How to Use APA Format in Google Docs

Format any academic paper with ease

If you use Google Docs for academic writing, then you'll likely need to be familiar with APA format. While you can use a Google Docs template, it also helps to know how to set up APA format in Google Docs manually, too.

Instructions in this article apply to the web version of Google Docs. The steps are the same for all web browsers and operating systems.

What Is APA Format?

Your instructor might have specific requirements, but most papers in APA format should include the following:

  • Double-spaced text with no extra spaces between paragraphs.
  • Size 12 Times New Roman font, or a similarly legible font.
  • One-inch page margins on all sides.
  • A header that includes the title of your paper and the page number.
  • A title page that includes the title of your paper, your name, and your school's name.
  • Body paragraphs begin with a 1/2 inch indent.
  • A References page at the end of the paper.
  • In-text citations for specific quotes or facts.

The Google Doc APA template includes headings that you may or may not need. For example, your instructor might not require a 'Methodology' or 'Results' section. The American Psychological Association's website has the official guidelines for APA style.

How to Use the APA Template in Google Docs

Google Docs offers several templates that automatically format your documents. To set up the APA template in Google Docs:

  1. Open a new document and select File > New > From template.

    The From Template option in Google Docs.
  2. The template gallery will open in a separate browser tab. Scroll down to the Education section and select Report APA.

    The Report APA template in Google Docs.

    If you need to set up MLA format in Google Docs, there's also a template for that.

  3. A new document will open containing dummy text in APA format. With the proper formatting already in place, you just need to change the words. If there are sections you don't need, delete them.

    Google Docs APA template with dummy text

How to Do APA Format on Google Docs

Since the template can be a little confusing, you should understand how to set up APA style in Google Docs step-by-step. Once you format your paper, you can save it to use as your own personal template for the future:

  1. Change the font to Times New Roman and the font size to 12.

    The Font style and size options in Google Docs.

    Google Docs uses 1-inch margins all round by default, so you don't need to change the margins.

  2. Select Insert > Headers & footers > Header.

    The Google Docs Insert menu showing how to add a header.

    You can easily change and remove headers on Google Docs at any time.

  3. The font for the header will revert to the default, so change it to 12 point Times New Roman and type the title of your paper in all caps.

    The font style and size in Google Docs.

    You can use a shortened version of your title if it is particularly long.

  4. Select Insert > Page numbers > Page count.

    The Page Numbers option in Google Docs.
  5. Move the text cursor to the left side of the page number and press the spacebar or tab key until it is aligned with the top-right margin, then check the box under Different first page.

    The different first page header option in Google Docs.
  6. The text you entered will disappear from the first page, but it will appear on subsequent pages. Type Running head: followed by a space, then type your title in all caps.

    The correct title for an APA paper in the header of a Google Doc.
  7. Type the number 1, then move the text cursor to the left side of the page number and press the spacebar or tab key until it is aligned with the top-right margin.

    The page number aligned with the top-right margin.

    Make sure the font is set to the same font as the rest of your text.

  8. Click or tap anywhere below the header, then select Format > Line Spacing > Double.

    The Double Spacing option in Google Docs.

    Alternately, select the Line spacing icon in the toolbar at the top of the page and choose Double.

  9. Press the Enter key until the text cursor is about mid-way down the page and select Center Align.

    The Double Spacing option in Google Docs.
  10. Type the paper’s full title, your full name, and your school’s name on separate lines.

    APA title page in Google Docs
  11. Select Insert > Break > Page Break to start a new page.

    The page break option in Google Docs.
  12. Select Center Align and type Abstract.

    The Center Align option on the Google Doc toolbar.
  13. Press Enter, select Left Align.

    The Left Align option on the toolbar in Google Docs.
  14. Select Tab to indent, then type your abstract.

    APA style abstract page in Google Docs

    Google Doc's default ident of 0.5 inches is appropriate for APA format.

  15. Select Insert > Break > Page Break to start a new page, then press the Tab key and begin typing the body of your paper. Begin each new paragraph with an indent.

    You can set custom indents in Google Docs using the ruler tool.

  16. When you're finished with the body of your paper, select Insert > Break > Page Break to create a new page for your references.

Formatting References for APA Style

At the end of your paper, there should be a separate page that begins with the word “References” (without quotation marks) centered below the heading. The appropriate format for each reference depends on the type of source. For instance, use the following format to reference articles found on the web:

  • Author last name, first name (year, month day). Title. Publication. URL.

So, an online news article can be referenced as follows:

Your references should be alphabetized by the author's last name, and each entry needs a hanging indent, which means that every line after the first one is indented.

APA References page in Google Docs

In-text Citations for APA Style

APA style also requires in-text citations. Follow all facts or quotes with a citation in the format (Author last, publication year, p. #) after the quote or before the sentence's end punction. For example:

  • (Atwood, 2019, p. 43)

You can omit the page number if you're referencing an entire work.

The American Psychological Association website has more examples of references in APA style.

  • How do I create an APA table in Google Docs?

    Select Insert from the Google Docs menu bar, followed by Table. From the pull-down menu, choose the number of rows and columns for your table (1x1 minimum, 20x20 maximum). Remove all vertical lines in the table by selecting them, then select the Border Color tool and choose a color that matches the table background. Do the same for the horizontal lines, except when those lines are needed for data clarity. Type the number of the table (in bold) above the table, then type the table's title in title case (and in italics) below that. Include any relevant notes below the table.

  • How do I fix APA citations in Google Docs?

    Change the formatting of citations that have already been written to APA by selecting Tools from the menu bar, followed by Citations. A citation format sidebar will appear on the right side of the screen. Select APA from the drop-down menu to have Google Docs change your citation format accordingly.

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