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APA Style

How should section and subsection headings be formatted in APA style?

A research paper written in APA style should be organized into sections and subsections using the five levels of APA headings. APA recommends using subheadings only when the paper has at least two subsections within a larger section. Notice how sections contain at least two smaller subsections in the example below:


The abstract acts as the second major section of the document and typically begins on the second page of the paper. It follows directly after the title page and precedes the main body of the paper.

The abstract is a succinct, single-paragraph summary of your paper’s purpose, main points, method, findings, and conclusions, and is often recommended to be written after the rest of your paper has been completed.

When should footnotes be used?

The APA suggests two instances in which footnotes may be used:

  • Content Footnotes: to offer further information on a topic that is not directly related to the text. As content footnotes should be concise, avoid writing lengthy paragraphs or including extraneous information.
  • Copyright Permission Footnotes: to cite adapted or reprinted materials in the paper, especially data sets, tables, and quotations that exceed 400 words. Consult the APA Publication Manual (6th ed.) for more information about copyright permissions.

Learn how to format the abstract of your paper in APA style. For additional information about formatting the abstract in APA, see also: 

Formatting the Abstract Page (APA)


As the first major section of the document, the title page appears at the top of the first page.


The title page is comprised of a few key elements:

  • Running head (or shortened title) and label
  • Page number
  • Full title of the paper

Learn how to format the title page of your paper in APA style.

(Open article to see full document)


Beginning at the top of a new page, the main body of the research paper follows the abstract and precedes the References page. Comprised of the introduction, method, results, and discussion subsections, the main body acts as the third major section of the document and typically begins on the third page of the paper.

When should a block quotation be used?

A block quotation is an extract consisting of more than 40 words from another author’s work. Block quotations should be used in moderation, typically when using another writer’s words is a more effective way of illustrating an idea. Avoid using block quotations excessively as this practice gives the reader the impression that you are inexperienced in the subject or are simply filling pages to meet a word count requirement.

What punctuation should be used to indicate omitted words from a direct quotation?

When a portion of a sentence (or sentences) is not included in a quotation, three ellipsis points should be typed in place of the omitted material. However, ellipsis points do not need to be included at the beginning or end of a quotation; the reader will assume that additional material is present in the original text before and after the quotation.

How should words emphasized by the writer be indicated in a direct quotation?

Use italics to add emphasis to a specific word or words in a direct quotation that were not originally emphasized by the author. Additionally, type the phrase emphasis added and enclose it in brackets directly after the emphasized words to indicate to the reader that the emphasis is not present in the original text.

How should a parenthetical in-text citation be formatted?

An essential component of a research paper, in-text citations are a way of acknowledging the ideas of the author(s) of a particular work.

Each source that appears as an in-text citation should have a corresponding detailed entry in the References list at the end of the paper. Including the required elements in every citation allows other researchers to easily track the references used in a paper and locate those resources themselves.

Why is it important to arrange the major sections of an APA-style paper in the correct order?

Writing a paper in APA style involves adhering to specific conventions laid out by APA. Readers are inclined to approach a paper with certain expectations about its format and appearance. Careful adherence to these conventions is likely to make a good initial impression on the reader, while carelessness may have the opposite effect. When the major sections of a paper are carefully arranged in the appropriate order, the reader may be more inclined to show an interest in the paper’s ideas.


The References page is located at the end of the main body of the paper and begins at the top of a new page. Appendices, footnotes, and additional materials should follow after the References page.

General Format

Like the rest of the paper, the References page should be double-spaced and typed in Times New Roman, 12 pt. The running head should appear flush with the upper left-hand corner of the page, and the page number should appear at the upper right-hand corner of the page.

Learn how to format the References page of your paper in APA style (open article to view the full image):

When should a short quotation be used?

Whether they are used to provide evidence, support for an argument, or to illustrate an idea using another writer’s words, short quotations are valuable tools that can enhance any essay. Because short quotations contain fewer than 40 words, they should be integrated into the surrounding paragraph using introductory phrases that provide some context for the quoted material.

How should brackets be used to add words to a direct quotation?

When additional words written by an individual other than the original author are inserted into a quotation, the added words must be surrounded by brackets. The inserted material should present an accurate representation of the author’s message in the original text.

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