Article of the Week

Run-On Sentences

Run-on sentences occur when writers try to combine more than one idea into a single sentence. They cause confusion because readers are not sure when one idea ends and the next one begins. Read our entry and test your knowledge with our quiz!

APA Formatting

The American Psychological Association (APA) produces a style manual that lists rules for how writers in the social sciences should format their work. These rules standardize writing, provide credit to sources, and help readers locate source material.


This is not a complete guide to the APA Publication Manual, which is a few hundred pages in length. But this section will cover the basics of how to format your paper; other sections will explain how to produce citations and references. The page numbers listed below refer to the APA Publication Manual, 6th edition.

  1. Common Sections of APA Papers
    1. Abstracts
    2. Introduction
    3. Method
    4. Results
    5. Discussion
    6. Appendices and Supplemental Materials
  2. Formatting the Text 
    1. The Title Page
    2. Margins
    3. Headings
    4. Numbers and Numerals


Common Sections of APA Papers


The abstract is the single most important paragraph of the paper, since it serves as a preview for people who are deciding whether to read it. The APA recommends that "the abstract needs to be dense with information" (p. 26). Therefore, an abstract should use active voice and employ verbs instead of their noun equivalents. The abstract begins on a new page, with the word "Abstract" centered at the top of the page. The text of the abstract should be a single, un-indented paragraph (p. 27). See our entry on Writing an Abstract for more information.



The introduction has three goals: to identify the problem being studied, to propose a hypothesis, and to describe the research strategy. Make sure that readers can see why this study is different from others on similar topics. Do not label it as an introduction—in APA, there is no heading for your introduction. Instead, repeat the title on top of the first page. Other sections follow the introduction without a break (pp. 27-28). (For shorter papers, see our separate entry on Introductions)



The method section is a detailed account of how the research was conducted. It should be divided into subsections that explain the research participants or subjects and the procedures (sampling, measurement, design). Ideally, a method section will be detailed enough that other researchers will be able to replicate your study (p. 29).



This section should encompass "complete reporting of all tested hypotheses and estimates of appropriate effect sizes and confidence intervals," with more specific requirements based on the research field (p. 33). All results, including those that run counter to expectations, should be included. 



When brief, this section can be combined with the results. It should offer an evaluation of how the data supports or does not support your hypothesis, and the implications for further study. The discussion should also cover any potential weaknesses revealed in the research method, including bias, imprecision, and overlap. Lastly, it will assess the importance of your study and the possibility of generalizing the results (pp. 35-36).  


Appendices and Supplemental Materials

Appendices should be labeled with capital letters (Appendix A and B). Each appendix begins on a separate page. Center the title (p. 39).



Formatting the Text

The Title Page

You’ll have the title written twice on this page. First, it will appear in your header as Running Head: Title, along with the page number. It will also appear in the top half of this page, centered. On the lines following the title, list your name (First, Last, and Middle Initials) and your school.



Use one inch margins on each side of the paper: top, bottom, left, and right. Indentations should be an additional half inch.



APA uses five levels of heading in order to organize sections of a paper (p.62):


Level 1: Centered, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Heading
Level 2: Flush Left, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Heading
Level 3: Indented, boldface, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period.
Level 4: Indented, boldface, italicized, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period.   
Level 5: Indented, italicized, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period.


For instance, a discussion section of a paper might be organized like so:



Implications for Further Study

Correcting for Bias


In this example, the Level 1 heading is Discussion. One part of your discussion will include the implications for further study, and a subsection of that area would cover how researchers can correct for bias in the future. 


Numbers and Numerals (pp.111-112)

Use numerals (e.g. one, two, three, etc.) for

  • numbers 10 and above.
  • numbers in an abstract.
  • numbers with a unit of measurement.
  • numbers representing statistical or mathematical functions.
  • numbers representing times, dates, ages, scores, and points on a scale, and sums of money.
  • numerals as numerals.