OverviewAPA stands for American Psychological Association. According to the association’s website (apa.org), the APA is “the leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States, with more than 121,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students as its members.” This description makes it sound as if the organization and formatting style apply only to psychologists and psychology majors; however, APA style is, in fact, a widely used formatting method used in academics. Scholars and students alike use this method because it provides consistent formatting for essays written by people studying physical science, health care, and social science.  You have been or will be assigned an essay in your human services class.  You will be expected to use APA formatting for this assignment and possibly others throughout your college career.

By the end of this DLA, you will be able to:Materials Needed:
Explain the reason and context for proper formatting in APACreate a standard title page, abstract, main body, and reference pageExplain plagiarism, the ways in which it can occur, and some strategies to avoid itProperly cite resources  Computer to use Microsoft Word

1.  Why is consistency in formatting essays important? If you were an instructor who was assigning an essay to your class, why would you require a particular kind of formatting style?

It makes it easier to read and understand. If I was a professor, I would require APA formatting because a paper that is all over the place would be hard to comprehend.

How to Format an APA Essay

When properly formatting an essay using APA style, it will include the following:

  • A title page with specific guidelines on how it should look
  • Page numbering in the upper right-hand corner of each page, starting with the title page
  • Proper APA citing of sources throughout (refer to next pages for examples and practice)
  • A reference page
  • Times New Roman 12-point font, or another APA font approved by your instructor such as 11-point Arial or 11-point Calibri, used throughout the entire essay  
  • Double-spacing, and
  • One-inch margins on all sides

Title Page

Image of sample title page of APA essay
Here is a sample title page:

Now it’s your turn!

Create Pages 1-2 Using APA Style

2.  Follow the directions to create a title page and abstract (the first two pages) of an APA essay. You can use the title of an actual assignment you are working on or make one up for the activity. Make sure to save and submit this document with your DLA so that a staff member can review it with you during your follow-up.

a)  Open up a new blank document in Microsoft Word

b)  Check to make sure the following are set:

  • 1” margins all around
  • Times New Roman 12 pt. font or another APA font and size approved by your instructor
  • double-spacing

c)  At the menu bar, click on INSERT, PAGE NUMBER, TOP OF PAGE, and PLAIN NUMBER 3

d)  The number 1 should appear in the upper, right-hand corner of the margin. Click and hold your cursor in front of it, then drag the cursor over the 1 so it is shaded. It might look like this: 1 or like this: 1

e)  A box will pop up so you can change your font and font size to match what you have selected for your essay

f)  Double click below the light gray margin line to get out of the margin or click on CLOSE HEADER AND FOOTER

g)  Hit enter three times, center the document, then type the following information (which should be double-spaced):

  • title of your essay in bold
  • hit enter twice so there is an extra, blank line, then list your name
  • the department for which you are writing your essay (Department of Social Sciences), then your institutional affiliation (Long Beach City College)
  • course number and name
  • instructor’s name
  • assignment due date

Though this is the proper title page format, it is always a good idea to find out what each instructor requires for each assignment. Some might not ask for all of the above information on the title page.

h)  Make sure that your title page looks like the example on the previous page and that all of the information that you typed is listed in the upper half of the page

i)  Go to INSERT from the menu bar and select PAGE BREAK to get to a second page


On the second page of an APA essay is an abstract, which is a brief summary of the main points of your assignment. Abstracts are typically written in 150-250 words and this paragraph is not indented. Depending on the type of essay you are writing, the information that is written in an abstract may include: the problem that you are investigating, participants being researched, and basic findings.

*If your instructor is only requiring you to write a short essay,

you may want to ask if an abstract is necessary.

Image of sample abstract page
Here is a sample abstract:

3.  Go back to your Word document to practice formatting an abstract.

a)  On the second page, center the document and title it: Abstract

Make sure it is bolded

b)  Hit ENTER to get to a new line. Align your paper to the left and do not hit TAB since abstracts are not indented. This is where you would begin writing your abstract.

Main Body

Now that we’ve covered the first two pages of an APA essay (title and abstract pages), let’s look at the first page of the actual body of the assignment. Again, here are a few important things to know:

  • The first page of the main body of your essay will begin on page 3
  • The essay’s full title will appear again on page 3, and it will be centered and bolded
  • The first paragraph will be an introduction to the essay and will begin immediately below the title, aligned to the left. This paragraph and all others will be indented (unlike the abstract)
  • The running header in the top left header
  • As was mentioned earlier, all text should be double-spaced

Image of sample first body page
Here is a sample third page using the elements described in the list above:

Your Ideas and the Ideas of Others

You may have heard this before, but it bears repeating: plagiarizing is wrong. Most students know this, of course, and most students don’t do it. However, it is important to note that even suggesting that someone else’s words or ideas are your own is plagiarism. To avoid plagiarizing, it is important to give people credit for their work. Because it is essentially stealing, the repercussions of it are severe. At LBCC, a case of plagiarism can result in an F on an assignment and/or in a class, and it can even result in expulsion. Stealing is punished quite severely here, so how can students avoid doing it?

Plagiarism can occur intentionally or accidentally:

  • Intentional Plagiarism refers to the deliberate act of stealing someone else’s words or ideas.
  • Accidental Plagiarism refers to the unintended act of suggesting that someone else’s words or ideas are one’s own.

These definitions are important to know, but it is also worth mentioning that when an instructor encounters an obvious case of plagiarism, there is often no way to tell if it was intentional or accidental. Occasionally, students deliberately intend to cheat; other times, they make a mistake that causes it to appear as though they intended to cheat. Either way, the result is the same: any kind of plagiarism will result in a consequence.

4.  The following exercise contains a few examples of each kind of plagiarism. Read the original quote first, then read each plagiarism example and answer the follow-up questions.

Original source: “Social workers’ primary goal is to help people in need and to address social problems.  Social workers elevate service to others above self-interest. Social workers draw on their knowledge, values, and skills to help people in need and to address social problems. Social workers are encouraged to volunteer some portion of their professional skills with no expectation of significant financial return (pro bono service).”

Taken from: https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English

Plagiarism Example #1:  The goal of a social worker is to help people in need and to address social problems. They raise their level of service to others by removing self-interest, and instead use their knowledge, skills, and values to help the public. Social workers are also encouraged to devote a portion of their professional services for free.

àDo you think example #1 is a case of intentional or accidental plagiarism? Support your answer.

Click or tap here to enter text.

Plagiarism Example #2:  When social workers perform selflessly, volunteer their time and professional skills, and use their knowledge and experience to help others address social issues, they are providing excellent services and reaching their goals.

àDo you think example #2 is a case of intentional or accidental plagiarism? Support your answer.

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Plagiarism Example #3: “Social workers’ primary goal is to help people in need and to address social problems,” says one website.  In addition, they can elevate their level of service by eliminating self-interest and volunteering their time and professional skills to others.

àDo you think example #3 is a case of intentional or accidental plagiarism? Support your answer.

Click or tap here to enter text.

In-Text Citations

Plagiarism can be avoided by citing sources properly. When an author cites his or her sources, he or she is indicating to the reader that some specific piece of information (that has been presented either in a paraphrase or quote) has come from somewhere else. As you might guess, the APA has specific rules on how to do this.

When you take information from an outside source to support your argument, you are required to include an in-text citation which must include the author’s name, the year the source was written and, if it is a quotation, the page number the information appears on. Because you must also include each source in the essay’s references page at the end of the essay, the reader can cross-reference the notes you include in the body of the essay with the list that comes after it.

Below are three different, but proper, APA style uses of the same information, which is from an article titled “Cultural competence and cultural humility: A critical reflection on key cultural diversity concepts” by Ransford Danso, published in the Journal of Social Work on June 22, 2016.

  • According to Danso (2016), “Cultural competence has commanded respectable attention since its introduction in cross-cultural discourse” (p. 211).
  • One writer claims that since the introduction of cultural competence in cross-cultural discourse, it has commanded decent attention (Danso, 2016).
  • Cultural competence became the hot topic shortly after it was brought up by cross-cultural workers (Danso, 2016).

Important note:  If you are citing a source that has multiple authors, follow these basic steps.

  • Two Authors:

Always state both authors’ names in-text every time you reference them.

  • Maxwell and Tobar (2018) argued…
    • (Maxwell & Tobar, 2018)
  • Three or More Authors:

Only state the first author’s name along with the Latin abbreviation “et al.” for the remaining authors every time you reference them.

  • Jenkins et al. (2019) found that…
    • (Jenkins et al., 2019)

Now it’s your turn!

Now it’s your turn to practice properly citing information and sources.  On the next page, you will find a direct quote from a group of authors and the source it came from. As provided in the samples above, write two different ways you can use this information within a paper by paraphrasing or quoting. Make sure you display the information properly and give the authors appropriate credit according to APA format.

Taken from:  Wiley Online Library.  Nursing & Health Sciences, Volume 6, Issue 1, March 2004, pages 11-18.  Behavioral and endocrinological evaluation of music therapy for elderly patients with dementia  by Mizue Suzuki, Masao Kanamori, Motoko Watanabe, Shingo Nagasawa, Emi Kojimam, Hajime Ooshiro, Daiichirou Nakahara. This information was found on page 11 of the journal article.  https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1442-2018.2003.00168.x

The present study investigated the effectiveness of music therapy for dementia patients using endocrinological and behavioral evaluations. The study comprised 10 patients with senile dementia who received music therapy; six had Alzheimer’s dementia and four had vascular dementia. Music therapy was performed twice a week for 8 consecutive weeks (16 sessions). As a result, total scores on the Mini‐Mental State Examination (MMSE) did not significantly change, but the scores of a subscale, ‘language,’ improved significantly. According to the Multidimensional Observation Scale for Elderly Subjects (MOSES), scores for ‘irritability’ decreased significantly. Regarding changes in salivary chromogranin A (CgA) levels, the average was significantly decreased before session 16 compared to after this. These results suggest that the combination of endocrinological measurements, behavioral evaluations and functional assessment methods are useful in evaluating the effects of music therapy in persons with senile dementia.

5.  Show your use of proper APA style in-text citation below. Remember to give two different samples of how you can present this information in the text of your paper.

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6.  In the example above, a group of seven authors contributed to the article. Did you notice that they were not listed alphabetically by last name? What do you think was the criteria used to place the authors in that order?

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Reference Page

Image of reference page
An essay written in APA format that uses one or more outside sources must include a reference page, which is essentially a list of sources used and displayed alphabetically by authors’ last names.  Here is a sample APA style reference page:

All essay formatting systems have something like this. For instance, the MLA formatting style calls for a “Works Cited” page; you may have used this for an English or other composition class. Your reference list should be on its own page on the very last page of your assignment and include a page number.

It is important to cite sources properly in the body of your essay and on the reference page. Each kind of source – books, journal articles, online databases, etc. – is cited in a different way. To see the guidelines for citing each type of source you’ll be using for your report, see the information below:

  • Article in a periodical:  Authors are listed by their last name followed by their initials; publication year goes in parentheses, followed by a period. Article title is in sentence-case, meaning only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized. Periodical title is in title-case, meaning major words are capitalized, and it is followed by the volume number which, with the title, is also italicized. The issue number is in parentheses, followed by a comma, then pages used. If a Digital Object Identifier has been assigned to the periodical, include this after the page numbers for the article. If no DOI has been assigned and you are accessing the periodical online, use the URL of the website.

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, volume number(issue number), pages. https://doi.org/xx.xxx/yyyy

  • Book:  Authors are listed by their last name followed by their initials; publication year goes in parentheses, followed by a period. Book title is in sentence-case and is italicized ending with a period. Publisher’s name is listed last, ending with a period.

Author, A. A. (Year of publication). Title of book: Capital letter also for subtitle. Publisher’s name.

  • Film/Video: Director’s last name followed by initials, then the word “Director” in parentheses, ending with a period. Publication date in parentheses, followed by a period. Film title in sentence-case and italicized, and the word “Film” is in brackets, followed by a period. Production company’s name is listed last, ending with a period.

Director, D. D. (Director). (Date of publication). Title of motion picture [Film]. Production company.

  • Website: Always try your best to use credible websites to conduct your research. If the website lists an author, list his or her last name followed by initials. In parentheses, include the year then the month and date, followed by a period. Title of the website using sentence-case and italics, ending with a period. List the website’s name in sentence-case, ending with a period. Finally, list the URL and do not end with a period.

Author, A.A. (Year, Month Date). Title of the website. Name of the website. http://www.websiteaddress.com

Important Note:  The following rules for handling works by a single or multiple authors apply to all APA-style references in your reference list, regardless of the type of work (book, article, electronic resource, etc.).

  • Single Author:

List last name first, followed by author’s initials

  • O’Sullivan, T.R.
  • Two Authors:

Also list by their last names and initials

Use a comma and then an ampersand (&) instead of the word “and”

  • Aguilar, M., & Kim, J.H.
  • Pavlov, A., & Fischer, H.
  • Three to Twenty Authors:

Also list by their last names and initials

Use a comma to separate each author

Use a comma and then an ampersand to separate the last two authors

Kanumba, O., Jacobson, M., Hernandez, T., Brooks, E., & López, P.

**Remember: You can leave the authors’ names in the order they appear in each source (as with the examples starting with “Pavlov, A.” and “Kanumba, O.”); they are listed by how much they contributed. However, you must alphabetize your reference page.

7.  The information you cited in #5 on a previous page is from an online periodical. Cite the source exactly as you would for your reference page using APA style below.

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8.  Are there any questions you still have about APA style and how to properly use it in your assignments?  If so, write them here so you may discuss them during your follow up session.

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