If you have been asked by your instructor to write an APA format essay, it may look like a daunting task. More so if you are used to using other formatting styles such as Chicago or MLA. Before you commence on the essay, you need to get familiar with the basics. Here are some tips that will provide you with useful guidelines on preparing an APA format essay.

What Is APA Format?

American Psychological Association, also known as APA, is a format that is mostly used when you are citing sources within social sciences. It is used in various social science disciplines like education and psychology. The APA format dictates elements of the paper to be presented, which include structure of the content, margins and spacing. While this is a guide that provides you with basic tips on presentation of an APA format essay, consult your teacher for more specific format instructions.

Basics of APA Format Essay

Margins at the four sides of your essays i.e. the right, left, bottom and top should be uniform and at-least an inch.

The paper should have double spaces.

Every page of the essay’s top left side should have a running head. Running head refers to a shortened form of the title, mostly the first couple of words. It should not be over 50 characters long (this is inclusive of spaces).

The right-hand side corner of each page should have the page number.

Proper nouns, including the author’s name initials and full names, should be in capital letters.

For in-text citation, you need to use an author-date technique. This means that the source’s publication year and last name of the author should be included in the text.

If your quotation comes directly from some work, you will have to include the page number, publication year and author for reference. This is in the case of short quotations. If the quoting is over 40 words, you should omit the quotation marks, and the quotation needs to be in free-standing blocks of the typewritten lines. Also, remember that each line’s left margin should have five indented spaces.

The title page of the essay should be in APA format. This page should include the paper’s title, your school affiliation and your name. There are some instances where the teacher might require extra information like the date, instructor’s name and course title.

The essay should also have a reference list and should be at the end of the paper. Reference section refers to a list of all sources that have been cited in the essay. The list should be in alphabetical order starting with the author’s last name. The list should also be in double spaces.

Assuming that there is an author in the list whom you have cited in more than one article, you should list each of their works differently. You should start with the earliest article that published and include that author’s name in each.

For titles of shorter works like edited collection essays or journal articles, you should not put quotes, underline or italicize the titles.


When writing the essay, be keen on the sources you cite. Remember to include any source you have cited in the essay in the reference section. Equally, any source you have listed in the reference should appear somewhere in the body of the paper.

Your first APA essay may be somewhat intimidating initially, but you will have an easier time when you learn the basic rules in writing APA style essays. However, always remember to refer to the directions given by your instructor for all assignments.


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