by Chelsea Lee
You’ve burned through the midnight oil. You’ve written the last word, double-, nay, triple-checked the reference list, and as the sun clambers over the windowsill you face the last remaining question: What to call this work of staggering genius? You are tempted to play the facetious card and call your paper “A Study of the Effects of Red Bull on a Person's Ability to Form Coherent Sentences,” but the long-term implications of such a title for your academic success give you pause. What else, then, shall suffice?
The title of your paper is incredibly important. A paper’s title not only sets readers’ expectations for what the paper will be about but may also determine whether it gets read at all—or with how much trepidation versus excitement it is greeted.
Below are five general principles that, if followed, will produce a great title:
- A great title summarizes the main idea of the paper. Your title should identify the key issues under investigation as well as how they relate to each other. The title “The Effects of Transformed Letters on Reading Speed” achieves this goal, whereas the title “Transformed Letters and Reading Speed” identifies the elements but misses the relationship.
- A great title has a length of 12 words or fewer. If your attempts to create a summarizing title have produced a five-line manifesto, try to pare it down to the essentials. Keep in mind that 12 words is a guideline, not a hard ceiling.
- A great title includes only words that contribute meaning. Phrases such as “A Study of,” “An Experimental Investigation of,” or “The Results of” are like empty calories (not unlike most of what’s in that Red Bull...). Make your title easier to digest by cutting the fat. “The Results of a Study of The Effects of Heavy Metal Music on Plant Growth” can slim down to “The Effects of Heavy Metal Music on Plant Growth” or even the jazzier “How Heavy Metal Music Stimulates Plant Growth.”
- A great title gives away the ending. If your title is in the form of a yes–no question, try rephrasing it so that the question is answered or the answer at least alluded to. This primes the reader for deeper comprehension. If Philip K. Dick had written for an academic audience, you might be perusing Androids Dream of Electric Sheep: Empathy in Nonhuman Species before bed tonight. (Click the image of the book cover at the right to read about his actual book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.)
- A great title says it with style. Academic writing must be precise, but it needn’t be fusty. Consider these titles of real published psychology articles: “The Unicorn, the Normal Curve, and Other Improbable Creatures” (Micceri, 1989, Psychological Bulletin) and “Pride, Prejudice, and Ambivalence: Toward a Unified Theory of Race and Ethnicity” (Markus, 2008, American Psychologist). These titles pique readers’ interest while also conveying essential information about the content of the article.
Armed with these principles, you are now ready to give your next paper a great title. You can also read more about titles in the Publication Manual in section 2.01 (p. 23).
APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 6th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6th ed., 2nd printing).
Contributors: Joshua M. Paiz, Elizabeth Angeli, Jodi Wagner, Elena Lawrick, Kristen Moore, Michael Anderson, Lars Soderlund, Allen Brizee, Russell Keck
Last Edited: 2018-02-21 02:26:13
Please use the example at the bottom of this page to cite the Purdue OWL in APA.
To see a side-by-side comparison of the three most widely used citation styles, including a chart of all APA citation guidelines, see the Citation Style Chart.
You can also watch our APA vidcast series on the Purdue OWL YouTube Channel.
General APA Guidelines
Your essay should be typed and double-spaced on standard-sized paper (8.5" x 11"), with 1" margins on all sides. You should use a clear font that is highly readable. APA recommends using 12 pt. Times New Roman font.
Include a page header (also known as the "running head") at the top of every page. To create a page header/running head, insert page numbers flush right. Then type "TITLE OF YOUR PAPER" in the header flush left using all capital letters. The running head is a shortened version of your paper's title and cannot exceed 50 characters including spacing and punctuation.
Major Paper Sections
Your essay should include four major sections: the Title Page, Abstract, Main Body, and References.
The title page should contain the title of the paper, the author's name, and the institutional affiliation. Include the page header (described above) flush left with the page number flush right at the top of the page. Please note that on the title page, your page header/running head should look like this:
Running head: TITLE OF YOUR PAPER
Pages after the title page should have a running head that looks like this:
TITLE OF YOUR PAPER
After consulting with publication specialists at the APA, OWL staff learned that the APA 6th edition, first printing sample papers have incorrect examples of running heads on pages after the title page. This link will take you to the APA site where you can find a complete list of all the errors in the APA's 6th edition style guide.
Type your title in upper and lowercase letters centered in the upper half of the page. APA recommends that your title be no more than 12 words in length and that it should not contain abbreviations or words that serve no purpose. Your title may take up one or two lines. All text on the title page, and throughout your paper, should be double-spaced.
Beneath the title, type the author's name: first name, middle initial(s), and last name. Do not use titles (Dr.) or degrees (PhD).
Beneath the author's name, type the institutional affiliation, which should indicate the location where the author(s) conducted the research.
Image Caption: APA Title Page
Begin a new page. Your abstract page should already include the page header (described above). On the first line of the abstract page, center the word “Abstract” (no bold, formatting, italics, underlining, or quotation marks).
Beginning with the next line, write a concise summary of the key points of your research. (Do not indent.) Your abstract should contain at least your research topic, research questions, participants, methods, results, data analysis, and conclusions. You may also include possible implications of your research and future work you see connected with your findings. Your abstract should be a single paragraph, double-spaced. Your abstract should be between 150 and 250 words.
You may also want to list keywords from your paper in your abstract. To do this, indent as you would if you were starting a new paragraph, type Keywords: (italicized), and then list your keywords. Listing your keywords will help researchers find your work in databases.
Image Caption: APA Abstract Page
Please see our Sample APA Paper resource to see an example of an APA paper. You may also visit our Additional Resources page for more examples of APA papers.
How to Cite the Purdue OWL in APA
Contributors' names and the last edited date can be found in the orange boxes at the top of every page on the OWL.
Contributors' names (Last edited date). Title of resource. Retrieved from http://Web address for OWL resource
Angeli, E., Wagner, J., Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderlund, L., & Brizee, A. (2010, May 5). General format. Retrieved from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/