APA Header, Cover Page & Body – Paper Format Guidelines


The APA Publication Manual’s seventh edition gives essential formatting guidelines that should be followed. In today’s article, we learn how to correctly format an APA header, abstract, cover page, and reference page in your research paper. 

Please note that we will learn from the APA Style guide’s 7th edition, also known as APA 7, which was out in October 2019. The previous APA formatting edition dated back to 2009. 

What is APA formatting? 

This format is used in writing academic literature like essays, research papers, etc. The American Psychological Association (APA) provides the APA style guide, which is most commonly used in the behavioural and social sciences fields. 

The guidelines for APA formatting are mentioned in the Publication Manual of the APA. It is the official APA style guide and is used widely. All scientific journals either refer to it entirely or in variations to publish their research papers and articles. Colleges and universities also use APA formatting, so students are required to strictly adhere to the guidelines while writing a college essay or paper. In the APA 7 format, the APA style guidelines are often relaxed a little for college students. 

Why do we use APA formatting for writing research papers? 

The APA manual mentions the standard guidelines independent of everyday usage and bias that can come from academic writing. As all researchers follow common writing and formatting rules, reading and understanding scientific papers becomes easy. 

Also, the APA style is mainly known for its simplicity and directness. By ensuring a logical flow in a journal article or research paper, the APA formatting helps the reader understand the content better. 

Simply put, we use APA formatting because it makes reading the research paper an easier experience and also helps the reader focus better. It brings a sense of uniformity and structure to the writing and lets the reader easily comprehend the written work. 

What is APA formatting used for? 

Students and researchers use the APA style to write research journals, papers, articles, dissertations, and college papers. You can also use the APA formatting for websites, conference posters, textbooks, and PowerPoint presentations. The APA style guide can be utilised for academic papers in any subject; it is most commonly used in: 

-Behavioural sciences (Psychology)


-Social sciences (Economics, sociology, political science) 



General APA formatting guidelines: 

Some of the most common APA formatting guidelines need to be followed in the entire paper. These are the most important ones in the APA 7 edition: 

-Set a margin of 1 inch on all sides

-Use a standard-sized paper

-Keep the running head short (50 characters) 

-Add a page header (running head) on top of every fresh page

-Indent your paragraphs to 0.5 inches

-Write the page number on every page

-Use a font that is easy to read

-Use double space for all text. This includes headings as well. 

APA font recommendations: 

-11-point Arial

-11-point Calibri

-12-point Times New Roman

-10-point Lucida Sans Unicode

-10-point computer modern

-11-point Georgia

Page formatting under APA 7

The APA formatting guidelines for pages appear in the second chapter of the publication manual. The usual structure for research papers includes text, title page, abstract, and references. 

However, college students don’t need to add an abstract to their papers. But this depends on the university, and they should check its guidelines. Usually, an APA style paper follows this:

-Title page


-Body text






Apart from the above major sections for your academic paper, we will also learn how to use APA formatting for headers, subheadings, and headings.So let’s begin: 

1) APA cover page format

The cover page of your paper, journal, etc., is also known as the title page. According to the APA style guide, this is the first page of your written work. This is important for college students because a few universities might ask them to include it. Ensure you clear it with your instructor if you should include this page in your paper. 

The cover page has a few variations for papers of students and professionals. The former includes details of their college and course, while the latter mentions the author’s note. 

The title page of an APA style journal or paper for students should include the following: 

-Paper title

-Student’s name

-Name of the university and department

-Name of the course and its number

-Instructor’s name

-Paper’s due date

On the other hand, the APA formatting for a professional paper’s cover page includes: 

-Running head

-Author’s name

-Paper title


-Author’s note

APA cover page formatting guidelines

As per the APA 7th edition, the formatting for the title page should be as follows: 

-Double space for all text 

-Add a running head at the top that is flush left and a flushed-right page number

-Avoid writing ‘running head’ before your running head

-Keep the title around four lines from the top and make it centre-aligned. Ensure the beginning of all words are capitalised, except for prepositions and articles, and there is consistency in the single font that is used across the entire paper

-Add the author’s name after leaving a double-spaced line and make it centre-aligned. If there are two authors, mention ‘and’ between both names. And if there are more authors, use commas between all names and write ‘and’ just before the last name.

-Avoid writing designations and titles before the names of the authors. 

2) APA Header, headings, and subheadings

The APA header is mentioned in the top margin of the page. It comprises a page head and number, but student papers can do away with the running head. Students using APA formatting can only put the page number. However, you must check with your university or course instructor if you should still include the running head.

A running head is a shorter version of your title. If the title is short, you can place it in the running head space. Following are the APA formatting guidelines for the header: 

-Page number will be in the corner at the top right of every page

-The cover page is your first page

-The running head should be left-aligned, in capital letters, and under 50 characters

-Avoid abbreviations

Subheadings and headings are essential to organise and improve the text’s readability. Here are the APA formatting guidelines for the same: 

-Level 1: Center, bold, and in title case. The text begins on the next line with a fresh indented paragraph

-Level 2: Left-aligned, bold, and in the title case. The text starts on the next line, and the paragraph has a fresh indent

-Level 3: Italic, bold, left-aligned, and in the title case. The text starts on the next line with an indented paragraph

-Level 4: In the title case, Bold indented and ends with a period. The text is on the same line.

-Level 5: Same as level 4, but with italic.

3) Abstract 

The abstract in APA formatting is a one-paragraph summary of the entire paper. It is a maximum of 250 words and tells the reader what the paper is all about and helps them decide whether to read it. Following are the APA formatting guidelines for abstracts: 

-Header at the top 

-‘Abstract’ label should be in the centre and bold

-All text has to be double-spaced

– The first paragraph should be unindented

-Write up to five keywords under the abstract with commas in the middle

-Italicize and indent the ‘keywords’ labels

-Apart from the first word, all other keywords should be lowercase. Abstracts are not compulsory for students but are for professional papers. 

4) Text

There are no general guidelines for your paper’s body. If you are writing an essay, the body of the paper will be the essay. The main body will be in different sections if it is a lab report. 

A research paper includes an introduction, results, method, references, and discussions. Each section begins on a fresh page with a bold section label that is centre-aligned. Following are the APA formatting guidelines for the body text: 

-APA header on every page

-All text should be double-spaced

-Indent all paragraphs leaving the abstract

-Start a new section on a fresh page 

5) Reference page

This is also termed the reference list and mentions all the cited sources. These are the guidelines for the reference page: 

-References should be added one after the other in alphabetical order. No numbering

-Each reference must have a hanging indentation, with a flush left of the first line and the subsequent line in the same entry with a 0.5 inches margin

-References start with the author’s last name and then mention the first and second names

-Names of major works like journals and books are italicised 


1) APA formatting benefits: 

This ensures the writing is clear, and the reader can maintain focus and clarity about what they are reading. It helps them better understand your research. The formatting guidelines set a standard academic style that all journals and papers use. Hence the reader is used to reading the material in the set way. 

2) Difference between APA and MLA formatting: 

APA is usually used in the social sciences and education, while the MLA style appears in the humanities fields like linguistic and literary studies. They come from two different institutions, so their citation and formatting guidelines also greatly differ. 

3) What is the Meaning of et al. in APA formatting? 

‘Et al.’ is derived from ‘at alia,’ Latin for ‘and others; If your cited text has multiple authors, you can just write ‘et. al.’ This has to be written after the first author’s name in your citation to indicate there are more. 

4) Should I add the header on the cover page?

Yes. The header must be on your paper’s cover page and every other page. This includes the first page and all the rest that follow. 

5) What are the changes in APA 7? 

According to the publication manual, APA 7 has many changes in the formatting guidelines. Running heads are not compulsory for student papers. ‘Running head’ has to be removed from the header. Also, you can use ‘they’ as a gender-neutral pronoun.



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