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Apa Essay Format Checklist

Writing Center staff created this APA checklist to help students remember the basics of APA citations, reference lists, and style. It is not meant to be comprehensive, but students should use it as a reminder of the various APA rules that academic papers follow. If students are not sure what a particular item in the checklist refers to or entails, they should follow the link for more information. Additionally, the Writing Center can always help with APA questions at writingsupport@waldenu.edu.


  • Citations are included in each sentence a source is used
  • Sources used and cited in the paper are included in the reference list
  • The abbreviation “et al.” is punctuated appropriately
  • Parenthetical citations:
    • Author(s) and publication year are always included
    • Page or paragraph  number is included for all quoted material, using the appropriate abbreviation: (p. xx) or (para. xx)
    • Citation is included within the ending punctuation for the sentence
  • Narrative citations
    • Author(s) is included within the sentence
    • Publication year is included in parentheses immediately after the author(s)’ name
    • Publication rule is followed: publication years are included the first time a source is used in a paragraph; all subsequent uses of that same source does not include the publication year (Note: Rule starts over with a new paragraph)

Reference List

  • Title of the list is centered but not bolded
  • Sources listed in the reference list are used at least once in the paper
    • Reference entries:
      • Each entry has an automatically formatted hanging indent
      • Each entry has the basic information (as available): author(s), publication year, title, and retrieval information
      • Each entry has been compared against the common reference entries and reference list basics on the Writing Center website, checking for:
        • Punctuation: periods and commas
        • Formatting: italics is used only when needed
        • Parentheses and brackets: used only when needed
        • Appropriate electronic information is included

APA Style

  • Past tense is used whenever literature or sources are talked about (i.e., Smith discussed)
  • Serial commas are used for all lists of three or more items (i.e., lions, tigers, and bears)
  • Hyphens are:
  • Used to join words that work together to modify another word (i.e., evidenced-based practice)
  • Used to join “self” compounds (i.e., self-esteem)
  • Not used with prefixes such as non, semi, pre, post, anti, multi, and inter
  • Block quotes (of 40 or more words) are formatted as such
  • Headings follow proper APA style (i.e., level 1 headings are centered and bolded)
  • Numbers:
    • 10 and above are expressed using numerals
    • Nine and below are expressed using words
    • Expressing specific numbers and time use numerals
    • Expressing approximate time use words
  • Complex lists of items follow seriation rules (using letters within the list)
  • Bulleted and numbered lists are used for specific reasons
  • The third person editorial we is avoided (including us, our, and you)
  • Capitalization rules are followed (i.e., names of models and theories are not capitalized)
  • Formatting:
    • Template is used
    • Title page follows the template guidelines
    • Double spacing is used throughout the paper (including the reference list)
    • Two spaces are used consistently between sentences (note that Walden University allows one space between sentences instead--just be consistent in using one option or the other throughout the paper).

APA Essay Checklist for Students

The American Psychological Association (APA) is one of the largest scientific and professional associations in the United States, and it has created a set of citation rules and formatting guidelines for scholarly writing to ensure a professional standard of academic integrity.

To create an essay that follows APA style, you need to focus on two things:

  • In-text citations, which show where you found your sources that you are quoting, summarizing, or paraphrasing.
  • Formatting visual elements, (such as titles, headings, page numbers, graphs, and charts, etc.), which organizes the essay for readability.
Here's an APA checklist for your formatted essay, with embedded links to the AWC's resources:

Additional Help

For more help with APA style and formatting, here are some additional resources:

  • APA Template
    This is a template that you can edit to help you format your paper properly according to Ashford's APA standards.
  • In-Text Citation Guide
    This webpage goes over how to do citations within the body of your paper or assignment.
  • An Overview of APA Key Elements
    This webpage is a checklist of all of the key elements of APA 6th ed. style that are required for student papers at Ashford University.
  • Reference List Entry Models
    This guide contains examples of references in APA style by type.
  • APA Style Aid
    The APA Style Aid offers examples of in-text citations, reference page entries, and block quoting.
  • Purdue OWL
    A great resource for general help about APA formatting

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