APA Style

What is APA style?

APA stands for the American Psychological Association style. APA is used for citing research sources in the physical and social sciences, business, and nursing. Examples of papers you will see formatted in APA style are literature reviews and experimental reports. The basic requirements of an APA research paper are the title page, the abstract, the body, the in-text citations, and the reference page.

Why use APA style?

APA helps avoid plagiarism, because you must cite information that you borrow from other people. This includes information you've borrowed word for word, which you should place in quotation marks, and information you've summarized or paraphrased, which means you've put it in your own words. 

How does APA work?

We've outlined some basic APA formatting below. However, because APA is such an intricate citation style, please note that these are only the basics. If you need more in-depth guidance, visit the NMU library's APA resource. Please also note that, while APA has its requirements, individual instructors may modify these requirements as they see fit. If you notice a difference between what a source tells you to do and what an instructor tells you to do, always follow your instructor’s guidelines.

Paper Format

Title Page: The first page of your paper must include the title, author’s name, and the institutional affiliation, all of which should be double-spaced and placed halfway down the page. 

  • Title: Place centrally in the upper half of the page in upper and lowercase letters. It should be no more than 12 words and include no abbreviations.
  • Author’s name: Place beneath the title. Use no titles, such as Dr. or Mr.
  • Institutional Affiliation: Place beneath the author’s name. This is where the author conducted his or her research.
  • Page header: At the top left corner of the page, type the words "Running Head:" and then include a shortened version of your title. The shortened title will appear on every page of your paper, but it will no longer need to include the words "Running Head" after the title page.

Page Numbers: Page numbers go on the upper right hand corner of the page, starting on the title page. They should come after the running head. 

Abstract: This is a new page after the title page. The Abstract is a concise summary of the key points of your research. It should be between 150-200 words. The word “Abstract” should be centered at the top of the page with no italics or underlining.

Body Format: Double-spaced with one inch margins and 12 pt. Times New Roman font; include the running head on the top of each page of your paper (page number on the right, title of paper on the left in all capital letters). The page header should not be more than 50 characters.

In-Text Citations

Author-Date Method: This includes the author’s last name and the year of publication. Ex. (Hall, 2011). When paraphrasing, this is all you need at the end of the sentence. If directly quoting a source, you will need the author’s last name, year of publication, and the page number. Ex. (Smith, 2008, p. 42). You can also use the author’s name (and year of publication) in a signal phrase. Ex. Smith (2008) found “…” (p. 42).

  • Two Authors: (Smith & Cole, 1999).
  • Three to Five Authors: First Reference: (Smith, Cole, Jones, & Johnson, 2001), Next References: (Smith et al., 2001).
  • Six or More Authors: (Long et al., 1995). You would also use “et al.” if the name is in the signal phrase.
  • Unknown Author: Cite the title based on first one or two words listed on your reference page. For books, italicize (Book Title, 1998). For articles or shorter works, use quotation marks (“Article Title,” 1998).
  • Indirect Sources: These are sources cited in another source. For this, name the original source in the signal phrase. Ex. Johnson argued...(as cited in Mines, 2004, p. 201).
  • Electronic Sources: When possible, use the author-date method. If the author is unknown, use the first one or two words of the title. If the date is unknown, use n.d. (for “no date”). Ex. (“Page Title,” n.d.).
  • No Page Number: If the paragraphs are numbered, use “para.” Ex. (Smith, 2009, para. 2). If there are no paragraph numbers and the source has headings, provide the heading and specify the paragraph number under that heading. Ex. According to Lowe (1952),…(Drinking Water section, para. 7).

Reference Page

The reference page is at the end of your paper on a new separate page. Label this page as “References” centered at the top of the page—no underlining, italicizing, or quotation marks. This page is double-spaced like the body of your paper. While entering references, use a hanging indent, meaning that the first line of the reference listing is not indented while any remaining lines are indented half an inch. 

Formatting References

As a general rule, you should: 

  1. Use the author’s last name followed by his or her first initials. Ex. Hillman, J. M. You do this for up to seven authors. After seven, use ellipses.
  2. Alphabetize references by the last name of the first author.
  3. For books, chapters, articles, or web pages, only capitalize the first letter of the first word. For journals, capitalize all major words.
  4. Italicize titles of longer works—books and journals.

Scholarly Article Format

Last Name, First Initials (Year of Publication). Title of the article or web page. Title of the

          Journal, Volume Number(Issue Number), pages. doi: or Retrieved from URL (if provided)

Book Format

Author, A. A. (Year of Publication). Title of the book: Capitalize first word of subtitle. Location:


Newspaper or magazine article Format

Last Name, First Name.  (Year, Month Date).  Article Title.  Newspaper or Magazine Title, pp. Section and Page Number.

Example: Smith, John.  (2001, February 13).  Many People, Many Faiths.  The New York Times, pp. A1.

Website Format

Author’s Last Name, Author’s First Name.  (Date of Publication).  Section or Page on Web Site.  In Overall Web Site.  Retrieved Month Date, Year, from http://Web Address

Example: Smith, John.  (May 19, 2004).  Hinduism.  Many People, Many Faiths.  Retrieved March 25, 2005 from http://www.manypeople.com

Citation Example:

In-Text: As prey, zebras must be aware of the predators around them, but little is known of how zebras adjust their constant vigilance when they sense the immediate presence of predators and the perceived risk of being hunted (Périquet et al., 2010).


 Périquet, S., Valiex, M., Loveridge, A. J., Madzikanda, H., Macdonald, D. W., Fritz, H. (2010).

           Individual vigilance of African herbivores while drinking: The role of immediate predation risk

           and context. Animal Behavior, 79(3). 665-671. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2009.12.016


Additional Resources

NMU's Olson Library has put together several excellent resources on APA Style, which you can find here. You can also visit the APA Style website directly for more information.