APA Formatting Formal High School Papers

Why do we use APA formatting?

This guide is based on the 6th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological  Association. APA formatting is often used in the sciences, social sciences (psychology, economics, sociology), business, and health fields. Many students will use APA formatting at university. This guide will review the general format of a research paper, in-text citations, and the Reference page.

Teachers ask students to format their papers in the same style so both the writer and reader are not distracted by style choices a student may make. The consistency allows the teacher to focus on the student’s work and not on the look of the paper. 

Teachers may adapt these guidelines for their own purposes. Do follow your teacher’s requirements.

General Formatting Guidelines

The Basics:

  • All papers are typed on A4 size paper (210mm x 297mm)
  • Double-space everything
  • Use 12 pt. Times New Roman font
  • Leave only one space after punctuation 
  • Set all margins to 1 inch on all sides (2.54 cm.) – “Normal” margins
  • Indent the first line of paragraphs one half-inch
  • Remove extra spaces between paragraphs​
  • Titles in the text are treated differently than in the reference page:
    • Capitalize all words that are four letters long or longer.
    • Use italics for the titles of longer works referred to in your paper (books, websites, movies)
    • Use quotation marks when referring to titles of shorter works in your paper (articles, webpages, short stories)

Title page (see the APA Checklist for an example):

  • Information should be centered and in the top half of the page, center each of the following lines:
  • Title of the Paper (should not be more than 12 words long and can take up 2 lines if needed)
  • Your Full Name
  • Course/Class Name
  • Create a header:
  • In the left corner:
    • Running head: TITLE OF THE PAPER (use block letters)
      • **Note on the rest of the pages, remove the words “Running head” but keep the title in block letters”)
    • In right corner include the page number  – start on 1

Writing Style

  • Do not use contractions (which means that you will NEVER use the word it’s in an essay/research project)
  • Use American spelling of words (i.e. neighbor and NOT neighbour).
  • In a formal essay, never write in the first person (me, I, my)
  • Refer to the research
  • Use active voice
  • Keep your writing clear, concise, and bias-free

Using Headings In Your Paper

In most high school papers your teachers will not expect you to use headers to separate the sections of your paper. Headers, however, are expected in lab reports. 

At a high school level, there are general three sections to your paper: Title page, Main body, and Reference list.  Each section requires a title. So, you will include the title of the essay centered on the first line of the main body. The title of the reference list is References  You may be required to include an Appendix as well. If you do include an Appendix, the page must be labeled Appendix and should follow the Reference list.

In the main body of the paper/lab report, headings can be used to organize the paper. If you are asked to use headings, they need to be formatted as follows:

First Level Headings (Centered, bold, capitalize)

**The title of your paper is not a first level heading **

Second Level Headings (flush left, bold, capitalize)

             Third level headings. At this level the heading flows into the text. (indented with the paragraph, capitalize first word, end with period)

Please use the APA sample paper as a guide.

For more information on APA from OWL at Purdue