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Accessing Resources: Where Do I Start?: Paper Format/Guidelines

This guide will teach students how to access information using various library resources and how to insert the information into their research papers.

Writing Style

Avoid writing in first-person unless co-authoring your paper.  You should usually write your papers in third-person

  • Avoid: I studied the effect of...
  • Allowed: We studied the effect of...
  • Preferred: Respondents indicated their preference for...

Be concise and clear

  • Avoid vague statements
  • Present information clearly
  • Eliminate unnecessary words

Style matters

  • Write objectively
  • Avoid poetic or flowery language


Avoiding Bias

Be sensitive to labels

  • Avoid identifying groups by a disorder (avoid schizophrenics, use people diagnosed with schizophrenia)
  • Avoid outdated or inappropriate labels
  • When you must label a group, try to use a term that group prefers

Gender pronouns

  • Gender refers to a social role
  • Sex refers to biological characteristics

Organizing Tips

Organize sources - Remember to record citation information for every paper you intend to use.  Use notecards or a digital method to keep track of information you intend to use.  Create a labeling scheme for your sources so that you credit the proper source.

Note page numbers - Page numbers are required for quotes.  Although they are not required for paraphrases, APA encourages their use.

Outline - Organize your paper using an outline or web scheme.  Keeping your thoughts organized by topic will help support your topic.


Your paper should include four major sections.  These sections include:

Title page - This page should be centered horizontally and vertically.  It should include at least the title of your paper, your name and institution.  Your instructor may want you to provide the course/section number, his or her name and due date on the title page.  The title page should be numbered the first page.  A running head should appear in the upper left-hand corner of your paper.  The running head should be typed in UPPERCASE letters and be no more than 50 characters long.

Abstract - The abstract should appear as the second page of your paper.  An abstract is a brief but thorough description of your problem, findings and summaries.  If you performed an experiment, your methodology should be described.  The abstract should report findings but should not include discussion or interpretation.  An abstract should be between 150 and 250 words.

Main body - The components of your paper will depend on the particular assignment.  The main body of your paper could describe the problem you are researching, an investigation of previous findings, methodology, results, discussion of results and/or conclusion.  Continue to include the running head and number your pages.

References - The running head and page numbers should continue onto your reference page.  Center the word "References" and continue to use double spacing throughout this page.  Consult the other tabs in this guide for help formatting your sources.



The following pdf was produced by The OWL at Purdue.  It is a sample APA paper that clearly demonstrates paper sections, formatting and guidelines.

  OWL Sample APA Paper


The following page produced by Pasadena City College clearly demonstrates the use of margins and spacing in APA.