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Formatting a paper in APA style can be tricky, so I have created this step-by-step guide on how to format APA correctly, from the title page to the reference section, using Microsoft Word 2013.

Step 1: Font, Spacing, and Margins

To begin with, the entire paper should be double-spaced and written in a highly readable 12-point font, preferably Times New Roman. There should also be 1-inch margins on all sides of the document.

To create 1-inch margins, you will:

  1. Click the Page Layout tab.
  2. In the Page Setup section, click on "Margins." Choose the first option, which is to create 1-inch margins on all sides of the paper.

To double-space the paper, you will:

  1. Highlight any text that you have typed thus far (skip this step if you have not begun yet).
  2. Click the Home tab or the Page Layout tab.
  3. In the Paragraph section of either of those tabs, click the tiny arrow in the bottom right corner. A paragraph page will pop up. Click the arrow under "Line Spacing," and Choose "double."

To correct the font, you will:

  1. Highlight any text that you have typed thus far (skip this step if you have not begun yet).
  2. Click the Home tab.
  3. In the Font section of this tab, click the arrow next to the name of the font you are currently using, and then scroll down to choose Times New Roman (or another easily readable font).
  4. In the same section, click the arrow next to the size of the font, and choose 12.

Step 2: Running Head for the Title Page

At this point, you may want to add the header and page number (although you can perform this step at any point). This might be the most intimidating portion in the process, but it is simple once you become familiar with a few basic steps.

To add a header to the first page:

  1. Begin on the first page, which will be the title page.
  2. Click the Insert tab.
  3. In the Header and Footer section, click on "Header," and choose the first option.
  4. A special Header and Footer Toolbar will then appear. Within this Toolbar, go to the Options section, and check the box next to "Different First Page." This needs to be done because the header for the title page will be different than the header for the rest of the document.
  5. Click inside of the brackets in the upper left-hand corner, and type the words "Running head" (without quotations), followed by a colon and a shortened or full version of the title of your paper (up to 50 characters in length). This abbreviated title should be written in all caps. The following is an example: Running head: OPENING UP SCIENCE
  6. Remain in the the Header and Footer Toolbar for the next set of steps.

Step 3: Page Number for the Title Page

To add a page number to the first page:

  1. Be sure that you are in the Header and Footer Toolbar (double-click on the running head you just made to return to it if you are not).
  2. Begin with your cursor at the end of the running head you just typed.
  3. Click the tab button on your keyboard twice.
  4. In the Header and Footer section at the far left of the Header and Footer Toolbar, click on "Page Number," and scroll to the fourth option, "Current Position." Choose the first option, "Plain Number," in the list that appears. The number 1 will then appear in the top left corner of your title page.

Step 4: Header and Page Number for the Rest of the Pages

To add a header and page number to the rest of the pages:

  1. Go the the second page of your paper.
  2. Be sure that you are in the Header and Footer Toolbar. If you have left this toolbar, then there should still be a set of brackets in the upper left-hand corner of the second page with the words "Type Here" between them. Double click on these brackets, and then you will be back in the Header and Footer Toolbar.
  3. Type the header that will be added to the rest of the paper. It will be the same abbreviated, all-caps title from the title page, except this time, you will not include "Running head:" before it. The following is an example: OPENING UP SCIENCE
  4. To add the rest of the page numbers, start with your cursor at the end of the header you just typed.
  5. Click the tab button on your keyboard twice.
  6. In the Header and Footer section at the far left of the Header and Footer Toolbar, click on "Page Number," and scroll to the fourth option, "Current Position." Choose the first option, "Plain Number," in the list that appears. The number 2 will appear in the top left corner of the page, and the numbering will continue consecutively throughout the paper.
  7. On the far right of the Header and Footer Toolbar, there is a button to click so that you can exit the Header and Footer Toolbar and continue writing your paper.

Step 5: Title Page

The first step to creating your title page is to add the running head and the page number, which is discussed in the previous step.

There are still a few other components to the title, which include:

  • The full title
  • The author(s)'s name(s)
  • The institution the author(s) are from (usually a college or university)
  • An optional author note

To format the title, name(s), and institution name, there are a few easy steps to follow:

  1. If it is easiest for you, start typing the text in left alignment (the default). List the full title of your paper, which should be no more than twelve words, should have no abbreviations, and should not include any words that are not completely necessary. On the very next line, list the names of all the authors involved with the writing of the paper. On the third line, list the name of the institution.
  2. Place the cursor before the very first letter in this group of text, and press the enter key approximately 2-4 times (the exact placement is up to you). It is only important that the text remain in the top half of the page.
  3. Highlight all of this text. Click the Home tab. In the Paragraph section of this tab, click the icon which is a picture of lines that represent centered text (it will be the second one from the left). This will center the text.

Optionally, you can include an author note in the bottom half of the page. Most professors do not require this, however. The 6th edition of the APA manual specifies that the author note should include four paragraphs (each with its own indent) under the centered title "Author Note." Each of the four paragraphs should correspond to the following information in the following order:

  1. Complete departmental information
  2. Changes in affiliation
  3. Acknowledgements and special circumstances
  4. Person to contact with mailing address, e-mail

Step 6: Abstract

Some professors do not require an abstract page, especially for papers that do not describe an actual study. If they do require it, however, the abstract will be on its own separate page immediately after the title page. The title "Abstract" will be centered at the top and will be followed by a non-indented paragraph of 150-250 words. This paragraph will fully summarize your study or research paper, including any findings. Optionally, you can add a list of keywords immediately under the abstract. To do this, you will begin a new line under the abstract; press the tab key on your keyboard once; click the crooked "I," the italics icon, between the "B" and the "U" in the Font section of the Home tab; type the word "Keywords";click the italics icon again to undo the italics; type a colon; and list any key words from your abstract, separated by commas, on the same line.

Step 7: Body of Paper

The first page of the main body of the paper will begin with the full title of the paper centered at the top of the page. The title will not be in bold, and it will serve as the head of the introduction of the paper.

You may include subsequent subheadings that will usually be centered and in bold throughout the paper. To bold text, you will highlight the text that needs to be in bold, click the Home tab, and click the thick "B" in the Font section.

One of the more complicated tasks in writing the paper is doing in-text citations correctly. Here are a few rules to consider as far as this is concerned:

  • General rules
    • You generally want to include three pieces of information: the author(s)'s last name(s), the date, and the page numbers, if applicable.
    • If the author's name is mentioned in the sentence, their name does not have to also appear in the citation at the end of the sentence (the same goes for the date).
    • An in-text citation with all three pieces of information looks like this: (Schmidt, 2012, p. 30)
  • Specific rules
    • Author(s)'s name(s)
      • If the author is unknown, then an abbreviated version of the article title can be substituted, in quotation marks. Example: ("Welcome," 2014)
      • If there are two authors, the in-text citation will look like this: (Wilbanks & Boyle, 2006).
      • If there are three to five authors, then, in the first in-text citation, all of their names must be spelled out, like this: (Shere, Zhao, & Koren, 2014). You may then write subsequent in-text citations from the same source like this: (Shere et al., 2014).
      • If there are more than five authors, you can omit the previous rule about spelling all of the names out the first time and write all in-text citations like this: (Khatib et al., 2011).
    • Date
      • If the date is not available, as is the case with many webpages, then the initials n.d. will be substituted for the year in the in-text citation, as such: ("Crowdsourcing," n.d.)
    • Page numbers
      • All quotations must be cited using page numbers if possible, but page numbers are optional, though encouraged, for citing paraphrased material.
      • If there are no page numbers, and you are citing a direct quotation, you should find an alternative way to direct the reader to the specific spot in the text, such as by counting the paragraphs. Example: (Khatib et al., 2011, para. 1)
      • If multiple pages are being cited, then it will look like this: (Schmidt, 2012, pp. 30-33).

Step 8: References

The reference section for you paper will begin on an entirely new page. It will begin with the word "Reference" (no quotation marks), which will be centered at the top.

The entries will be in alphabetical order, with a hanging indent. The procedure for doing a hanging indent is as follows:

  1. Begin each entry on a separate line.
  2. Once you have written all of the entries, highlight the text.
  3. Click either the Home tab or the Page Layout tab.
  4. In the Paragraph section of either of these tabs, click the tiny arrow in the bottom left corner; this will bring up a small Paragraph page.
  5. In this page, go to the indentation section, and click the arrow under the word "Special." Choose the option "hanging indent." This will automatically add a 0.5-inch hanging indent to every highlighted entry in the reference section.

To conclude, here are examples of how to format some of the most common reference entries:

  • Books in print
    • Fish, S. (2011). How to write a sentence and how to read one. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
  • Journal articles
    • Fox, J. (2012). Can blogging change how ecologists share ideas? In economics, it already has. Ideas in Ecology and Evolution, 5, 74-77. doi: 10.4033/iee.2012.5b.15.f
  • Articles in online periodicals
    • Bryce, E. (2012, October 24). Insights into the koala's genetic challenge. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://nytimes.com
  • Short works from websites
    • Bert, A. (2014, Feb 25). How to use social media for science. Retrieved from http://www.elsevier.com/connect/how-to-use-social-media-for-science

Step 9: Take a Break!

Eat a cookie.

<p>Thank you so much!!!!!!!!!</p>
<p>Very helpful, thanks!!</p>
<p>This was super helpful! I wish I would have come across it three classes ago.</p>
<p>Thank you very much! All that looking that I did to find information about APA format has really paid off!</p>
<p>Thank you very much! The reference examples need to have the hanging indent though, am I correct?</p>
<p>Very nice information, and so thorough!</p>

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