition of headings to your paper, APA instructs that you should only add a heading if there will be 2 or more subsections using the same level heading. If you do not have at least 2 subsections using the same level heading, then do not include headings for the subsection. See Section 2.26 on page 47 for more information.  

Be aware that not all papers will require the use of headings. Ask your professor if they wish to have you use headings in your paper. Long, formal papers should have headings especially if they include an abstract at the beginning.

Here are the five levels and how they should be formatted:

1. Centered, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Heading - Begin the text on a new line as a new paragraph.

2. Left-aligned, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Heading - Begin the text on a new line as a new paragraph. 

3. Left-aligned, Boldface, Italicized, Upper and Lowercase Heading  - Begin the text on a new line as a new paragraph. 

4. Indented, Boldface, Upper and Lowercase Heading, Ending With a Period. Begin the text on the same line as the heading and continue as a regular paragraph.

5. Indented, Boldface, Italicized, Upper and Lowercase Heading, Ending With a Period. Begin the text on the same line as the heading and continue as a regular paragraph. 


More Information:

For more information about headings, see Sections 2.26 & 2.27, Table 2.3, and Figures 2.4 and 2.5 on pages 47-49 of the APA Manual, 7th edition. Additionally, see the Headings Levels Template: Student Papers, created by APA to demonstrating what each heading would look like in an APA paper.

Printable versions of the heading levels are available here:

Reference List

Always start your reference list on a new page.

Page title - The word References should appear centered at the top of the page and in bold. If you have only 1 citation the title should be Reference. (Sect. 9.43, p. 303)

Line Spacing - Double space between each line. (Sect. 9.43, p. 303)

Alignment - The first line of each entry should align with the left margin. All subsequent lines should be formatted with a hanging indent set at 1/2 inch. (Sect. 9.43, p. 303)

Order of entries - Alphabetical order by author. If there is no author, use the title of the document. If you have more than one entry by the same author, then arrange by year beginning with the earliest publication. (Sect. 9.44, p. 303, Sect. 9.48 & Sect. 9.49, p. 306)

Reference List Checklist - Formatting requirements for the reference list and for the creation of references (Google Doc Version).

Sample Papers

You might find it helpful to look at a sample paper formatted in the APA style.

Short Sample Student Paper - includes the use of 2 levels of headings.

Long Sample Student Paper - includes figures, tables, and appendices.



NOTE: It is not possible to represent all the aspects that inevitably arise when writing a paper. Please consult the APA Manual, a librarian, the writing center, or your professor if you have questions.


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