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APA (6th ed.), Citation Style: General Guidelines

General APA Style Guidelines


Avoid writing in first-person.  APA style papers should be written in third-person.

  • Avoid: I studied the effect of...
  • Allowed: We studied the effect of...
  • Preferred: Respondents indicated their preference for...

Be concise and clear

  • Avoid vague statements
  • Present information clearly
  • Eliminate unnecessary words

Style matters

  • Write objectively
  • Avoid poetic or flowery language


Be sensitive to labels

  • Avoid identifying groups by a disorder
    Avoid: schizophrenics
    Allowed: people diagnosed with schizophrenia
  • Avoid outdated or inappropriate labels
  • When you must label a group, try to use a term that group prefers

Gender pronouns

  • Gender refers to a social role
  • Sex refers to biological characteristics

Additional Resources

Major Paper Sections

Research papers written in APA style include four major sections.  These sections include:

Title page

APA style title pages are centered horizontally and vertically.  It consists of the title of your paper, your name and institution.  If instructed, it may also include a course/section number, instructor name, and due date.  The title page should be numbered the first page.  A running head should appear in the upper left-hand corner of your paper.  The running head should be typed in UPPERCASE letters and be no more than 50 characters long.


Running Head: HOW TO USE APA


The abstract appears as the second page of your paper.  An abstract is a brief (150 to 250 words) but thorough description of your problem, findings and summaries.  If you performed an experiment, your methodology and findings should be described. 

Main body

The components of the main body of your paper will depend on the assignment.  The main body of your paper could describe the problem you are researching, an investigation of previous findings, methodology, results, discussion of results and/or conclusion.  Running head and pages are still present in the main body.


The running head and page numbers also continue onto your reference page.  Center the word "References" and continue to use double spacing throughout this page.  References must have a hanging indent and follow the APA formatting described throughout this guide.


APA style, 6th edition requires specific heading formatting.

Level of heading



Centered, Boldface, Uppercase
and Lowercase Heading


Flush Left, Boldface, Uppercase and
Lowercase Heading


Indented, boldface, lowercase paragraph

heading, ending with a period.


 Indented, boldface, italicized lowercase

paragraph heading, ending with a period.


Indented, italicized, lowercase paragraph

heading, ending with a period.

Sample Papers

APA can be difficult.  The Owl at Purdue provides a great APA sample page to help you visually understand APA style.

Another great sample page comes from Pasadena City College.


To go more in depth, the APA provides three sample papers with details notes about many aspects of APA formatting and style.