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How to Write a Paper in APA Format | For Students

July 8, 2024
2.3K Views

When I was a student, I was told to submit my essays in APA format. At the time, I had no idea what that even meant or how to do it. If this sounds familiar to you, don’t worry—I’ve been there, too. In this guide, I’ll show you the easiest way to understand APA format and a simple hack to help you comfortably write your essays and then format them in APA style.

How to write a paper in APA format | For Students


When is APA format used?

APA format is commonly used in the social and behavioral sciences, such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, education, and economics, as well as in fields like business and nursing. This standardized format is adopted by professionals, researchers, and students to structure and present research papers, essays, and other academic documents.

It ensures consistency and clarity in communication within these disciplines by providing specific guidelines for nearly all aspects of manuscript formatting, from font choice to margins and punctuation. By adhering to paper APA format 7th edition style, writers in these fields can effectively share their findings and ideas in a clear and organized manner.

General Guidelines/ Rules of APA Formatting

Understanding the guidelines is key when learning how to write a paper in APA format for students. However, there's one important point that is often missed by many: the APA 7th edition now has different guidelines for students and professionals. So, if you notice a few extra details that might be missing in the guidelines below, it is because we have skipped the APA 7th edition guidelines for professionals to avoid any confusion. Let's review the guidelines:

General Formatting:

  • Margins: Set 1-inch margins on all sides.

  • Font: Use a readable font such as Times New Roman (12 pt.).

  • Line Spacing: Double-space throughout the document, including the title page, abstract, references, and any other sections.

  • Indentation: Indent the first line of each paragraph by 0.5 inches (use the tab key or the paragraph formatting function).

  • Alignment: Left-align all text except for headings, which follow specific formats.

  • Page Numbers: Include page numbers in the top right corner of every page, starting on the title page (which is considered page 1).

Specifics:

  • Title Page: Follow guidelines for the placement of the title, author information, affiliation (your school), course information, and instructor's name.

  • Abstract: Include a brief summary of your paper on a separate page after the title page.

  • Body Text: Write in clear and concise language, avoiding jargon. Use headings to organize your content.

  • In-text Citations: Cite your sources within the text using the author’s name and publication year in parentheses. There are specific formats for different types of sources.

  • Reference List: Start a new page for your references, listed alphabetically by the first author's last name. Follow specific formatting guidelines for different types of sources (books, articles, websites, etc.).

Here's what a title page of a reference paper template looks like in APA format:

Title Page of APA Paper format template


How to Set up APA Format Paper [Step-by-Step]

After understanding the guidelines, the next step is to apply them effectively to format your paper in APA 7th edition style. To achieve this, we need an efficient writing tool that provides all the necessary formatting tools. Since we're just starting our journey to format essays in APA style, the tool should be easy to use. For these reasons, I'll be using a professional writing tool—WPS Office.

WPS Office not only provides all the necessary tools but also has a major benefit—it's completely free to use. I recommend downloading WPS Office on your system to ensure you can follow the steps smoothly. So, let's begin. I have an example paper that I will format in APA style using WPS Office.

1.Page Margins

Before you begin formatting your essay, let's set the page margins according to APA 7th edition guidelines, which require 1-inch margins on all sides.

Step 1: To set the page margins in WPS Writer, simply go to the Page Layout tab.

Step 2: In the Page Layout ribbon, locate the Margin fields on the left end of the ribbon.

Step 3: Here, set all margins—top, bottom, left, and right—to 1 inch.

WPS Writer Page Margins


Once you've adjusted the margins, we can proceed with formatting the rest of the document.

2.Font Settings and Line Spacing

Next, let's adjust the font and line spacing according to APA style requirements.

Step 1: Go to the Home tab in WPS Writer and change the font to “Times New Roman” in the “Fonts” field.

Step 2: To change the font size, enter "12" in the "Font size" field.

Change Font according to APA Style


Step 3: For adjusting line spacing, simply click on the "Line spacing" icon in the Home ribbon and select "2.0" to apply double spacing in your essay.

Double Line spacing


3.Header

Once we've completed setting the general formatting of our entire essay according to APA style, we now need to prepare the header.

Step 1: To set the header, double-click on the header area to enter the header in WPS Writer.

The header in APA style for students includes only the page number on the top right.

Step 2: To insert the page number, click on the "Page Number" button in the Header/Footer ribbon.

Step 3: From the Page Number drop-down menu, select the "Header right" option to insert the page number on the top right.

Insert Page number in WPS Writer


Step 4: Next, we need to set the header height to "0.5 in" in the "Header height" field.

Header height in WPS Writer


 4.Title Page

Sure! Let's start formatting each page of your essay, beginning with the title page. The title page should include the title of your paper, your name (as the author), the professor's name, course details, university name, and the due date. Each of these headings should start on a new line with 3-4 blank lines at the top of the page. This formatting ensures that your essay's title page follows APA style guidelines accurately.

Step 1: Press the "Enter" key on the keyboard to leave 3-4 blank lines at the top of the page.

Step 2: Type the title of your essay and center align it by clicking on the "Center" icon in the Home ribbon.

Step 3: Make the title bold by selecting the title text and clicking on the "Bold" icon in the Home ribbon.

Essay title formatting


Step 4: Press the "Enter" key twice to create a blank line between the title and the essay details. Then, enter the essay details in the following order, each on a separate line:

  • Your name (Author)

  • Department, University

  • Course Name, Course code

  • Professor's name

  • Due date

Step 5: After entering the essay details as described, ensure that each detail is centered on the page by selecting all the text with your mouse. Then, click on the "Center" icon in the Home ribbon to center-align the selected text.

Formatting essay details


5.Abstract

Step 1: To insert a new blank page after the title page, place the cursor at the end of the due date on the title page and go to the Insert tab.

Step 2: In the Insert ribbon, click on "Breaks" and then select "Page Break" from the drop-down menu. This will create a new blank page where we will enter our abstract.

Page Break in WPS Writer


Step 3: Enter the heading "Abstract" in bold font style and center align it.

Abstract heading


Step 4: Type the body of the abstract with no indentation. Simply start typing the abstract text.

Abstract body


After completing the abstract, insert another page break to start the next section of your essay.

6.Headings and Subheadings

To ensure your paper adheres to APA style guidelines for headings and paragraph indentation, here's how you can format them:

Step 1: On a new blank page, enter the Level 1 heading and ensure it is centered and in bold.

Step 2: For the body of the headings, indent the first line of each new paragraph by “0.5 in” by pressing the “Tab” key on your keyboard

  • Level 1 Heading: Centered and bold. It is used for main sections, like "Methods" or "Results".

  • Level 2 Heading: Left-aligned and bold. It is used to divide the main sections into subsections.

  • Level 3 Heading: Left-aligned, bold, and italicized. It further divides subsections into smaller parts.

  • Level 4 Heading: Indented, bold, and ends with a period. Text immediately follows this period, and it continues with lowercase text.

  • Level 5 Heading: Indented, bold, and in italics. Similar to Level 4, it also continues with lowercase text..

APA Style Headings formatting


7.Table of contents

Essays can be lengthy, so including a table of contents can help make navigation easier. Let's take a look at how we can add a table of contents in WPS Writer.

Step 1: The Table of Contents is placed right after the title page, so the first step is to create a blank space after the title page using a Page Break.

Step 2: Now, on the blank page, go to the References tab and click on the Table of Contents button.

References Tab in WPS Writer


Step 3: From the Table of Contents drop-down menu, select any of the default templates available. I prefer using the 3rd template as it allows coverage of 3 levels of headings.

Insert Table of Contents in WPS Writer


Step 4: Once the Table of Contents has been added, ensure that its heading is set to "Table of Contents", and it is formatted in bold and centered alignment.

Step 5: Additionally, ensure that the font settings of the Table of Contents are set to Times New Roman and 12-point font size.

Formatting Table of Contents according to APA Style in WPS Writer


8.Reference page

Before completing our essay, it's important to insert references that were helpful during the research process. For this, the end of your essay will include a separate References page.

Step 1: On a blank page at the end of your essay, enter the heading "References". Center align the heading and make it bold.

References Page


Step 2: List all the works cited in your essay. You can use the free Scribbr citation generator to generate APA 7th edition citations, which makes the process easier and ensures accuracy.

Scribbr Citation Generator


Step 3: Ensure the references are formatted with hanging indents using the Ruler in WPS Writer. To access the ruler, go to the View tab and check the "Ruler" checkbox in the ribbon.

WPS Writer ruler


Step 4: Drag the arrow on the ruler to half an inch to set the hanging indent.

Set Hanging indent in WPS Writer


Step 5: Then, drag the rectangle (below the ruler) back to 0 to reset the left indent for the subsequent lines of each reference.

Reset left indent in WPS Writer


And here is our APA 7th edition formatted essay from scratch. As you may have noticed, the whole process can be lengthy without an outline, but formatting your essay step by step makes the process clearer and easier to complete. I've used a few other writing tools for formatting, but I recommend WPS Writer because of its ease of navigation—all formatting tools are readily available in the tab, with no need to navigate through extra menus or open additional guides to learn additional steps. Try using WPS Writer for your essay assignments and experience the difference.

Bonus Tips: How to Convert Word to PDF without losing Format

WPS Office not only provides the necessary tools for students to efficiently format their essays according to APA 7th edition, but it also offers tools to easily convert these papers to PDF format within the WPS Writer application. Therefore, because submitting your work promptly is the next step after writing, ensure that your submission doesn't cost you any marks due to formatting issues after putting in so much effort.

WPS PDF


To convert your essay documents to PDF using WPS PDF without quality loss, simply follow these steps:

Step 1: Open your document in WPS Writer.

Step 2: Click on the Menu button at the top left corner of the screen.

Step 3: Select "Export to PDF" from the menu that appears.

Export to PDF Option in WPS Writer


Step 4: Adjust any settings, such as the output path, in the Export to PDF window.

Step 5: After configuring the settings, click on "Export to PDF" to save your essay document as a PDF.

Export Essay document to PDF


FAQs about writing a paper in APA format

1. How should I format tables and figures in APA style?

To correctly format a table in APA style, follow these guidelines:

  • Boldly label the table number above the table.

  • Provide a brief, italicized title in the title case just below the table number.

  • Avoid using vertical lines in the table design.

  • Use horizontal lines sparingly, only where necessary for clarity.

  • Ensure column and row headings are clearly labeled and concise.

  • Maintain consistent number formatting, such as decimal places.

  • Include any necessary notes below the table to explain details or sources.

To correctly format a figure in APA style, follow these guidelines:

  • Place the figure number in bold above the figure.

  • Provide a brief, italicized title in the title case beneath the figure number.

  • Include clear labels and legends within the image if needed.

  • Add any pertinent notes below the figure.

2. How to cite a Journal article in APA Style?

An APA Style citation for a journal article includes the author's name(s), the year of publication (in round brackets), the title of the article, the name of the journal in italics, the volume (in italics) and issue number, the page range of the article, and a DOI (if available).

  • APA format:

Author's last name, First name initial. (Year of publication). Title of article. Journal Title, Volume(Issue), Page range. DOI or URL

  • Example:

Johnson, M. (2023). Explore with us. Journal of random discoveries, 5(2), 123-135. https://doi.org/10.1234/jes.2023.5.2.123

The volume number should be in italics, not the issue number.
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3. How to cite a website in APA style?

APA website citations include the author's name, publication date, the title of the page or article in italics, the website name, and the URL. If no author is known, begin with the title of the article. If updates to the content are possible, include a retrieval date.

  • APA Format

Author's Last Name, First initial. (Year, Month Date of publication). Title of the page. Name of the Website. URL

  • Example:

Johnson, M. (2024, March 12). Explore with us. Random Discoveries. https://www.randomdiscoveries.com/explore-with-us

Master APA Format Easily with WPS Office

I personally find APA format to be the most complex of all formats, but doing it on WPS Office sure makes it easy. The fact that it’s so user-friendly, with every feature readily available, is a huge advantage. The best part is that WPS Office is completely free. As a student, finding a good office suite that is cost-effective can be a challenge, and I’ve been there. Download WPS Office and spare yourself the hassle of hunting for an office suite—WPS Office is the answer to all your problems.

15 years of office industry experience, tech lover and copywriter. Follow me for product reviews, comparisons, and recommendations for new apps and software.