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Set Up and Format a Student APA 7th Paper

If your paper will use strict APA formatting, follow steps below. Your paper should have three major sections: title page, main body, and references list. Each begins a new page. Publication Manual covers guidelines in Chapter 2.  APA website has a Quick Answers--Formatting page.

These guidelines  cover how to set up a student paper in APA format. The 7th edition now has specific formatting for student papers versus a professional paper (i.e. one being submitted for publication). If your instructor has requested a professional format or additional elements, use your instructor's preferences.

Official APA Resources on Student Papers:

Word template (guide to APA 7th Student Paper layout in Microsoft Word):

Student Paper Setup, Step by Step

Microsoft Word margins are usually preset to 1". If not, follow these instructions:

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Go to Page Layout or Layout tab
  2. Click Margins
  3. Select  Normal option

Margins > Normal

Right margin is "ragged" -- this is default in Microsoft Word.

Double Space -- alternate method:

  • Highlight all text
  • Right-click your mouse
  • Select Paragraph
  • Under Indents and Spacing, Line Spacing, select Double
  • [OK]

APA 7th papers should be double spaced.

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Go to the Home tab
  2. In the Paragraph box, click the icon that looks like two up/down arrows with text to the right
  3. Pick 2.0
  4. Click [OK]

Paragraph > Spacing > 2.0

Double Space -- alternate method:

  • Highlight all text
  • Right-click your mouse
  • Select Paragraph
  • Under Indents and Spacing, Line Spacing, select Double
  • [OK]

Title of paper

Your title should summarize the main topic of your paper. There is no word limit, but don't get too wordy. APA Style Blog has further information: Five Steps to a Great Title. Capitalize all important words in title.

Example Titles

  • Attitudes of College Students Towards Transportation Fees
  • Effect of Red Light Cameras on Traffic Fatalities
  • Juror Bias in Capital Punishment Cases

Page Numbers

Pages should be numbered at top right.. Use built-in page numbering system, as shown below. Don't type page numbers manually. Page 1 is title page.

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Go to the Insert tab
  2. Under Header, select Edit Header (at the bottom)
    Edit Header
  3. Press Tab once or twice to go to the far right
  4. Click Page Number
  5. Click Current Position
  6. Click Simple / Plain Number
    Page Number > Current Position > Simple

Note: in APA 7th, "student papers" do NOT have a running title. This is a change from older versions of APA. A "running title" in APA is a shortened title in all capital letters  that appears in the header of each page. Only "professional papers" need a running title. Your professor will tell you if you need to write a "professional paper." 

Write your Student Paper, Step by Step

Your title page is page 1. Number should be on upper right. If not, see Add Page Numbers to Header above.

  1. Press Enter 3-4 times.
  2. Center your text.
  3. Type in the title of your paper, in bold.
  4. Press Enter twice, in order to have one blank line between the title and the next element.
  5. On the next line, type your full name.
  6. On the next line, type Western Kentucky University..
  7. On the next line, type your course number, a colon, and your course name.
  8. On the next line, type your instructor's name.
  9. On the next line, type the due date of the paper.

Example below:

Source: APA Style. Publication Manual  p.32 (Fig. 2.2), p. 61


The text (body) of your APA student paper begins on Page 2, right after title page.

The Font?

APA does not specify a specific font or size, just that it must be legible. The same font should be used throughout the paper. Some suggestions are 11-point Calibri, 11-point Arial, 10-point Lucida Sans Unicode, 12-point Times New Roman, and 11-point Georgia (see Section 2.19, p. 44).

If your instructor has specified a font or font size, use that one.

Source: Publication Manual, 2.19 

Sample Beginning, Body of Student Paper in APA 7th 

The example below shows how the beginning of the body (main part) of a student paper should look in APA 7th. Note the page number at upper right  This is Page 2 (Page 1 is the title page). First line is the title of your paper (repeated from the title page), centered, bold, title case (important words are capitalized). Set one-inch margins, 0.5-inch paragraph indent, double space, one space after period ending each sentence. Default settings on Word will usually work. Use tab key or paragraph format to indent first line of each paragraph. Right margin should be "ragged."

Notice the in-text citations in parentheses where the author has read and used ideas from  other authors. All ideas that are not your own or common knowledge should have in-text citations (Section 8.10-8.22, p. 261-269).Each in-text citation should match an entry in the References list on a separate page at the end of the body of the paper.  You may want to add entries to your References list as you write. If you do a lot of writing, you can use a "reference manager" such as Zotero to format your references automatically.

A free APA Tutorial covers scholarly writing basics. Consult Chapter 1 of manual and course instructor for help with specific kinds of papers.

Added note: many but not all,  papers are divided into sections with headings.  (See APA Style website for sample student paper with headings).. Inside front cover of Publication Manual shows how headings should look, if you use them. A complete sample student paper is shown in Publication Manual, p. 61-67.

Example, beginning of  student paper:

Heading of References List

The heading at the top of the reference list should say References and is bolded and centered. See Publication Manual p. 66,

The References list should be on a new page, and should be the last section of your paper. Compile your References list as you write your paper. Every time you mention a source in an in-text citation, add the full reference to your References list.


If you put this in-text citation in the body of your paper:

"... as stated by Reed ef al. (2009) ..."  (In-text citation in body of paper)


then you add the following entry to References list at end of paper:

Reed, M. J., Kennett, D. J., Lewis, T., Lund-Lucas, E., Stallberg, C., & Newbold, I. L. (2009). The relative effects of university success courses and individualized interventions for students with learning disabilities. Higher Education Research & Development28(4), 385–400.


Hanging Indent


All reference lists should have a hanging indent. An example of a hanging indent is shown above. Here's how to set up hanging indent in Word:

Reproduced from: Create a Hanging Indent

Hanging Indent (alternate method):

  • Highlight text
  • Right-click your mouse
  • Select Paragraph
  • Select Indentation>Special>Hanging>0.5" [Enter]


Line spacing in the reference list should be set to double (2.0).

Format of References

References list is formatted to give complete information so reader can look up the original source. Examples are shown in this guide, in the Publication Manual, Chapter 10, p. 313-352, and in APA Style. If you copy and paste them from library databases or formatters, you are responsible for correcting errors. If you are new to writing APA papers, find a similar example from APA and fix your reference so it looks like theirs. Ask your professor, the Writing Center, or WKU Libraries for help if needed.


Alphabetize References list by author's last name. Go letter by letter and ignore spaces, hyphens, punctuation etc.

If a work has no author, use title to alphabetize. Use the first significant word to alphabetize; this means you skip words like the, a, and an.


Here's how your list should look reproduced from APA Style:


Source: Publication Manual, 2.12; 9.44-9.49. APA Handour.