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APA 7th Edition

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So you've been assigned a project using APA...

APA can be confusing and overwhelming, but we've got you covered. This guide breaks down the process of an APA assignment into manageable steps using a checklist. Follow the links in the checklist to learn about each section.

Just need an example to follow for a specific source? Skip straight to the Citation Examples page. 

For a more detailed, printable checklist, use APA's Student Paper Checklist.

Understanding the Why of Citations

Entering the Academic Community

It's important to understand the context of communication in college. A group of professors talking in community in front of a chalkboardWhen you started college, you entered the academic community. And like all communities, academia has values that hold it together. Some of the foundational values held by the academic community include:

  • Generating new knowledge through constructive debate
  • Acknowledging and building upon the voices of those who came before in the conversation
  • Forming viewpoints out of deep research, experience, or thought rather than only opinion
  • Ensuring people’s freedom to evaluate and make their own decisions about the same information

As a college student, you’re here to learn. You aren’t expected to be an expert in the field you’re studying yet. So when you’re asked to prepare a research project or enter into a discussion, you will be relying on sources and other authors’ ideas to help inform your thinking, develop an argument, and learn the nuances of the topic. It is important to distinguish between your original thoughts and opinions and those you’re basing on the ideas of other authors or thinkers. In any field you pursue, you will be acquiring and developing new understanding at each step.


Joining the Scholarly Conversation

There are different expectations for conversation within the academic community. Take this example between an informal conversation and an academic one - at the dinner table with your family or out with your friends, it is perfectly acceptable to simply state how much you love or hate the idea of universal healthcare and tell a story about a friend you know who was hurt or helped by the current system. In an academic paper or discussion, research into how different universal health care systems have played out in other countries, statistics on the effects of universal health care, or a scholarly discussion by political and economic scholars on the cost to benefit of implementing different policies would be more appropriate.

In the academic community, other’s voices and ideas are acknowledged through citation. Citing sources combines the academic values of intellectual freedom, constructive debate, and acknowledging the voices that have come before us. In the academic community, freedom to make your own evaluation and decisions about the same information is highly valued. Without that freedom, there is no room for the creativity that comes out of it or the constructive debate that comes from a variety of viewpoints. New knowledge cannot be generated without that creativity and debate, and that debate can’t happen if people engaging in it don’t know where the information is coming from.

Citations within a paper and the corresponding references at the bottom provide a visual representation of the scholarly conversation and also make it clear which parts are the words and thoughts of the author and which are the thoughts and ideas of others.

Formatting Your Document

Pro TipPro Tip: You can save yourself time by starting your paper in a document already formatted for APA. Download the APA 7th Ed. Paper Template to get started.

Already started your paper or using software other than Word? No sweat! Here's what you need to format a student paper in APA:

Formatting Requirements

  • Title Page with the Paper Title, Author Name(s), Due Date, Author Affiliation (your school name), Course Number and Name, and Instructor Name
  • Page numbers in the upper right corner
  • Times New Roman 12 Point Font (or other acceptable font: 11-point Calibri, 11-point Arial, 10-point Lucida Sans Unicode, 11-point Georgia, 10-point Computer Modern)
  • Double Spacing Throughout
  • 1" Margins
  • Text aligned left
  • First line of each paragraph indented
  • Headings with multiple levels to organize your paper (see Organizing Your Paper)
  • Reference list alphabetized with hanging indent for each citation

APA citations in the References list are in hanging indent format. That means the first line goes all the way to the left and subsequent lines start .5 inches to the right. You can create a hanging indent by highlighting the citation, right clicking on the highlighted portion, choosing Paragraph, and then choosing Hanging Indent in the Spacing section. 



Organizing Your Paper

APA 7th Edition uses a system of up to 5 headings to organize your paper. Student papers often have 1-3 headings, while professional papers might have more. 

  • All headings in your paper should be in title case, which means all the important words are capitalized. Articles and conjunctions are not capitalized, such as the, a, an, and, etc. 
  • In the body of your paper, you will have the paper title at the top followed by the introduction,. Use Heading level 1 for this paper title. No heading that says introduction is needed. It is assumed that your writing between the title and the next heading is your introduction. 
  • After your introduction comes the headings for the rest of the paper. It is easiest to determine the headings if you already have an outline.
  • Just like with an outline, you want each Heading/Section to have at least two items in it. 

Level 1 Heading in Title Case Bolded Centered

Level 2 Headings in Title Case Bolded Left

Level 3 Headings in Title Case Bolded Italicized Left

Level 4 Heading in Title Case Bolded Indented

Level 5 Headings in Title Case Bolded Italicized Indented

These examples show an outline in a format you may be more familiar with and then how it looks formatted in APA:

Literature Review Paper Outline

I. Guided Imagery and Progressive Muscle Relaxation in Group Psychotherapy

II. Guided Imagery

a. Features of Guided Imagery

b. Guided Imagery in Psychotherapy

III. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

a. Features of Progressive Muscle Relaxation

b. Progressive Muscle Relaxation in Group Psychotherapy

IV. Guided Imagery and Progressive Muscle Relaxation in Group Psychotherapy

V. Conclusion

a. Limitations of Existing Research

b. Directions for Future Research

(Outline taken from APA Student Paper Example)

Student Paper Outline in APA Format

Guided Imagery and Progressive Muscle Relaxation in Group Psychotherapy

Guided Imagery

Features of Guided Imagery

Guided Imagery in Psychotherapy

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Features of Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation in Group Psychotherapy

Guided Imagery and Progressive Muscle Relaxation in Group Psychotherapy


Limitations of Existing Research

Directions for Future Research

Study/Experiment Paper Outline

I. Comparison of Student Evaluations of Teaching With Online and Paper-Based Administration

a. Online Administration of Student Evaluations

b. Effects of Format on Response Rates and Student Evaluation Scores

c. Purpose of the Present Study

II. Method

a. Sample

b. Instrument

c. Design

III. Results

a. Response Rates

b. Evaluation Ratings

c. Stability of Ratings

IV. Discussion

a. Implications for Practice

i. Improving SET Response Rates

ii. Evaluation SET Scores

b. Conclusion

(Outline taken from APA Professional Paper Example)


Study/Experiment Outline in APA Format

Comparison of Student Evaluations of Teaching With Online and Paper-Based Administration

Online Administration of Student Evaluations

Effects of Format on Response Rates and Student Evaluation Scores

Purpose of the Present Study






Response Rates

Evaluation Ratings

Stability Ratings


Implications for Practice

Improving SET Response Rates Italicized Left

Evaluating SET ScoresItalicized Left


Need help setting up Word for APA Headings or need more information? Download the APA Template with Tables and Headings for a document already set up with Headings or checkout Microsoft's article on customizing headings in Word:

Incorporating In-Text Citations

One Author:

Include the last name of the author every time you cite the source and the date separated by a comma. Add the page number(s) after the date separated by a comma if you are directly quoting a source.

(Bottomly, 1996).

(Bottomly, 1996, p. 7).

Two Authors:

Include the last names of the authors every time you cite the source and connect them with an ampersand &. Add the page number(s) after the date separated by a comma if you are directly quoting a source.

(Cunningham & Tocco, 1989).

(Cohen & Fried, 2007, p. 144).

Three or More Authors:

(Baider et al., 1994).

(Baider et al., 1994, pp. 347-348).

Include only the first author's last name followed by the abbreviation et al. ('and also' in Latin). Only include more authors names if you have two or more sources that would have the same citation. Then add as many authors as you need to distinguish the sources. Add the page number(s) after the date separated by a comma if you are directly quoting a source.

Group Authors:

First time: (American Psychological Association [APA], 2020).

Subsequent times: (APA, 2020).

Include the entire name of the group or organization in the citation. If there is an acronym, include it in brackets the first time you cite the source, then following citations use only the acronym. Add the page number(s) after the date separated by a comma if you are directly quoting a source.

No Author or No Date:

If the source has no author, use the first few words or phrase from the source title or the first few words of the reference entry. Put the words in double quotations.

("Book of the Dead", 1901).

If there is no date, use the abbreviation n.d. for no date.

(The Cornell Lab, n.d.)

You have three different options for citing sources in text.

1.)  Put all the information into the parenthesis at the end.

Happy students achieve higher grade point averages (Barker et al., 2016).

2.)  Name the author(s) in the sentence and put the date in parenthesis next to them.

Barker et al. (2016) found that happy students achieve higher grade point averages.

*When directly quoting a text, the page number is also necessary separated by a comma and with a p. in front of the page.

Barker et al. (2016) conclude, “These results more generally suggest that happy students’ academic success could be derived from their ability to adaptively manage motivational benefits of time-limited periods—or bouts—of heightened negative affect” (p. 2026).

3.)  Put all the information in the sentence so no parenthetical citation is necessary.

In 2016, Barker et al. found that happy students achieve higher grade point averages.

*Note this only works for a paraphrase or summary. Direct quotes will still need the page numbers in the parenthesis.

The Basics

Summarizing or Paraphrasing: (Author Last Name, Year).

Direct Quotation: (Author Last Name, Year, pp. Pages).

Any time you quote, paraphrase, summarize, or use an idea from a source within the text of your project, you must give credit to the source by using an in-text citation. Usually, in-text citations go at the beginning or end of a sentence. The information found in an in-text citation includes the last name of the author(s) and the publication date. The page number is also included if you directly quote an article.

In-text citations are a visual cue for readers showing which sections are your own thoughts and which belong to someone else. They also point a reader to the full citation in the References list. 

Guided Imagery and Progressive Muscle Relaxation in Group Psychotherapy

Combinations of relaxation training techniques, including guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation, have been shown to improve psychiatric and medical symptoms when delivered in a group psychotherapy context (Bottomley, 1996; Cunningham & Tocco, 1989). The research supports the existence of immediate and long-term positive effects of guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation delivered in group psychotherapy (Baider et al., 1994). For example, Cohen and Fried (2007) examined the effect of group psychotherapy on 114 women diagnosed with breast cancer. The researchers randomly assigned participants to three groups (a) a control group,


Baider, L., Uziely, B., & Kaplan De-Nour, A. (1994). Progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery in cancer patients. General Hospital Psychiatry, 16(5), 340–347.

Bottomley, A. (1996). Group cognitive behavioural therapy interventions with cancer patients: A review of the literature. European Journal of Cancer Cure, 5(3), 143–146.

Cohen, M., & Fried, G. (2007). Comparing relaxation training and cognitive-behavioral group therapy for women with breast cancer. Research on Social Work Practice, 17(3), 313–323.

These examples come from APA's Student Paper Sample. For the complete paper, check out this annotated PDF from APA:

Using Bias Free Language

To combat bias, advance science, and promote the fair treatment of all people, APA 7th edition requires you to write in affirming and inclusive language.  Biased writing can cause your readers to draw conclusions you didn’t intend, imply value judgments, and alienate or offend your readers. Using bias free language is ethical and respectful behavior, as well as good writing.  

The biases we face in everyday life aren’t only hurtful; they affect scientific research and how people perceive each other.  Bias in relation to people is the implied or irrelevant evaluation of groups. For example, until recently, car safety research was conducted with a crash dummy the size and weight of the average man. Whether a car passed federal safety standards was only based on the results for the average size man. As a result, cars had been predominantly designed for the safety of men, and women were 47% more likely to be seriously injured in a crash and 17% more likely to die in a crash than men. The assumption that all bodies were sized and shaped like one “average” man made everyone else less safe (Goldberg, 2020). 

If you are ever unsure of language to use in your assignments, refer to these examples by category or the linked APA’s Articles on Bias-Free Language.

  • Be as specific as possible with ages and use terms appropriate to each age group: Infant, child, transgender girl, boy, adolescent, adult, older adult.
  • Treat aging as a normal part of the human experience rather than a disease.
  • Use demeaning or othering terms that promote stereotypes, such as “elderly,” “senior,” "the aged," or “senile.”
  • Open ended age ranges, such as under 18 or over 65, unless those are the age ranges listed in the study.
  • Using language that supports stereotypes, such as referring to all older adults as being frail or all children as being naive or innocent.
  • Use respectful terms people use to self-identify.
  • Refer to Non-White racial and ethnic groups as a whole  as “people of color” or “underrepresented groups”
  • Be specific about the country or geographical region when possible rather than lumping a whole region together: "Chinese," “Korean”, or “Japanese” vs. "Asian."
  • Terms that lump diverse cultures together, such as "Asian" or "African."
  • Derogatory or disrespectful terms.

“the Black race”
“the White race”

  • Use terms people use to self-identify.
  • Refer to LGBTQA+ groups as a whole as “sexual and gender minorities” or “Sexual orientation and gender diverse.”
  • Be specific when possible when describing sexual orientation, including the gender along with the orientation.

"Bi-sexual women"
"Gay men"
"Pansexual gender-fluid adolescents"

  • Terms or labels that lump groups together as if they are one, such as "homosexuals" or "homosexuality"
  • Referring to sexual orientations as a lifestyle or preference.
  • Derogatory or defamatory terms, such as "pervert" or "deviant"
  • Use acceptable generic terms, such as "patient" or "client."
  • Maintain the human dignity of all people by using person first or identity first language. Identity first language is chosen by the person or community rather than assigned by those outside because they consider it part of their identity rather than something negative. For example, deaf people often consider this aspect of themselves as part of a cultural identity, not a disability.

“Person with substance use disorder”
"Person with dementia from Alzheimer's"
“Wheel-chair user”
“Blind person”
“Autistic person”

  • Using terminology that demeans people or defines people by a disease or mental health issue:  

“Substance abusers”
“The mentally retarded”
"Wheel chair bound"
"Sight challenged person"
"Special needs"

  • Refer to people by the terms they self-identify with if it is known.


  • Use the pronoun "they" if the gender of the person is not known, even if you think you can guess someone's gender by their name.
  • Refer to humans and groups of people in an inclusive way

"Flight attendant" (vs. stewardess or steward)

  • Using disparaging and demeaning terminology or terminology that implies sex is an immutable characteristic without cultural influence:

“Birth sex”

  • Language that attempts to include everybody with binary, thus excluding anyone who is nonbinary.

"He or she"

  • Referring to groups of people or humankind in gendered terms


  • Referring to men and women using the nouns "males" and "females"


  • Use people first language that describes a situation rather than focuses blame on on the individual or a deficit.

"Individuals who are undocumented"
"People whose incomes are below the federal poverty threshold"
"Youth experiencing homelessness"
"People with less than a high-school education"
"Economically marginalized families"

  • Be precise about household income levels and household sizes. 
  • Pejorative, broad, or generalizing terms with negative connotations or that put blame on the person described.

"The homeless"
"Inner city"
"Illegal aliens"
"The undocumented"
"Poor people"
"Low class"
"High school drop-outs"
"Underprivileged families"

Creating Your Reference List

Formatting the References List

  • The References list goes on its own page at the end of your paper.
  • Use a Level 1 Heading for the References heading at the top of the page (Bold & Centered).
  • You will need to list every source you used in the text of your paper (with the exception of entire websites, which only need to be cited in text).
  • The list goes in alphabetical order by the first element of the reference citation, which is usually the author but may also be the title if the source has no author. 
  • Each reference should be formatted with hanging indent, which means the first line starts all the way to the left and subsequent lines start indented to the right. 

Along with showing your knowledge of the subject and credibility as an author, the point of providing a reference is to allow a reader to look up the source for themselves. So you need to provide as much information as you can. You can either learn the reference elements and their formatting rules so that you can apply them to any source or you can use reference examples. Keep in mind that if you use the examples, you may need to combine several of them to get the best citation for your source. For example, if you have an edited book with an edition and several authors, you may need to look at the edited book example, a book with multiple authors example, and the book with an edition example. 

For a Word Document with citation examples already formatted with hanging indent, download the APA 7th Ed. Paper Template.

  • Only the last name and initials are used in APA formatting when citing names of authors, editors, or translators.
  • If you have only authors, only editors, they belong at the beginning of the citation.
  • Authors or editors’ names at the beginning of a citation are inverted. This formatting helps with the alphabetization of the References list.

Ex: Author, A. A.
Ex: Editor, A. A. and Editor, B. B. (Eds.).

Kruglanski, A. W. (2004). The psychology of closed mindedness. Psychology Press.

  • When a source has an author(s) and an editor(s), include the author(s) at the beginning of the citation and the editor(s) before the title of the source formatted first initial middle initial last name preceded by ‘In’ and followed by the abbreviation for editor or editors.

Ex: In A. A. Editor (Ed.),
Ex: In A. A. Editor & B. B. Editor (Eds.),
Ex: In A. A. Editor, B. B. Editor, and C. C. Editor (Eds.),

Suffla, S. & Seedat, M. (2021). Africa's knowledge archives, black consciousness and reimagining the community psychology. In G. Stevens & C. C. Sonn (Eds.), Decoloniality and epistemic justice in contemporary community psychology (pp. 21-38). Springer Nature. 

  • If there are 21 or more authors, include the names of the first 19 authors. After the 19 authors use an ellipses, then add the final author after the ellipses.

Ex: Author, A. A., Author, B. B., Author, C. C., Author, D. D., Author, E. E., Author, F. F., Author, G. G., Author, H. H., Author, I. I., Author, J. J., Author, K. K., Author, L. L., Author, M. M., Author, N. N., Author, O. O., Author, P. P., Author, Q. Q., Author, R. R., Author, S. S., . . . Author, Z. Z.

  • If there is no author, you can move the title to the beginning of the citation in place of the author. The publication date remains in the second position.

Epistemic. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster.

  • An author can also be a group, institution, or organization.

Ex: American Psychological Association.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019, September 13). Key facts about influenza (flu).

  • Dates are formatted as Year, Month Day. Provide as much date information as the source gives and spell out the month rather than abbreviating it.

Ex: (2006, January 31).

Ehrenfeld, J. M. (2023, July 25). AMA applauds proposed rule on Mental Health Parity Law [Press Release]. AMA.

  • If no date is given, use the abbreviation n.d. for no date.

Ex: (n.d.).

Epistemic. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster.

To Capitalize or Not to Capitalize

  • Most titles in APA need to be in sentence case. Sentence case means that only the beginning word of a title, proper nouns, and the first word after a colon are capitalized. This rule applies no matter the capitalization you see in the source itself.

Ex: The psychology of affiliation: Experimental studies of the sources of gregariousness.

  • The exceptions to the sentence case rule are the title of a periodical or website name. A periodical is a source published on a regularly scheduled basis. These include journals, magazines, and newspapers. Periodicals and website names follow title case, which means that all the beginnings of important words are capitalized.  

Journal Ex: American Journal of Psychology
Website Name Ex: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

To Italicize or not to Italicize?   

  • Titles of whole works, such as a book or journal, are italicized.
  • Titles of pieces of smaller works, such as an article in a journal, a chapter in a book, or a video in a series, are not italicized.
  • Journal volume numbers (but not issue numbers!) are also italicized.

Ex: 10(2),

Feldman, K. D. (2013). Engaged anthropology on “the last frontier”. Annals of Anthropological Practice37(1), 113-132.

You may have noticed that some citations in APA require a description in brackets while others do not. If a description would help your reader identify the source or if the source is not typical for a research paper, such as social media or videos, then include a description in brackets after the title.

Ex: [Tweet], [Status update], [Comment], [Brochure], [Video file], [Motion picture], [Lecture notes], [Monograph], [Transcript], [Video webcast]

Ehrenfeld, J. M. (2023, July 25). AMA applauds proposed rule on Mental Health Parity Law [Press Release]. AMA.

Journal and Magazine Articles

  • Magazine and journal articles often have both volume and issue numbers. Typically, a magazine or journal will publish multiple issues within a year. The volume will refer to all the issues published within that year, and the issue will indicate which order it was published in that year. 
  • The magazine and journal volumes are italicized.
  • The issue is placed within parentheses next to the volume, is not italicized, and is followed by a comma.

Ex: Volume 5, Issue 12 would be formatted: 5(12),

Author, A. A. (date of publication). Title of article in sentence case. Journal Title in Title CaseVol.(Issue), xxx-xxx.

Feldman, K. D. (2013). Engaged anthropology on “the last frontier”. Annals of Anthropological Practice37(1), 113-132.

Books with Volumes or Editions

  • With books, volumes indicate there is more than one to complete a set. Volumes are most often used with reference books with too much information to fit into a single book binding. 
  • Editions are when a single book is published multiple times, often because they are updated. Textbooks often have editions.
  • Both volume and edition number information belong in parentheses following the title of the book. 

Ex: (Vol. 1)

Ex: (Expanded ed.)

Madigan, M. L. (2018). First responders handbook: An introduction (2nd ed.). CRC Press.

  • In the Reference citation, a page number range for the entire source referenced is listed.
  • Page numbers for an article in a journal or magazine are listed after the volume/issue number and are followed by a period.

Ex: 465-473.

Feldman, K. D. (2013). Engaged anthropology on “the last frontier”. Annals of Anthropological Practice37(1), 113-132.

  • Page numbers for a book chapter are listed in parentheses after the Title of the book with the abbreviation pp. for pages if there are more than 1 and p. for a single page.

Suffla, S. & Seedat, M. (2021). Africa's knowledge archives, black consciousness and reimagining the community psychology. In G. Stevens & C. C. Sonn (Eds.), Decoloniality and epistemic justice in contemporary community psychology (pp. 21-38). Springer Nature. 

  • A publisher is a company that edits, formats, and distributes published works. For the purposes of APA, you only list the publisher information for books, book chapters, and works in an anthology. 
  • Spell out the full publisher's name without abbreviations.
  • The publishing location does not need to be included.

Ex: Oxford University Press

Suffla, S. & Seedat, M. (2021). Africa's knowledge archives, black consciousness and reimagining the community psychology. In G. Stevens & C. C. Sonn (Eds.), Decoloniality and epistemic justice in contemporary community psychology (pp. 21-38). Springer Nature. 

  • DOIs or Digital Object Identifiers are the preferred method for citing an electronic source. Have you ever clicked on the link to a website only to find the link was broken? DOIs are permanent urls assigned to an article to make sure a reader can always find it. They are most commonly assigned to journal articles, but sometimes ebooks, ebook chapters, and online magazine articles have them too.


Feldman, K. D. (2013). Engaged anthropology on “the last frontier”. Annals of Anthropological Practice37(1), 113-132.

  • Some publishers put the DOI in number only form. In this case, change the DOI into the url form with the prefix

Ex: Change this: DOI:10.1037/arc0000014
To This:

  • For electronic journal, magazine, and newspaper articles without DOI’s, you do not need to provide an alternative URL from the database or browser bar.

  • Websites do not have DOIs. If you’re citing a website you can use the full URL of the page you’re citing from.

  • Do no put a period after a DOI or URL.

  • The DOI or URL should not be hyperlinked unless your professor asks for it to be.

Need to see reference citation formatting explained in a different way? Check out this Scaffolded Reference Elements Worksheet by the American Psychological Association: