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APA style

MLA style

Chicago/Turabian style

Seminary style


APA Style Details

Page Layout

Your page layout must match the standard's specifications. This includes the physical appearance of the your pages and paragraphs, including font usage, spacing, margins, and correct ordering of your document's components.


APA specifies that margins should be at least 1" on all four sides of the page, with a 1½" left margin for bound documents, including most theses and dissertations. All pages in a document use the same margin.

Note that the running head at the top of pages, and the page number (usually) at the top of pages fall outside of the page margins, ½" in from the top or bottom of the page, and ½" from the right edge of the page.

Font Usage

All text in an APA-style document is double-spaced, and all text uses the same font. The most popular fonts for APA-style documents are 12-point, serif fonts such as Times Roman or Book Antigua. Some institutions specify a non-proportional (fixed-width) font such as Courier.

Headings and Paragraphs

APA style specifies the appearance of five levels of headings, several text paragraph types, and reference entry paragraphs, as summarized in the following table.

Paragraph Type


APA Level 5

A chapter heading, which starts on a new page. This style is typically used only in multi-chapter documents such as theses and dissertations. This is a center-justified, capitalized (all caps) text, followed by an indented paragraph.

APA Level 1

The first subheading level within a chapter, used to start a major new section within the chapter or document. This is center-justified, headline-capitalized text, followed by an indented paragraph.

APA Level 2

The second subheading level, used to start new subsections within major sections. This is center-justified, italicized, headline-capitalized text, followed by an indented paragraph.

APA Level 3

The third subheading level, used to start another level of hierarchy in a section. This is a left-justified, italicized, headline-capitalized line of text, followed by an indented paragraph.

APA Level 4

The fourth subheading, which is actually a lead-in heading that begins a paragraph, but is not contained on its own line. This is italicized, sentence-capitalized text.

Indented Paragraph

Standard, indented, double-spaced paragraphs. The first line is indented ½" from the left margin of the page.

Block Paragraph

Non-indented text paragraphs, which means that the first line is not indented. These are typically used to follow a block quote that falls in the middle of a logical paragraph.

Block Quote

A long quote (40 words or more) that is indented ½" from the left margin as a block.

Reference Entry

Bibliographic entries in the References section of a document. These paragraphs use a hanging indent: the first line of the paragraph is flush with the left margin of the page, and subsequent lines are indented ½".

Reference Entries and Parenthetical Citations

Without a doubt, the most complicated and difficult to use feature of APA style is the formatting of reference entries. The Fifth edition of the APA Manual describes ninety-five different reference entry formats in a section that's over 70 pages long. The formatting of specific reference entries can be exceedingly complicated, including where commas and periods go, what gets underlined or italicized, and other details.

The vast majority of writers purchase software to help format their APA reference entries, rather than trying to work out all of the details for each and every reference entry.

The following table shows several reference entry examples. As you can see, you need to carefully format each unique reference entry type, and most writers quickly conclude that paying a little for software that takes care of these details is very worthwhile.

Reference Type



Hill, G. (2002). The joy of drumming (2nd ed., Vol. 2). Atlanta, GA: Oh Press.

Journal Article

Lange, M. (2002). The ethics of barter. Psychotherapy Quarterly, 17, 2.

Report from the GPO

Hill, G., Jr., & Lange, M. (2002). In D. Carr (Ed.), Children and adults in action (Agency Rep. No. 95-8). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Published Dissertation

Lange, M. (2002). My scholarly dissertation. Dissertation Abstracts, 17(3), 2. (UMI No. 12345678)


Lange, M. (Director). (2001). The life of Gary [Motion picture]. Paramount Pictures. (Available from Educational Movies, Inc., 121 Main Street, Centerville, KS 01001)

Parenthetical Citations

APA style uses parenthetical citations in the body of the document to refer to entries in the references section. The purpose of these citations is to allow a reader to trace information that you present to a source in your bibliography.

Citation formats are fairly straightforward, as shown in the following table.

Citation Type


Author and Year

(Lange, 2002) or (Lange, 2002, p. 12)

No Author

("Short Title", 2002) or ("Short Title", 2002, pp. 12-19)

Personal Message

(G. Hill, personal communication, May 12, 1999)

Multiple Authors

(Hill, Lange, & Beal, 2002, pp. 19-21)

Six or more authors

(Hill et al., 2002)

Most of the APA-style software products that format reference entries also format and insert parenthetical citations into your documents.


©Copyright 2004-2007 Gary Hillerson