Academic Formatting: APA Style Guide

The APA referencing style is the most common referencing method within social science disciplines. It helps ensure ethical compliance by crediting various evidence presented in your paper to their respective authorities.

As such, you should master this format if you are looking to prepare a paper in a related field. Read on to discover how to write a paper in APA format step by step.

Why is APA style important?

With the variety of referencing methods at your disposal, why use APA format? APA makes it easy for a reader to trace sources through in-text citations and the reference section.

This style allows you to credit ideas borrowed from other authors, therefore avoiding plagiarism. APA also recommends a general paper outline that helps keep your work organized, ensuring a more accessible review.

Additionally, APA ensures the consistency of materials within a discipline. This makes it easier for other scholars in the domain to determine the sources on which you based your argument.

General APA guide

When using the APA writing format, you should structure your paper into various parts. The significant parts of an APA paper include:

  1. The title page
  2. An abstract
  3. An introduction
  4. Literature review
  5. Data collection methods
  6. The results
  7. A discussion
  8. A conclusion
  9. References

However, depending on the type of assignment, you may omit some of these sections from your paper.

The Title Page

This page should show your name and details (for instance, the registration number for school assignments, the course number, the instructor’s name, and the date when your paper is due. This gives your readers a quick overview of what your essay will cover and for what purpose it was prepared.


This section ranges between 100 to 200 words and covers a summary of your argument.

Main body

This is the main section of your paper and includes the introduction, data collection methods, results, discussion, research, and conclusion.


This is the last page of your work. Your bibliography should entail all the sources used during research and background reading. References should appear in alphabetical order by the author’s name.

If you tackle multiple sources from the same author, you should order the materials according to their publishing date.

Referencing in APA format tutorial

In-text citations

These are placeholders used to show the borrowed ideas within the main body of an APA paper. Intext citations correspond to the complete reference in your references list.

These citations comprise the surname of the author and the year of the publication. i.e. (Doe, 1998). The intext citation may vary when citing a direct quote. E.g. (Doe, 1998, p.69).

Referencing work from one author

When dealing with work that one individual published, your references will appear as:

Intext: (Doe, 1998)

Reference list: John Doe. (1998). A study of APA referencing. Cambridge, England: My Publisher

Referencing work from multiple authors

Intext: (Doe & Hendrick & Morris, 1998)

Reference list: Doe, J., Hendrick, M., & Morris, Y.N. (1998). A study of APA referencing. Cambridge, England: My Publisher

Citing a journal in APA

In-text: (Omotosho, 2008)

Full reference: Omotosho, J. (2008). Mastering the APA Style of Referencing with Ease. Nigerian Journal Of Guidance And Counselling, 12(1). doi: 10.4314/njgc.v12i1.37061

When citing an online journal, you may include the access date if the information may change over time.

Citing online sources

In-text: (Lab, 2021)

Full reference: Lab, P. (2021). APA Style Introduction // Purdue Writing Lab. Retrieved 12 October 2021, from

Referencing a white paper

Similar to the references mentioned above, the number of authors affects the references when writing an APA-style white paper. For a group of authors, the white paper reference may appear as:

Department for Education and Social Sciences. (1989). Best Note-Taking Strategies: The Cornell Note-Taking Style[White paper]. Crown. Garner’s Modern American Usage. 4th edition. by Bryan A. Garner

You will present the white paper with an individual writer as:

Doe, J. (1998). Addressing Student Cognitive Challenges [White paper]. Milwall Tech College of Social Sciences.

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