Writing & formatting: APA (7th ed.) citation guide

 This writing resource gives general tips on how to format a paper in APA style. For more detailed information consult  the Publication manual of the American Psychological Association: The official guide to APA style, 7th ed. [Print]
These are guidelines only; your instructor has the final say on which APA style elements are required for a given assignment. 


New in APA 7th edition 

There are now two types of formatting guidelines for APA 7th edition: student papers for course work and professional papers submitted for publication. This guide is geared toward student papers.

A running head, author note, or abstract are not required for student papers. Your instructor may still request these, so please follow their guidelines.   

For detailed guidelines for professional papers, see Chapter 2, Section 2.1, p.29.

  Writing with Generative AI 

There are many things to consider when writing with AI, including ChatGPT. As a student, one of your core responsibilities is to ensure that you are writing with academic integrity and meeting the requirements for your course and assignment. For that reason, it is always best to check to ensure your understanding your instructor's restrictions for engaging with AI in assignments. 

Some other key things to keep in mind: 

  • Cite: you need to cite all sources, work, words, and ideas that are not your own, including anything AI-generated. See the Library's APA general notes for more about citing AI.  
  • Think critically: you need to think critically about any sources you reference or tools that you use. Stretching your critical thinking is one of the key benefits of pursuing a degree! 
  • Consider privacy, safety, and copyright: don't share copyrighted or private information (including, for example, assignment guidelines or passwords) without express permission and without understanding how they will be used. 

Ethical, SFU approved writing supports are available to you as a part of your tuition fees. Connect with us in the Student Learning Commons to learn more. 

To learn more, read the APA blog post, "How to cite ChatGPT."

Paper elements and formatting

See APA's Paper format for further details on title pages and more, examples, and Sample papers or consult the guide (Chapter 2, p. 30). 

Font and spacing

Refer to APA's Font and Line spacing for general guidance or consult the guide for detailed guidance (Sections 2.16, p. 44 and 2.21, p. 46).

  • Use Times New Roman font size 12, Calibri size 11, San Serif size 11, Arial size 11, Georgia size 11, Lucida Sans Unicode size 10, or Computer Modern size 10.
  • Double-space your entire paper, including all lines of the reference list. 
  • Use only one space after a period. 
  • Ensure margins are at least 1 inch (2.54 cm) on all sides of every page.
  • Text should be left aligned, and the first paragraphs should have a 0.5 inch (1.27cm) indentation.    

Title page 

Depending on the assignment requirements, you may need to include your title, name, and institutional affiliation on a title page. See APA's Title page setup for more guidelines and a sample student title page or consult the guide (Section 2.3-2.6, pp.30-33 ).

Include the following elements centred on the page :

  • Paper title [bold type]
  • Author names [the byline]
  • Author affiliation
  • Course number and name
  • Instructor name
  • Assignment due date

Number pages (1, 2, 3…) in the upper right-hand corner of each page in the page header, including the title page. If a title page is required, the title page should start on page 1.

Running head 

A shortened version of the title of your paper (or the full title if it is short). Not required for student papers, but your instructor may request it.

How to format the running head
  • Place in the page header to appear on all pages, including first page.
  • The running head should be in all capital letters.   
  • The running head should be less than 50 characters, including spaces and punctuation. 
  • Avoid abbreviations, but the ampersand "&" is allowed.
  • Do not use label "Running head:"
  • Left-aligned in the header, across from the right-aligned page number.

See APA's Page header for further details or consult the guide (Section 2.18, p.44).


The following are guidelines on how to format headings and subheadings. Refer to APA's Headings for detailed descriptions of the 5 levels or consult the guide (Section 2.26–2.27, p. 47).

visual example of the five levels of heading in APA seventh edition
Note. Format of headings. From APA Style, by American Psychological Association, 2019. (https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/paper-format/headings). Copyright 2019 by American Psychological Association.
Text version: APA heading formats

APA Headings




Centered, Boldface, Title Case Heading

     Text begins as a new paragraph.


Flush left, Boldface, Title Case Heading

     Text begins as a new paragraph.


Flush Left, Boldface Italic, Title Case Heading

     Text begins as a new paragraph.


         Indented, Boldface Title Case Heading Ending With a Period. Paragraph text continues on the same line and continues as a regular paragraph. 


        Indented, Boldface Italic, Title Case Heading Ending With a Period. Paragraph text continues on the same line and continues as a regular paragraph. 

Tables and figures 

For general guidelines and examples, refer to Citing tables, figures & images, APA's Tables and figures, or consult the guide for more detailed instructions (Section 7, pp. 195–250).

  • Tables and figures are now formatted in parallel—in other words, they use consistent rules for titles, notes, and numbering.
  • Tables and figures may now be presented either in the text of the document or after the reference list on separate pages.


    Refer to APA's Mechanics of style or consult the guide for further details on punctuation, spelling, capitalization and more (Chapter 6, p.153).


    Include a serial comma (also called an Oxford comma, Harvard comma, or series comma) in a series of three or more items.  

    If one or more items in the series already contain a comma, use semicolons between the items instead of commas. 

    Quotation marks

    Place punctuation inside the quotation marks if they are part of the quoted material. Do not include an extra period after the quoted punctuation mark.

    Maya Angelou once said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." This quote is particularly poignant...

    Place question mark or period outside the quotation mark if it is not part of the quoted material. 

    Did you know that Maya Angelou once said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel"? 

    Include commas inside quotation marks.

    "I've learned that people will forget what you said," said Maya Angelou, "people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." 

    For phrases that end with a quote and a citation, place the period after the citation.  [see Direct quotations for examples]

    Use quotation marks around examples rather than italics.  

    Maya Angelou's most celebrated works include "Still I Rise", "Caged Bird", and "Life Doesn't Frighten Me". 

    In-text citations

    Direct quotations

    See APA's Quotations for additional formatting, punctuation guidelines, and examples or consult the guide (Sections 8.23–8.36, pp. 269–278).

    Short quotations contain fewer than 40 words with double quotation marks placed around the words. See Table 8.2 (p. 272) in the guide for a comparison of correct short quotation examples.

    Short quotations examples from print sources or online articles:

    • Narrative example, include the author and year in the sentence and place the page number in parentheses after the quotation:

    Mooney (2000) found that ..."direct_quotation" (p. 276).

    • Parenthetical example, give the author, year, and page number in parentheses immediately after the quotation or at the end of the sentence (Section 8.25, pp. 270-271):

    "Direct_quotation"... (Walker, 2000, p. 135).

    Use block quotation format for quotes of 40 words or more. Start the quotation on a new line, indent the quotation about ½ an inch, double space the quote and omit the quotation marks. Do not add a period after closing parenthesis (Section 8.27, p. 272).

    Parenthetical example:

    Prince Edward Island is a curved slice of land from three to thirty-five miles wide and about one hundred and twenty miles long, lying along the southern rim of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and separated from the mainland of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia by the narrow waters of Northumberland Strait.(Ives, 1999, p. 1)


    Review APA's how to cite long paraphrases and other guidelines, including examples, in Paraphrasing or consult the guide (Section 8.24, p. 269).

    Also check out the SLC resource Techniques for effective paraphrasing and SFU Library's Avoiding plagiarism guide and interactive Plagiarism tutorial.

    When paraphrasing from a source, or when referring to an idea contained in another work, you are encouraged to provide a page number, or other parts of a source, to help locate the section within such works as a book or video (Section 8.23, p. 269). See the section on Adding location information in Formatting the elements of an in-text citation in the Library's citation guide.

    Formatting the reference list

    In APA, the list of sources at the end of the paper (bibliography) is called the reference list. The reference list must include all references cited in the text of your paper (Chap. 9, p. 281).

    The word References should appear at the top of your reference list, and it should be centred on the page (Section 9.43, p. 303).  

    Order of references in the reference list is alphabetical, by the last name of the first author (Section 9.44–9.48, pp. 303–306) or, if author is not available - by title.

    Alphabetize letter by letter and use the rule "Nothing precedes something". For example: 'Brown, J. R.' comes before 'Browning, A. F.'. 

    Brown, J.
    Brown, J. R.
    Browning, A. F.

    For several works by the same author cite them in your reference list by year of publication with the earliest first: Smith, A. (1999) ... Smith, A. (2002) (Section 9.46, p. 304).

    For reference entries of works by the same author and the same year, refer to Citing works with the same author and date or consult the guide (Section 9.47, p. 305) for further details on the two-step process for assigning dates.

    Second and subsequent lines of each entry are indented 1/2 inch or 5 spaces. The chosen format should be consistent throughout the references.

    Double-space between all lines of your work, including references. 

    For detailed information on the preparation of the reference list, consult the guide (Chapter 9, pp. 280-309).

    Further help

    For more writing help

    Find Writing resources and services available through the Student Learning Commons, on topics such as editing, proofreading, thesis statements, Working with sources, and Inclusive and antiracist writing resources. Consider one-to-one writing consultations or group workshops.

    For help with citing

    Use the SFU Library's online APA Citation Guide or reach out for help through Ask a Librarian