APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 6th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6th ed., 2nd printing).
Contributors: Joshua M. Paiz, Elizabeth Angeli, Jodi Wagner, Elena Lawrick, Kristen Moore, Michael Anderson, Lars Soderlund, Allen Brizee, Russell Keck
Last Edited: 2018-02-21 02:26:13
Please use the example at the bottom of this page to cite the Purdue OWL in APA.
To see a side-by-side comparison of the three most widely used citation styles, including a chart of all APA citation guidelines, see the Citation Style Chart.
You can also watch our APA vidcast series on the Purdue OWL YouTube Channel.
General APA Guidelines
Your essay should be typed and double-spaced on standard-sized paper (8.5" x 11"), with 1" margins on all sides. You should use a clear font that is highly readable. APA recommends using 12 pt. Times New Roman font.
Include a page header (also known as the "running head") at the top of every page. To create a page header/running head, insert page numbers flush right. Then type "TITLE OF YOUR PAPER" in the header flush left using all capital letters. The running head is a shortened version of your paper's title and cannot exceed 50 characters including spacing and punctuation.
Major Paper Sections
Your essay should include four major sections: the Title Page, Abstract, Main Body, and References.
The title page should contain the title of the paper, the author's name, and the institutional affiliation. Include the page header (described above) flush left with the page number flush right at the top of the page. Please note that on the title page, your page header/running head should look like this:
Running head: TITLE OF YOUR PAPER
Pages after the title page should have a running head that looks like this:
TITLE OF YOUR PAPER
After consulting with publication specialists at the APA, OWL staff learned that the APA 6th edition, first printing sample papers have incorrect examples of running heads on pages after the title page. This link will take you to the APA site where you can find a complete list of all the errors in the APA's 6th edition style guide.
Type your title in upper and lowercase letters centered in the upper half of the page. APA recommends that your title be no more than 12 words in length and that it should not contain abbreviations or words that serve no purpose. Your title may take up one or two lines. All text on the title page, and throughout your paper, should be double-spaced.
Beneath the title, type the author's name: first name, middle initial(s), and last name. Do not use titles (Dr.) or degrees (PhD).
Beneath the author's name, type the institutional affiliation, which should indicate the location where the author(s) conducted the research.
Image Caption: APA Title Page
Begin a new page. Your abstract page should already include the page header (described above). On the first line of the abstract page, center the word “Abstract” (no bold, formatting, italics, underlining, or quotation marks).
Beginning with the next line, write a concise summary of the key points of your research. (Do not indent.) Your abstract should contain at least your research topic, research questions, participants, methods, results, data analysis, and conclusions. You may also include possible implications of your research and future work you see connected with your findings. Your abstract should be a single paragraph, double-spaced. Your abstract should be between 150 and 250 words.
You may also want to list keywords from your paper in your abstract. To do this, indent as you would if you were starting a new paragraph, type Keywords: (italicized), and then list your keywords. Listing your keywords will help researchers find your work in databases.
Image Caption: APA Abstract Page
Please see our Sample APA Paper resource to see an example of an APA paper. You may also visit our Additional Resources page for more examples of APA papers.
How to Cite the Purdue OWL in APA
Contributors' names and the last edited date can be found in the orange boxes at the top of every page on the OWL.
Contributors' names (Last edited date). Title of resource. Retrieved from http://Web address for OWL resource
Angeli, E., Wagner, J., Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderlund, L., & Brizee, A. (2010, May 5). General format. Retrieved from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/
How to Write an Essay in 6 Simple Steps
When you get an assignment to write an essay, it’s important to understand that inspiration alone does not guarantee success, and that’s not only because inspiration is not available on demand! Having a rich imagination also does not ensure your success in writing an effective essay, even if you’re the next Shakespeare (which you probably are not).
The good news, however, is that even without a strong imagination or a rush of inspiration, you can still write an excellent essay and get a very high grade. How?
By using standard patterns and best practices, as we outline below, you can be sure that your essay will be great and that you’ll be rewarded accordingly. Scholarly essay assignments are designed to test your ability to express yourself coherently as well as to follow the rules of writing, rather than your writing talent.
Below, we’ll outline the rules in an easy-to-follow manner, which breaks successful essay writing into six steps to help you simplify and streamline your writing process. Here we go!
1. Choose Your Essay Type and Essay Topic
The first thing you’ll want to do is to focus on one type of essay. There are many commonly used types of essays like “Cause and effect”, “Classification and division”, “Compare and contrast”, “Descriptive”, “Narrative”, “Argumentative”, etc. Often, your teacher will instruct you to write a specific type of essay, but if the assignment doesn’t specify, then choosing the right type of essay to write will greatly impact the rest of your work.
Once you start writing one kind of essay, you might not be able to change it without complete re-writing of your essay, so take your time in the beginning, and be sure to choose the most suitable type of essay for your assignment.
Now, at the beginning is also the time to choose a topic for your essay. Choosing an appropriate topic isn’t always easy, but it’s a critical phase if you want to write an essay well. On one hand, your essay topic should be compatible with the type of essay you’ve chosen, and on the other hand it will be worth while to choose something that you are interested in. Writing on an interesting topic will be more interesting for you, and more likely to help you get a good grade.
If you don’t have a good idea for your essay topic right away you can find a list of topic suggestions based on your essay type on many different sites. Here are some of our favorites:
100 Argument or Position Essay Topics
100 Compare and Contrast Essay Topics
100 Cause and Effect Essay Topics
Even if you don’t find a topic that interests you on one of those sites, those lists provide some good topic examples that can help you to invent a topic of your own.
2. Choose Essay Structure Pattern
Each type of essay has several standard structure patterns. The essay structure you’ve selected will determine the order of the paragraphs in your essay and their content.
For example, there are three simple patterns for an argumentative essay. They are called “Pro-Con Pattern”, “Con-Pro Pattern” and “3-Con Pattern” which are recommended for short school essays. In addition, there are two more complicated patterns called “Claim/Counterclaim Pattern” and “Alternating Pattern” which are recommended for advanced school and college essays (see the article “How to Write an Argumentative Essay on any Topic” for more information).
Depending on the specifics of your assignment, you should choose an appropriate pattern and then stick to it while you write your essay.
3. Outline the Essay
If you’re thinking of skipping this step because you don’t know what essay outlining is or you want to save time, think again!
How many times were you stuck on the first paragraph, not knowing what to write? It was because you started writing before thinking through what you want to write. This process of thinking through what you want to write is called “outlining”, and it’s the best way to write a top-notch paper, fast.
When writing your essay outline, you should plan your essay paragraph by paragraph, starting with the essay introduction and strong thesis statement all the way to the essay’s conclusion, according to your chosen essay pattern. A solid outline will make the writing of your essay quicker, easier, and more pleasant.
For more information and to see some good outline samples with explanations, take a look at some of our favorite links:
Types of Outlines and Samples
Writing an Outline
Sample Essay Outlines
4. Write that Essay!
You’ve chosen your essay type and topic, selected your pattern, and written an outline? Great! Now you can focus on writing the essay text itself. You’ll have a much easier time since your outline is ready and you know exactly what you want to write in each paragraph.
Start by writing out each point from your outline, one at a time. If you did your essay outlining well, it will produce a well written essay easily.
If you need to change something in your outline because you found a better way to make your point, go ahead and do it. Just remember to use the updated outline in your writing.
5. Formatting Style and References
It’s not the most fun part of essay writing, but making sure to cite your sources properly is an important part of crafting the perfect essay. Your essay has to comply with MLA, APA or Chicago/Turabian standard, depend on your assignment. If you’re not sure which style to use, you can click here for a list by topic, or ask your teacher for guidance.
Whatever standard you choose will include detailed requirements for formatting and layout for the first page (and a cover page if needed) and the rest of your essay, use of footnotes or endnotes, guidelines to abbreviations, short and long quotations borrowed from secondary sources, and more.
Here are some helpful guides:
MLA Formatting and Style Guide
MLA Documentation Guide
APA Formatting and Style Guide
APA Documentation Guide
Chicago Manual of Style 16th Edition
Chicago/Turabian Documentation Style
There are about sixty different types of sources, from the Bible up to e-mail, and citations for each one of them must be formatted according to strict rules which are hard to memorize.
Fortunately, we are living in the age of the Internet where you can easily find a number of excellent free online bibliography and citation tools like BibMe, Citation Machine or EasyBib and we warmly recommend using them to save time and make sure to avoid mistakes.
6. Finalize Your Work
This last step is important to make sure your work is as strong as you want it to be and help you get the best possible grade.This step consists of proofreading your essay to make sure everything is correct--no spelling mistakes or grammar errors. You’ll be amazed how much this improves your essay quality, as you’re able to correct common mistakes such as mixing up your/you’re, their/there, or other common errors.
Read and reread your essay to make sure that there are no vague or incomplete phrases in it.
Use a spell checker, too. You wouldn’t want to work hard on your essay only to lose points on a grammar or spelling mistake!
If all the above recommendations seem you to be too simple, remember: lots of students get significantly reduced grades because they didn’t take the time to properly check their work after writing their essays and before submitting them.
Now you are ready to submit your work and get your well-deserved high grade!