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Creating a School Project in APA Style

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In high school, your instructor typically asks you to write a critical essay or a short research paper on a current event or interesting person. Writing in MLA style and creating a Works Cited page for your references, works well for these papers.  However, if you take psychology or sociology classes in high school or college, you may be asked to write a paper using APA style.

Understanding APA Style

Developed by the American Psychological Association, this style is designed to create uniformity in social and behavioral science research. If papers are written using the same rules, it makes it easy for researchers to find information on these subjects.

Writing a paper in APA style is not just about creating citations and reference lists. The rules cover all parts of researching and writing a paper in the social and behavioral sciences. The style guide is updated regularly to account for new ways of thinking, especially in terms of gender and racial identities.

Students learning about APA research papers

Elements of an APA Paper

APA requires you to follow a certain style while formatting your research paper. Regardless of whether you’re writing a paper for school or for publication in a scholarly journal, you need to format it exactly the same. Learning to format correctly helps make it easier for you as you progress through college and graduate school.

An APA Paper Includes:

  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Text of paper
    • Introduction
    • Body
    • Conclusion
  • Reference List
  • Tables
  • Figures
  • Appendices

How to Format Your APA Paper

  • Use Times New Roman 12 point font size
  • Use 1 inch margins – top, bottom, left, right
  • Use flush-left style – do not right justify.
  • Indent first line of each paragraph
  • Include a ‘running head’ on each page, flush left
  • Number each page starting with the cover page.
  • Page numbers are placed at the top of each page, flush right.
  • Double-space within the paper and the reference list.
  • Double-space after title, headings, footnotes, long quotations, references, and figure captions.

Note: A running head is an abbreviated form of the paper’s title.

Running Head

Unlike other editorial styles, APA requires a ‘running head’ on each paper. Basically, what this means is you take use a short version of the paper’s title and include it on the top of each page, including the cover page. Type out Running head: title on the cover page.

Cover Page Example

Flush left

Running head:  EFFECTS OF DRUG USE IN COLLEGE

Subsequent pages:

EFFECTS OF DRUG USE IN COLLEGE

As you organize for your school paper, remember to follow your instructor’s guidelines. Teachers usually have specific ways they want you to work on your paper. Paper requirements will be posted, including word length, topic choice and citation style.

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About the author

Adrienne Mathewson

Adrienne Mathewson, Editor-in-Chief of Bibliography.com, is an Information Professional with a Master’s in Library, Information & Science from San José State University with an emphasis on information literacy and scholarly publishing. She is a certified librarian through the State of New Mexico.

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