This page highlights important information from the 6th edition of the APA style manual. Unless you are writing an empirical research paper, many aspects of APA style won't be relevant to your paper. Individual instructors may modify APA Style requirements for papers in their classes; the information on this page is basic APA style. Most often when instructors say they want APA style papers, they are interested in APA style text citations and reference page.

Jody Davis | Resources | APA Style Tips

Resources Psychology Topics Graduate School Info APA Style Tips

Students in my 321 or 323 classes only need to include two aspects of APA style in their short papers for my class: parenthetical citations of sources and a reference page (see numbers 4 and 5, to the right).

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APA Style Tips (6th Edition)

APA has recently published a revised 6th edition of their publication manual. The APA style web site provides a summary of changes in the 6th edition. (Note that the first printing of the 6th manual has a lot of errors; if your version of the manual was a first printing [July, 2009], then the corrections are summarized on the APA style web site.)

For those of you familiar with the 5th edition, here's my short list of main changes (this list takes into account revisions made to the manual after the first printing):

  • Changes to the header. The hardest thing is that the header on the title page is now different than on all subsequent pages. To learn how to accomplish that task in Word, follow these directions.
    • There should no longer be a 2-3 word header next to the page number.
    • The page number is still a right-side header.
    • The Running head (a shortened title that used to be only on the title page) is used as a left-side header on every page (but the words "Running head:" only precede it on the title page).
  • No more italics for the most commonly used subsection headings (use bold instead). Also, bold all major sections of an empirical article: Method, Results, Discussion. Note that you do not bold (1) the title of your ms on the title page or on the first page of text, or (2) the page heading on your Abstract, References, Tables, Figures, or Footnotes pages.
  • No more separate page for Figure Captions. Place captions right below each figure.
  • Report exact p values, not just < .01, etc.

Depending on your paper assignment, students in other classes may find one of these model papers helpful:

On the APA web site you can view sample papers for

APA has expanded its web site guidance for APA style: APA Style Tutorial and FAQs.

1. The entire manuscript should include the following elements

Main change in the 6th edition: There are two changes to headers: (1) Running head is placed as header on the left side of every page (but the words "Running head:" only precede it on the title page, and (2) the right-side header is the page number only.

  • Spacing: It should be double-spaced.
  • Running head: A shortened version of the title that is a maximum of 50 characters, including spaces. The purpose of the running head is so that if the printed pages of your manuscript are unattached, an editor can piece them together again. The running head should be placed in your document as a header on the top left of the title page in the form: Running head: SHORT PHRASE, and on all subsequent pages in the form SHORT PHRASE
  • Page numbers in the top right corner, including the title page
  • Font: Times New Roman, 12 pt.
  • The Reference section is the only section of the paper you should start on a new page (for an empirical research report, you will also start the abstract, tables, and figures on their own pages).
  • The right margin should not be justified. Use at least a 1" margin on every side.
  • There should be one space after a period. (The 6th edition allows the option of including two spaces after a period in draft forms of manuscripts, but this is not normative and would require a copyeditor to later go through and remove the extra space.)

2. The title page should include the following elements

Main change in the 6th edition: Running head is no longer the first line of text on the title page. (Instead it is placed as a header on the left side of every page, including the title page.) The only trick is that on the title page, it should be in the form Running head: SHORT PHRASE, but on all subsequent pages you should delete the "Running head:" part.

  • The header on the title page should include "Running head: SHORT PHRASE" on the left and the page number on the right. On subsequent pages, it will be the same except that you need to delete the "Running head:" part and just leave the SHORT PHRASE on the left (page number still on the right). To learn how to have a different header on the first page than all the rest, follow these directions for Word.
  • Title: A slightly longer phrase that summarizes what the article is about. It should be centered left-right and in the top half of the page.
  • Identifying information: Your name (including middle initial) and school, on separate lines. They are placed immediately under the title of the paper, with double-spacing.
Changing the text of the header after the title page
  1. Start with a document that has at least two pages
  2. Add a header with the running head and the page number. Click on the "View" menu and select "Header/Footer." Type "Running head: YOUR SHORTENED TITLE" (without the quotes). Then hit tab so that you can insert the page number on the far right (by clicking on the icon on the left side of the Header/Footer toolbar).
  3. Click somewhere at the bottom of your title page, below any text.
  4. Click on the "Insert" Menu and select "Break." Select "Continuous."
  5. Go to your second page and double-click on the header to select it. Click on the icon that is fourth to the left of the word "close" in the Header/Footer toolbar (it will say "Link to Previous" when you point the mouse at it). Now you can delete the words "Running head:" and they will not appear on the second and subsequent pages.

3. Headings within the paper should be in the following format

Level of heading
Centered, Bold, Title Caps
Flush Left, Bold, Title Caps

Indented, bold, not title caps, period.


Indented, bold, italics, not title caps, period.


Indented, italics, not title caps, period.

Note. For levels 3-5, text begins on the same line as the heading.

Main change in the 6th edition: No italics for the most commonly-used headings. Use bold instead.

  • First-level headings: For labeling the main sections of the paper. The heading for each section is centered in the line and the words are bold and capitalized like a title (each important word should start with a capital letter).
  • Second-level headings: For labeling subsections within a main section of the paper. The subheading is flush with the left margin and is bold. The words are capitalized like a title.
  • Third-level headings: For labeling subsections within a subsection of the paper. The sub-subheading is indented like a paragraph, is bold, and ends with a period. Only the first letter of the first word is capitalized. Text starts on the same line.

4. Text citations of sources should be in the following format

You should cite sources throughout your paper. If you paraphrase an author's words or ideas, then you cite the author's last name and year of publication. If you quote an author's exact words, then you should also cite the page number. Within a single paragraph, you only need to cite the year once.

  • In the text, your citation would look like either of these: "According to Arriaga and Agnew (1960), the relationship between X and Y is positive," or "The relationship between X and Y is positive (Arriaga & Agnew, 1960)."
  • Use the ampersand (&) in parentheses and the word and in the text.
  • Use commas only for three or more authors.
  • When the work has two authors, always use both names. When it has more than two authors, name them all only the first time you cite them; after the first time, name only the first author and replace the rest of the names with the words "et al." (Note that if there are 6 or more authors, you should use the et al. form even for the first citation.)
  • If you are referring to more than one article inside parentheses, use a semicolon to separate references and list them in alphabetical order (Green & Finkel, 1994; Horton & Hannon, 1989).

5. The reference page should be in the following format (also look at the last page of the research proposal, above)

All sources cited in the text should be listed on your reference page, and vice-versa.

Main changes in the 6th edition: For web sources, do not include the date that the web page was retrieved if the source is an online journal article (or other content that is not going to change over time). If you access a journal article online and there is a digital object identifier (DOI), then include that at the end of your reference.

  • It is the page immediately following your final page of text. "References" should be centered in the top line of the page. Without skipping any extra lines, the list of references starts immediately below the heading. (The whole page should be double-spaced, like the rest of your document.)
  • The first line of each reference begins flush with the left margin; remaining lines are indented like a paragraph. The references for different sources should be listed in alphabetical order. DO NOT change the order of the author's names within a source if there is more than one author of a publication.
  • You should put on your Reference page only the list of articles you actually read. However, you may want to include in your paper a description of someone's research that another author included in a paper that you read. In this situation you should cite the article that described the other research, rather than cite that article directly. In your text, you can write something like: "As described by Foster et al. (1999), the Rusbult (1980) study was conducted to test the hypothesis." In this case, the article you've read is the Foster et al. one.

Journal article

  • Note that (1) the title of the journal is in title caps, but the title of the article is not; (2) the issue number of the publication is not included unless each volume starts from p. 1 (rare).
  • If the article is accepted but not yet published, use the form (in press) in place of the year.

Davis, J. L., & Rusbult, C. E. (2001). Attitude alignment in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 65-84.

Author, A. A. (year). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume number, page numbers of article.


Brown, H., & Milstead, J. (1968). Patterns in poetry: An introductory anthology. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman.

Author, A. A. (year). Title of book. Location: Publisher.

Book chapter

Rusbult, C. E., Olsen, N., Davis, J. L., & Hannon, P. A. (2001). Commitment and relationship maintenance mechanisms. In J. H. Harvey & A. E. Wenzel (Eds.), Close romantic relationships: Maintenance and enhancement (pp. 87-113). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Author, A. A. (year). Title of chapter. In A. A. Editor (Ed.), Title of book (pages of chapter). Location: Publisher.

Web site that is not a journal article and that lists no author

VCU psychology: About the department. (2009). Retrieved August 29, 2009, from
  • If there is an author, begin with the author and move the title to after the year.
  • If there is no date for when the page was posted or updated, write "n.d." in place of the year in the first set of parentheses.
  • Include a retrieval date for any page that could be edited and change in the future. For a journal article that is posted online, you do not need to include a retrieval date.
  • Most important thing: include a web site address that works!
  • There is no period at the end of the web site address.
  • Don't let your program underline the web address.
  • Want more detail? Check out APA's FAQs web page.
  • To cite the above article in your text, you would include a shortened version of the title, using title caps and quotations, along with the date ("VCU Psychology," 2009).

Online journal article with DOI available

Herbst-Damm, K. L., & Kulik, J. A. (2005). Volunteer support, marital status, and the survival times of terminally ill patients. Health Psychology, 24, 225-229. doi:10.1037/0278-6133.24.2.225

Journal article in an Internet-only journal, with no DOI available

Sillick, T. J., & Schutte, N. S. (2006). Emotional intelligence and self-esteem mediate between perceived early parental love and adult happiness. E-Journal of Applied Psychology, 2(2), 38-48. Retreived from

Corporate author, government report

Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2003). Managing asthma: A guide for schools(NIH Publication No. 02-2650). Retrieved from

Conference Poster or Paper Presentation

Presenter, A. A. (Year, Month). Title of paper or poster. Paper/poster session presented at the meeting of Organization Name, Location.

Conference Symposium Presentation

Presenter, A. A. (Year, Month). Title of presentation. In E. E. Chairperson (Chair), Title of the symposium. Symposium conducted at the meeting of Organization Name, Location.

Manuscript in progress or submitted

Author, A. A. (Year). Title of manuscript. Manuscript submitted for publication/in progress.


Kandel, E. R., & Squire, L. R. (2000, November 10). Neuroscience: Breaking down scientific barriers to the study of brain and mind. Science, 290, 1113-1120.

Movie video

Scorsese, M. (Producer), & Longergan, K. (Writer/Director). (2000). You can count on me [Motion picture]. United States: Paramount Pictures. Producer, A. A. (Producer), & Director, A. A. (Director). (Year). Title of motion picture [Motion picture]. Country of origin: Studio.