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Learning how to write a term paper in APA format

Let’s face it. Term papers can be scary. For one thing, they usually have a lot more to do with your final grade than anyone could ever be comfortable with. Beyond that, though, your instructor or professor will usually want you to write it in either MLA or APA format, each of which entails following strict standards to keep within the boundaries defined by the style.

But don’t panic! No one expects you to have those standards memorized, or perfectly down pat. Just as long as you know where to find the information, you will be fine. Here we’ll start with a simple starting list for APA format.

Format your page itself

APA is weirdly specific about absolutely everything. Take these steps before you even begin writing the body of your text.

  • Put a one-inch margin around all edges of your page (this is actually the norm for how a document is formatted when you first open, but just be sure to double check the margins anyway).
  • Use Times New Roman font in size 12 unless your instructor specifies otherwise.
  • Double-space the whole shebang.
  • Insert your headers. Page number goes on the top right of every page; title header goes on the top left of every page in all caps.

Jump through the hoops: title page, abstract, references

Even when you write the body of your text, that’s not all that’s required of you for an APA-style term paper. Here’s what else you’ll need to include.

  • The title page, the very first page of your document, should include the title of your paper (duh), your name, your school or institution name, and any other information your instructor specifically requires of you. Capitalize the first letter of each word in your title except articles (a, an, the) and prepositions (of, on, with, etc.)
  • The abstract is not necessarily a required part of all term papers in APA format, but if your instructor is asking for a lengthy paper, she is probably also wanting an abstract. It’s just a summary of your whole paper, about 150 or so words, and it should come right after the title page.
  • The reference page is where you will list all of the sources you used and cited in the body of your text. It should be on its own page, even if the last page of your paper itself has only a little text. Type “References” at the top of the reference page, and order all entries alphabetically.


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