APA: Structure and Formatting of Specific Elements



APA: Title Page and Running Head

APA papers have a title page and a “running head,” or a line at the top of every page to identify the paper.

Learning Objectives

Arrange the title page and running head correctly in an APA paper

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Your title page should be double-spaced, just like the rest of your paper. Center the information on the title page horizontally and vertically.
  • Your title page should include the title of your paper, your name, and the name of your school.
  • The running head is unique to APA style. It makes the paper identifiable without using the name of the author.

Key Terms

  • running head: A header that does not contain the author’s name, so that the paper can be evaluated without bias.

Title Page

Like the rest of your paper, your whole title page should be double-spaced. The following information should be centered horizontally and vertically on the title page:

  1. on the first line, the full title of your paper
  2. on the second line, your name
  3. on the third line, the name of the institution you are affiliated with (e.g., the name of your school)

These elements should not be bolded, underlined, or italicized.

Running Head

The running head is an element unique to APA style. The purpose of the running head is to make the paper identifiable without using the name of the author; this style is commonly used in journal articles, since journals need to be able to evaluate a paper without bias toward the author.

Left-justified in the header (i.e., at the very top) of your title page, you should have the text “Running head:” followed by an abbreviated title of your paper in all caps. This is usually the first several words of your title and cannot exceed 50 characters in length (including spaces). The abbreviated title, still in all caps, should then appear at the same place—left-justified in the header—on every following page of your paper, but without the text “Running head:” preceding it (that should appear only on the title page).

Any word-processing program should allow you to edit the page header so that the same information appears on every page. You will have to change the options so that the first page is different, so you can include the text “Running head:” only on the title page. Your header and footer should appear 0.5 inches from the edge of the page—this is also an option you can change in your word-processing program.

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Title page: This is an example of a title page properly formatted in APA style.

APA: Abstract

An APA abstract should summarize your entire paper and should be formatted according to the APA style guide.

Learning Objectives

Arrange the abstract correctly in an APA paper

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Your abstract should appear by itself on page 2 of your paper; it should be no more than 250 words and should summarize your entire paper.
  • The entire abstract should be only one, non-indented paragraph.
  • Some abstracts must include keywords.

Key Terms

  • abstract: A brief summary of a paper.

Your abstract should appear by itself on page 2 of your paper. Recall that the running head should now appear left-justified in the header on this page and on every page that follows. (Also recall that, starting on this page, the running head should be only your abbreviated title in all caps, without the words “Running head:” at the beginning.)

Content

Your abstract should be no more than 250 words and should summarize your entire paper, from literature review to discussion.

Formatting

This page should simply be titled “Abstract”; the title should be centered (and not bolded, underlined, or italicized) and should appear in the first line. The abstract itself should start on the following line.

The entire abstract should be only one paragraph, and it is the only paragraph in your paper that is not indented at the beginning—the entire paragraph should be left-justified along the margin.

Any number that appears in the abstract should be written as a numeral (e.g., 1.5, 300) rather than spelled out (e.g., one and a half, three hundred) unless it begins a sentence—then it should be spelled out (e.g., “Three hundred children ate 1.5 sandwiches each”).

Keywords (Optional)

APA style also includes guidelines for providing keywords under your abstract, but this is only required in some situations. If your professor doesn’t mention it, you probably don’t need to include them.

That said, if you do need to include keywords, they should appear on the line immediately after the last line of your abstract. Begin the list with the italicized word “Keywords:”. Then, include a list of 3–10 words or phrases relevant to your paper topic; separate them with commas, and do not end with a period. For example, if you’re writing about people’s experiences of anxiety in stressful situations, you might include the keywords “anxiety” and “stress.”

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Abstract: This is an example of an abstract properly formatted in APA style.

APA: Headings

In APA style, headings are used to organize your writing and give it a hierarchical organization.

Learning Objectives

Order headings correctly in APA style

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • In APA style, headings are used to organize your writing and give it a hierarchical organization.
  • There can be up to five levels of headings in your paper. Some use title case, some use sentence case.

Key Terms

  • title case: A format in which the first letters of major words are capitalized.
  • sentence case: A format in which only the first major word (and any proper noun) is capitalized.

In APA style, headings are used to organize your writing and give it a hierarchical organization. This is especially important in papers that present experimental research because they follow the particularly rigid structure of the scientific method.

APA style puts forth specific rules for formatting headings (up to five levels) within your paper:

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APA heading hierarchy: These are the formatting rules for different levels of headings in APA style.

If a heading is said to be in title case, that means you should format it as though it were the title of a book, with the first letters of most major words capitalized (e.g., A Study of Color-Blindness in Dogs).

If a heading is said to be in sentence case, that means you should format it as though it were a normal sentence, with only the first letter of the first word (and of any proper nouns) capitalized (e.g., A study of color-blindness in dogs).

You should always use heading levels in this order, beginning with Level 1. So, if you have a paper with two levels of headings, you would use Level 1 formatting for the higher level and Level 2 formatting for the lower level. Similarly, if you have a paper with five levels of headings, you would use Level 1 formatting for the highest level and Level 5 formatting for the lowest level.

Your headings should not begin with section numbers (e.g., your Methods section should be titled simply “Methods”, not “2. Introduction ”).

The introduction of the paper should not be titled “Introduction”; instead, the paper should simply begin with the title of the entire paper. Note that the “Abstract” title and the overall paper title do not actually count as headings, so they are simply centered and in title case, but not bolded as Level 1 headings would be. This means that the first heading you use in your introduction will follow Level 1 formatting, because it is the first and so at the highest level.

APA: Series and Lists

In APA style, there are specific formats for series and lists.

Learning Objectives

Distinguish between correctly formatted lists and series in APA style

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • If you are including a simple, relatively short list of three to five elements, format it as a ” series.”
  • If you have more than five elements, or your elements are complex or important, format it as a “list.”
  • Use a bulleted list if the order of the atoms doesn’t matter.
  • Use a numbered list if the order of the atoms does matter.

Key Terms

  • element: An item within a series or list.
  • series: A simple, relatively short list of three to five items within a paragraph.

Series

If you are including a simple, relatively short list of three to five items within a paragraph —also known as a series—the proper formatting is to: (a) precede the list with a comma, (b) label each item with a lowercase letter enclosed in parentheses, and (c) separate each item with commas or semicolons. The items within a series or a list are known as “elements.”

As is standard in most style guides, use semicolons rather than commas to separate the elements of the series if at least one of the elements includes a comma somewhere within it (known as an “internal comma”). For example: “Josie was so hungry she ate: (a) the brownie; (b) the cupcake, wrapper and all; and (c) the bowl of ice cream.” Do not capitalize the first letter of each element (e.g., do not write: (a) The brownie; (b) The cupcake, wrapper and all; and (c) The bowl of ice cream.)

Lists

You will want to use a list rather than a series if any of the following is true:

  • you have more than five elements,
  • your elements are complex phrases or full sentences, or
  • the information is important enough to deserve being visually distinguished from the rest of the text of your paper.

Lists differ from series in that they appear separate from a paragraph rather than embedded within it. However, the same rules of capitalization and of using commas or semicolons to separate the elements apply.

Unlike a series, a list can include elements that are all full sentences, or even paragraphs. If this is the case, each element should end with a period, rather than a comma or semicolon, and should begin with a capital letter.

To better visually distinguish a list from the surrounding text, be sure to leave an extra (blank) line between the last line of the list and the first line of the following paragraph.

Bulleted Lists

You should use a bulleted list if the order of the items doesn’t matter. Each element of the list should start on a new line. The bullet points should be indented one inch from the left page margin, and the text of each element should be indented a further 0.5 inches from the bullet point itself.

Numbered Lists

If the order of your elements does matter—e.g., if you’re outlining a step-by-step process, a summary of how an event unfolded over time, or a series of items in order of importance—you will need to use a numbered list.

As with a bulleted list, each element should start on a new line. The first element should begin with the number 1, the second with the number 2, and so on. These numbers should be followed by periods, and the text of each element should be indented a further 0.5 inches from the beginning number.

APA: Block Quotations

In APA style, format quotations of more than 40 words as block quotations.

Learning Objectives

Recognize when to use block quotations in APA style

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • A typical quotation is part of a sentence within a paragraph in your paper; however, for longer quotations (more than 40 words), format the excerpt as a block quotation.
  • A block quotation begins on its own line, is not enclosed in quotation marks, and has its in-text citation after the final punctuation.
  • Block quotations are double-spaced, like the rest of your APA paper.

Key Terms

  • block quotation: A way of formatting a particularly long excerpt or quotation in a paper.

When to Use a Block Quotation

A typical quotation is enclosed in double quotation marks and is part of a sentence within a paragraph of your paper. However, if you want to quote more than 40 words from a source, you should format the excerpt as a block quotation, rather than as a regular quotation within the text of a paragraph. Most of the standard rules for quotations still apply, with the following exceptions: a block quotation will begin on its own line, it will not be enclosed in quotation marks, and its in-text citation will come after the ending punctuation, not before it.

For example, if you wanted to quote the entire first paragraph of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, you would begin that quotation on its own line and format it as follows:

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice ‘without pictures or conversations?’ (Carroll, p. 98)

The full reference for this source would then be included in your References section at the end of your paper.

Spacing and Alignment

The entire block quotation should be indented from the left margin the same distance as the first lines of your paragraphs (and the first line should not be further indented). As the rest of your paper, it should be double-spaced. And as with series and lists, to better visually distinguish a block quotation from the surrounding text, be sure to leave an extra (blank) line between the last line of the block quotation and the first line of the following paragraph.

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Block quotation: This block quotation is properly formatted in APA style.