APA style guidelines for manuscript writing are established to ensure that manuscripts are relatively uniform and standard. As a result, elements of the paper are presented in an easily understood format. These should include:
- Title Page – This page includes title, information concerning the author, and may include an author’s note at the bottom.
- Abstract – This paragraph includes a brief detailed overview of the author’s work, stressing important ideas and explanation of research procedures.
- Text – The text of an argument or review paper includes well worded introduction, body, and conclusion. It may be divided by headings that introduce main topics of importance. The text of a research paper should introduce the problem, explain methodology, and summarize results, followed by discussion of implications of the study.
- Reference List – Should be alphabetized and list technical information concerning sources used in your research.
- Footnotes – Footnotes may be incorporated inside the text by using the footnote function of your word processing program. They should include explanations and clarifying discussions that would otherwise interfere with the flow of your paper.
- Tables – Data contained in tables should be easily interpreted and in readily understood forms. You may refer within the paper to tables on separate pages at the end of the manuscript.
- Figures – Visual images that support your ideas. These may be in the form of drawings, graphs, photos, maps, etc. They should be numbered and used in reference. They may appear within the manuscript or as separate pages at the end of the manuscript.
- Appendices – Provide supplementary information supporting ideas in your paper. However, including this information in the paper could be disruptive to the flow of the paper. Therefore, it is included in appendices.
Parts of the Manuscript
An APA manuscript contains many parts: title page, abstract, text of the paper, references, footnotes, tables, figures and appendices. Not all papers have all elements. However, if they do, this is the order in which they should be arranged.
The first page of the manuscript is the title page. It consists of the following elements:
Running head with paging. The running head is a shortened version of the full title with page number.
Title. Title should be centered and capitalized, using standard headline style.
Author’s Name. Include your name, centered and capitalized properly, 2 spaces below the title. This is followed by the name of the school, city, and area. Some instructors may direct you to include your major and college, as well as course title.
Author Note. This is entered at least 4 spaces below Author’s name information. Each line of the author’s note is intended to clarify above information. The first paragraph identifies department and university affiliation. The next paragraph explains changes in affiliation, if any. The following paragraph provides acknowledgements, disclaimers, and any other explanations that the author feels are necessary. The final paragraph contains the author’s contact information. Use separate, indented, double-spaced paragraphs for each paragraph.
NOTE – Student papers don’t normally require an author’s note.
The abstract is the second page of the manuscript. It includes a brief outline of the primary ideas of your research. It should stick to the following guidelines:
- Heading – The word “Abstract” should be centered and typed 3 lines below the running head. Do not italicize. Begin the first paragraph 2 lines below.
- Format – The format for the abstract is a single, double-spaced paragraph without indentation.
- Length – Normally 150-250 words.
- Concision – To keep your abstract brief, use standard abbreviations and digits rather than spelling out numbers, except for at the beginning of sentences. Also, remember to write in the active voice rather than passive.
- Content – Open your paper by describing the topic of your research. Use the remaining space to explain methodology and include 4-5 major ideas, then explain results and conclusions. Include only the most important elements.
- Keywords – If necessary, include a list of keywords in your abstract. To do so, space down 2 lines from the abstract and type “keywords.” It should be italicized, followed by a colon. Then begin a brief list as needed.
This section begins on the third page of the manuscript. The running head should appear on the top, 3 lines above the title which is centered with headline-styled capitalization. Do not use any special features – bold, italics, change of font, etc. The body of the paper begins 2 lines below. Always remember to double space.
There are many ways to organize your paper, depending on focus:
Argumentative, Review, or Meta-analysis Paper
- Introduction – Includes a thesis and describes the purpose of the work, placed in the context with which you want it considered.
- Body – This is where you make your arguments and defend your ideas. All arguments should be laid-out in a logical order. Each argument should be explained with supporting remarks and facts.
- Conclusion – Summarize all key ideas, explain what it all means, and re-state the thesis.
- Reference List – List of sources used in the paper.
- Additional Materials – As appropriate, include all tables, footnotes, figures, and appendices.
Research Study Paper
- Introduction – Describe the problem including your hypothesis and include your research methodology. Describe the way in which this study addresses the problem.
- Method – This should be divided into sub-sections describing participants, materials used, and procedures.
- Results – Summarize information that is gathered. Can be further sub-categorized for analysis using tables, graphs, figures, etc.
- Discussion – Explain the way in which your data relates to the original hypothesis. Address your findings and include necessary qualifications concerning the finds of others who are doing similar work. Discuss and explain conclusions of your research.
- Reference List – List cited sources.
- Additional Materials – As appropriate, include separate pages of footnotes, tables, figures, appendices, etc.
This provides publishing information for all sources cited in your work.
Footnotes contain information that often, if included in the body of the paper, might disrupt the flow of information. On the other hand, they contain important information that cannot be left out. However, they follow certain guidelines.
- Heading – 3 lines below the running head, type the word “Footnotes” , centered and without italics.
- Order of notes – Enter footnotes on the footnote page in the order that they appear in your paper.
- Format – Typed in paragraph style with the first line indented. Insert the superscript number before entering the footnote. Do not put spaces between the number and first letter of the first word of the footnote.
- Paging – Put footnotes on their own page. Multiple footnotes can be on the same page with no additional spaces between them.
NOTE – Footnotes may be placed in the text of your paper using the footnote function of your word processing program.
Placing Note Numbers in the Paper
- In-text notes – Number them in order throughout the paper.
- Placement of in-text note numbers – Using the Font feature of your word processing program, use a superscript number to refer to content notes, like this2.
- Punctuation and note numbers – Follow all punctuation except dashes and parentheses. They precede the dash2- without any additional space. They may appear within (parentheses3) when they refer only to that information. If the note refers to the entire parenthetical reference, the number goes outside the parenthesis (like this)4.
Tables are used for technical information, arranged in columns and rows. Tables should be numbered with reference. For instance, see table 1. This directs the reader to tables appearing on separate pages, organized by the following:
- Table identification – 3 lines below the running head, flush with the left margin, type Table with its corresponding Arabic numeral.
- Table title – 2 spaces below the table heading, flush left, type the title of the table in italics with headline style capitalization. Use the graphics or “insert” feature on your word processing program to place or design your table.
- Column headings – Center column heading above information in each column, capitalizing only the first word of each heading. One line below, insert a horizontal rule.
- Parallel information and style – Headings should appear in parallel grammatical forms (all nouns, all gerunds, etc.) and numbers should be of similar style.
- Spacing – Columns should be separated by at least 3 spaces for clarity and primary elements of tables should be single spaced. Table notes are double spaced.
- Repeated information – Should table information extend beyond a single page, repeat column headings.
- Table notes (general) – If there is need to explain an entire table, use a general note. Insert a horizontal rule one line below the body of the table. Below this line, type Note in italics, flush left, followed by a period. Type the text of the note after one space. End with a period, even if it is not a full sentence. Remember to double space.
- Table notes (specific) – Use a specific note to explain a particular element of a table, when necessary. Use superscript – like thisa – following the element. One line below, insert a table rule. Below this line, insert the superscript letter, flush left, followed by the explanation followed by a period, even if it is not a full sentence. General table notes appear first with specific table notes appearing on the line beneath. Should the table have more than one specific note, it continues on the same line with a space between. Notes are double spaced.
- Paging – Each table begins on a new page.
Figures are visual graphics that can’t be reproduced by typing. For example, drawings, graphs, photos, maps, etc. Number each as it is used. The original will then appear on separate pages at the end of the manuscript, using the following guidelines.
- Figure - Insert figures in highest quality possible, beginning 3 lines below the running head. Highest quality means sharp contrast in photos, clear lettering and numbering of graphs, etc.
- Label – Type the word Figure flush left below the figure with the number of the figure followed by a period. All elements are italicized.
- Caption – Space once, then type the caption using sentence-style capitalization using a period even if it is not a full sentence. Do not italicize the caption.
- Spacing and indentation – Double space captions. If it continues more than one line, keep it flush left.
- Fonts – Font size should be between 8 and 14 point using a san serif font.
- Paging – Put each figure on a new page.
Special Notes about Figures
- Before inserting figures, decide whether they are the best way to present your information. Don’t use them unnecessarily, as they can clutter your paper and detract from your final results.
- Only use figures that stress the most important arguments of your research.
- Modern word processing programs are quite helpful in generating graphs, charts, and other types of figures. Use them wisely and take the time to familiarize yourself with the options in your program.
- Make certain that any graphics you choose are clear focused so that they provide maximum impact.
An APA research paper can have multiple appendices. However, they should follow certain guidelines.
- Heading. Type the word Appendix 3 lines below the running head. Do not italicize. When using more than one appendix, label with lettering (Appendix A, Appendix B, etc.).
- Appendix title. Using headline style capitalization, type the title two lines below the heading.
- Text. Text should be double spaced and begin 2 lines below the title.
- Paging. Each appendix starts on a new page.
General Helpful Guidelines for APA Manuscripts
Use heavy bond, 8 ½ by 11 inch paper. Avoid exotic paper types, such as onionskin or erasable paper.
APA stresses the use of san serif fonts; Times New Roman is the recommended font, but Arial or Century Gothic may be used to label figures and illustrations. 12 point is also the standard size.
Use italics rather than underlining when necessary. Symbols, such as accents, may be inserted, also when necessary.
Double space your paper throughout, including appendices. Only elements within tables and figures should be single spaced.
It’s acceptable to triple- or quadruple-space before or after equations and other visual effects to provide clarity.
Three lines separate the running head from any visual elements.
Space twice following end of sentence punctuation including periods, question marks, and exclamation points. Use single space for punctuation within the sentence, such as commas, semicolons, etc. Periods should be used following initials, but no space is required between them (e.g., U.S.). The same rule apples to hyphens and dashes.
Indentions and Margins
Use 1 inch margin all around the paper – left, right, top, and bottom. Do not set right side justification. It should remain irregular. Only align the left side. Do not hyphenate words at the end of lines.
Indent 5-7 spaces at the beginning of paragraphs or use the Tab button. The same applies for the first line of footnotes. Use the Indent feature for continuous indention of long quotations or subsequent lines of reference list entries.
Series and Sequences
When using a sequence and series within a paragraph, use lower case letters in parenthesis. This (a) provides clarity and (b) makes long sentences more readable. Similar effect can be gained by using a series of off-set sentences or paragraphs using Arabic numerals followed by periods:
1. Indent the number 5-7 spaces.
2. Type the sentence or paragraph
3. If the line continues past a single line, following lines may be flush left or indented.
When items are not presented chronologically or arranged according to importance, bullets may be used.
- This draws attention to items you want to emphasize.
- The order of items may be de-emphasized.
- Use the same indention as for numbered items above.
Paging (Running Head)
Type the words Running Head on the first line of the title page (not italicized, followed by a colon) along with an abbreviated version of the full title of the paper. The title should be no more than 50 characters and typed in all caps.
Place page numbers flush right at least one half inch from the top of each page. Text should begin 3 lines below the running head. On following pages, use only the running head (but without the label running head).
Use the “Header” function of the word processing program to type the running head and use codes to insert page numbers.
Headings for Sections
Headings may be used to divide the paper into logical and sequential sections. APA allows for up to 5 levels of division.
- Level 1 - Centered with bold headline-style capitalization.
- Level 2 – Flush left with bold headline-style capitalization.
- Level 3 – Indented, boldface with sentence-style capitalization with a period.
- Level 4 – Indented, boldface italics with sentence-style capitalization and a period.
- Level 5 – Indented sentence-style capitalization in italics with a period.
For new headings, there is no need to begin new pages. Type the new heading two lines below the last line of the paragraph before.
2. APA Style