College Writing: A Go-to Guide for APA Format

Updated By Staff Writer on June 4, 2020

The first day of college: highlighters, notebooks, mini-stapler: check! But the most prepared students may not have stocked their metaphorical backpacks with a solid grasp of how to write a college-quality research paper in American Psychological Association (APA) format. Here’s a quick-and-dirty guide to writing papers with APA style.

General Guidelines

  • 8.5 inch by 11-inch sheet of paper
  • 1-inch margin on all sides
  • Double-spaced
  • Font should be 12-point, Times New Roman (or a few select others)
  • Include title page, abstract, body, and references
  • Header on each page, at the top left
  • Page number on top right

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The Title Page

  • Running header on top-left of the page: Topic
  • Double spaced and centered: Student, Your Name, Your College


  • A 150-to-200-word summary of your paper. This should be located on the second page.


  • On a new page, write “References” centered at the top.
  • You must cite anything you refer to in your paper, and cite the resources you used for your research.
  • List all sources using the formats below, or type the web address into a formatting assistant such as www.easybib.com  to have the formatting done for you.

Here are some examples:

Website reference: Editor, author, or compiler name (if available). Name of Site. Version number. Name of the institution/organization affiliated with the site (sponsor or publisher). Date of resource creation (if available). Medium of publication. Date of access. Example: The Purdue OWL Family of Sites. The Writing Lab and OWL at Purdue and Purdue U, 2008. Web. 23 Apr. 2008.  Felluga, Dino. Guide to Literary and Critical Theory. Purdue U, 28 Nov. 2003. Web. 10 May 2006. Book reference: Last name, First name. Title of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. Medium of Publication. Example: Gleick, James. Chaos: Making a New Science. New York: Penguin, 1987. Print.

Though it takes some work to get everything just right when doing APA formatting, the process can become easier the more you do it. Visit www.apastyle.org for additional information.