Top 5 Tips to Set APA Margins for Your Term Paper

Learning to write a term paper that meets college level requirements as well as the specific instructions of your instructor can be intimidating. Fortunately there are guidelines to help you understand the formatting required for your term paper. Guidelines vary depending on the style you use. APA is one such style and it provides guidelines for term paper margins, spacing, header and page numbers, as well as documenting your references or sources by using citations.

There are books dedicated to outlining the requirements regarding formatting for margins, section headings, titles, and the order to follow when citing references. In addition to worrying about your term paper format, you also have to spend precious time researching your information, collecting data to support your thesis and then organizing it all in a clear and succinct way for your reader.

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What is APA?

Help With APA Term Paper Margins

Help With APA Term Paper Margins

The guidelines for the American Psychological Association Style (APA) format were first designed in the early 1900’s when a group of social science and business professionals determined that a streamlined system of style rules for headings, section numbering, margins, spacing, and documentation of references in scientific writing would make documents easier to read and understand. APA format is one of several types of editorial standard for formatting. It is most often used when the topic of the term paper or research paper is one of a scientific nature or is required for those in the social sciences and it helps to ensure that information and content are presented in way that is organized and coherent to the reader. APA research paper format includes guidelines for the following:

  • Document headings, footnotes (optional) and abbreviations
  • Approved punctuation for titles, bibliography page and reference list.
  • Numbers and statistics and how they are presented
  • Format for figures, tables and their captions.
  • Reference citation both within text and in bibliography or reference lists
  • Formatting rules for title page, headers, page numbers, margins and spacing

APA Margins for Your Term Paper

There is a specific look to an APA format research paper and to make certain you adhere to the style guidelines, you should format your paper accordingly. Term papers, essays, and research papers require double spacing throughout and should be typed on paper that is 8.5” by 11”. Recommended font size is 12 pt and the margins throughout should be set to 1” on all sides.

Research Paper Title Page

  • The title page of your document is the first page and includes the paper title, the author’s name and university affiliation.
  • Proper formatting of the title page means the title appears centered in the top half of the page and is twelve words or less.
  • Titles can be one or two lines as needed. Below the title the author’s name appears as: first name, middle initial, last name.
  • Individual degrees and titles are not included. University affiliation should identify the location of the research and be listed below the author’s name.
  • The title page is double spaced and abbreviations that are not pertinent are excluded.

APA Research Paper Headings

There are five heading levels under the APA format for research papers that can be used to organize and divide your paper for easier reading. Specific guidelines for formatting of heading styles were recently revised and simplified in the 6th edition of the APA manual. There is no heading for the introduction section and letters or numbers are not used to indicate heading levels. Heading levels are based on subordination and should always be used in order with formatting as follows:

  • Level 1- Bold type and centered using both upper and lowercase letters.
  • Level 2-Aligned at the left margin in bold type using upper and lowercase letters.
  • Level 3-Indent from left margin in bold type using lowercase letters punctuated with a period at the end.
  • Level 4-Indented at the left margin italicized in bold type using lowercase letters followed by a period.
  • Level 5-Indented and italicized using lowercase letters and no period or bold type.

Your APA Term Paper Bibliography

The research paper bibliography guidelines under APA style are not difficult but careful attention to detail is needed to ensure formatting is as follows:

Indirect quotes when referring to an entire book are cited within the text using author-year for direct quotes (Howard, 2008). Direct quotes are cited within text using author’s last name and year with the page number (Simmons, 2010, p29).

Indent all lines for each entry beginning except the initial line and punctuate with a period followed by one space. The first word of a chapter or book is capitalized. If a book or article has multiple authors, all author names are inverted, last name, first name. If listing several authors, use of an ampersand (&) instead of the word “and” immediately before the last author in the list is the preferred style.

Revised edition citation example entry:

1.  Smith, J. K. & Deutsch, G. (1992). Left hand, right hand (Rev. ed.). New York: T. H. Freeman.

Edited volume citation example:

2.  Janeous, M. & Tarnish, R. J. (Eds.). (1996). The representation of jack and jill. Jackson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.

An anonymous book:

3.  The Irish cultural dictionary (3rd college ed.). (1990). Boston: Joughton Tifflin.

An article in a magazine:

4.  Howard, J. A. (1995, March). Putting your enterprise on the map. MacUser, 7, 158-160, 166-167.

Internet article based on a print source:

5. Janson, H.T. (2000). What changes in longterm memory? A life span perspective [Electronic version]. Developmental Psychology35, 926-985.

Other Requirements for APA Style

Endnotes and research paper footnotes are not required under APA research paper format. Full citations are included in the reference list at the end of the paper.

Formatting guidelines for tables and figures do not allow for vertical lines in tables. Table title should be flush left on the left margin and in italics with the table number type above it.

Columns of decimal numerals must be aligned using the tab function. Actual figures such as pictures, graphs, charts, and drawings can be hand drawn or generated using software and should be centered on the page with axes labelled meaningfully.

Captions are listed on a separate figure captions page which is titled “Figure Captions” at the top with each caption listed against the left margin in block format. The figure number and the word “figure” are italicized for each entry.

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