8.16 – APA Document Formatting

Learning Objectives

  • Describe APA document formatting guidelines for the title page and headers

APA Formatting

APA papers should have 1-inch margins at the top, bottom, left, and right of the page. The font should be easy to read and in a standard size, such as 12-point Times New Roman, 11-point Calibri, or 11-point Arial. The paper should be double-spaced with the text aligned on the left margin, with the first lines of paragraphs indented. Page numbers should be listed in the top-right corner of the page.

APA Title Page

APA papers should begin with a title page that includes:

  • A page number at the top right corner (title page is page 1)
  • The title in bold font centered in the upper half of the page
  • Your name centered two double spaces below the title
  • Student number if required by your professor (if in doubt, ask!)
  • Your affiliation (name of your school) centered below your name
  • Your course name
  • Your instructor’s name
  • The due date

Watch It

This video shows you how to set up your APA Style paper.

Watch APA title page and paper format on YouTube (3 mins)

Video source: Georgian College Academic Success. (2022, August 19). APA title page and paper format [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGUOagKJ6a4

Using Headings in APA

Many APA papers require the use of headings. Headings in your paper are separate from your paragraphs. They work to let readers know what content is coming and to help organize your information in a hierarchical structure.

For most college writers, most of the time, APA first-level headings are all we need (such as the title, abstract, or conclusion) but in some cases, we have to take it to the second level. But, if you have to create a larger project in APA, chances are you really are going to need to know how to use third and fourth-level headings.

The following provides summaries and examples of all of the headings in APA, from your title, which is a first-level heading, to fifth-level headings.

What headings should look like

Title of Your Paper

     Your title should be presented as a first-level heading. It is centered, in bold font, and all major words should be capitalized. When all major words are capitalized, this is called Title Case. It is important to note that you should not use the heading “Introduction.” Your paper title acts as your first-level heading, and the first paragraphs of a paper after the title are understood as introductory paragraphs.

First Level of Headings

     First-level headings can appear throughout your paper as well. They should be centered, in bold font, and in Title Case.

Second Level of Headings

     Second-level headings are for sections within first-level headings, so you would use second-level headings to break up a bigger section that you have established with a first-level heading. Second-level headings are placed flush against the left margin, in bold font, and in Title Case.

Third Level of Headings

     Third-level headings are necessary when you need to break down your second-level headings into smaller sections. A third-level heading exists inside a second-level heading section. Third-level headings are flush against the left margin, in bold and italic font, and in Title Case for capitalization.

Fourth Level of Headings. Your paragraph begins right here on the same line. Fourth-level headings are sections inside third-level headings. Fourth-level headings are indented or tabbed once from the left margin, in bold font, in Title Case for capitalization, and end with a period. Your text should also appear on the same line as a fourth-level heading.

Fifth Level of Headings. Your paragraph begins right here on the same line. The final level of headings APA describes is the fifth-level heading. This fifth level would be necessary if you need to break up your fourth-level section into additional sections. Fifth-level headings are tabbed once from the left margin, in bold and italic font, in Title Case for capitalization, and end with a period. Just like fourth-level headings, your text begins after the period.

APA Formatting Checklist

Step through this presentation to review the critical components of authoring a paper in APA style. Download/save a text-based version of the APA Formatting checklist [PDF]

APA Formatting Checklist (Text version)

Title page format

My title page includes the following:

  • A page number at the top right corner (title page is page 1)
  • My title in bold font centered in the upper half of the page
  • My name centered two double spaces below my title
  • My affiliation (name of my school) centered below my name
  • My course name centered below my affiliation
  • My instructor’s name centered below my course name
  • The due date centered below my instructor’s name


I have included an abstract page (summary of the contents of your essay) if required.*

  • The APA recommends no more than 250 words.
  • Place the abstract on its own page.
  • Center “Abstract” in bold, at the top of the page.
  • The first line is not indented.
  • Double space the text.
  • Below the abstract are keywords. List key words or concepts that are covered in your essay.

*Note: Abstracts are not normally required for student papers. Always follow your professor’s instructions.


  • My text is aligned at the left margin but ragged at the right margin. This is called flush-left style

Blocked Quotations

I have used the block format for all quotations that are 40 words or more in length.

  • Double spaced
  • No quotation marks
  • Indented 1/2 inch from left margin
  • Period

Body of Essay Format

  • I have included an abstract page (if required) and an introduction and conclusion to frame the ideas presented in my body paragraphs.


  • I have used at least one level of headings with the first level being centered and in bold with upper- and lower-case letters. If I have used a second level of heading, those headings are aligned on the left and in bold with upper- and lower-case letters.

Indenting for paragraphs

  • I have indented the first line of every paragraph 1/2″ using the tab key for consistency.
  • The remaining lines of my paragraph are left aligned.

In-Text Citations

  • I have documented all summarized, paraphrased, and quoted material with a correct in-text citation.
  • I have placed the period after my citations in all cases, except for block quotes.
  • Examples:
    • o Narrative citation – If author(s) mentioned in text, only bracket the year of publication:
      Stapleton and Helms-Park (2006) introduced a multi-trait instrument to help students…
    • o Parenthetical citation – If author(s) not mentioned in text, bracket author(s) and year of publication: “… considered independently of intellectual mastery of that subject” (Booth, 1963, p. 139).


  • I have placed titles of longer works, such as books and journals, in italics in both my text and in my references list.

Line spacing

  • My lines of text are all double spaced throughout my paper.
  • Exceptions:
  • There is an exception on my title page where there is an extra double space between my title and the rest of the information on my title page.
  • There are also exceptions where I may single space in a table body, figure, footnotes, and equations.


  • My margins are 1 inch on the top, bottom, left, and right sides of each page.

Page numbers

  • My page number appears in the top right-hand corner of all of my pages, including my title page.
  • This page number should be created using the header function of my word-processing program and should be flush against the right margin.

Quotation marks

  • I have placed quotation marks around all directly quoted material AND any article or chapter titles when these are mentioned in the text.
  • Note: Article titles are not placed in quotes in the References list, only in the body of the paper.


  • I have created a separate references page and centered the word “References” at the top.
  • I have included a full reference for every source cited in my text.
  • I have placed my references in alphabetical order, and used a hanging indent for all lines after the first line of each entry.

Text spacing

  • I have inserted one space after punctuation marks, including those at the ends of sentences.
  • I have inserted no spaces between internal periods in abbreviations, such as U.S. and a.m.


  • I have used a clear, accessible font and have used the same font throughout my paper.
  • Options include but are not limited to
  • san serif fonts like 11-point Calibri, 11-point Arial, and 10-point Lucida Sans Unicode or
  • serif fonts like 12-point Times New Roman or 11-point Georgia.


  • I have formatted all of my URLs and DOIs to appear in black without underlining or with the default settings in my word-processing program.
  • If my work will be viewed online, I have used live links.
  • Note: URL stands for Uniform Resource Locators (web address). DOI stands for Digital Object Identifier.

Writing lists

  • I have ensured that my numbered, bulleted, or lettered list items are parallel and that I have reviewed the APA guidelines for lists.

Writing Numbers

  • I have used words to express numbers below 10.
  • I have used numerals to express any numbers 10 or greater.
  • I have also used numerals to express any times, dates, or ages

Writing Style

  • I have aimed for a clear, clean writing style and have used first-person pronouns only when necessary and appropriate for my assignment.
  • I have also used the singular “they” as a generic, third-person singular pronoun.

Activity source: APA Formatting Checklist by Excelsior Online Writing Lab, licensed under CC BY 4.0. / Minor updates for accessibility and user experience.

Attribution & References

Except where otherwise noted, this chapter is adapted from ” APA Document Formatting” In English Composition I by Lumen Learning, licensed under CC BY. / Minor adaptations for readability and accessibility & copyright/open licensing.
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Communication Essentials for College Copyright © 2022 by Jen Booth, Emily Cramer & Amanda Quibell, Georgian College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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