College Writing: A Go-to Guide for APA Format

By Staff Writer Published on November 12, 2012

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.

1. General:

  • 8.5 inch by 11 inch sheet of paper
  • 1-inch margin on all sides
  • Double-spaced
  • Font:  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: In Microsoft Word 2010, select Insert; Page number; choose a left-justified top of page style; type your header topic and tab your page number over to the right; Click on Different First Page

2. Title page:

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

3. Abstract:

  • A 150 to 200 word summary of your paper on the second page

4. Body of paper:

  • Write the introduction, body, and conclusion.

5. References:

  • On a new page, write the “References” centered at the top.
  • You must cite anything that 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  to have the formatting done for you.
  • Hear are some examples:

Website reference:

Editor, author, or compiler name (if available). Name of Site. Version number. Name of institution/organization affiliated with the site (sponsor or publisher), date of resource creation (if available). Medium of publication. Date of access.

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:

Lastname, Firstname. Title of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. Medium of Publication.

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 for additional information.

Author Bio
Julie Lancaster has been employed with the Flagstaff campus of CollegeAmerica since 2005 and has served in the roles of associate professor, career services adviser, career services director, and dean of education.  She holds a Master’s in Education with a focus on culture, language, and diversity.  She is also the author of the Flagstaff Planting Guide and the Tucson Planting Guide and loves to write.