Common APA Style Mistakes

Writing or formatting research papers in APA style is a very delicate work. This requires a lot of learning and practice, without which slight errors can pose great blunders. In order to avoid committing common APA style mistakes in your research paper, we are going to provide some useful instruction on how to avoid these common mistakes while writing your own paper.

The present article shows some common APA style mistakes made in research papers, along with their appropriate correction. We cover the basic sections of APA style research papers, including the general formatting and reference formatting of the paper.

Some Common APA Style Mistakes in General Formatting

Page Numbers / Running Head

Incorrect: In most research papers, the page numbers and the short title, also known as the running head is either missed out or not formatted correctly.

Correct: The short title, also called the running head appears in the header of all numbered pages. Starting from the title page, all pages should be numbered consecutively and appear in the upper right corner of each page. For more detailed information regarding APA style formatting, kindly refer to APA style guide.


Incorrect: Some research papers forget to format the ‘Abstract’ section correctly, while some completely forget to even mention this section in their paper. The abstract heading is formatted in bold or italics.

Correct: ‘Abstract’ is the first impression of your paper. It is highly advised to include an abstract as far as possible. The abstract appears on a new page, and the heading is centred and formatted as the rest of the text. More information about formatting the abstract correctly can be read in our article on how to write an abstract in APA style.


Incorrect: Keywords are not listed in the abstract section.

Correct: Keywords are used by search engines to find the information that the reader is searching. Keywords are listed below the abstract and are formatted according to the APA style guide.


Incorrect: Most of the papers had incorrect or inappropriate headings, which were either of wrong level or were incorrectly formatted.

Correct: Headings are quite tricky to format in APA style. Research article’s heading are comparatively easier to format than literature review article’s heading, which is a bit more challenging. All headings, whether first level heading or second level heading or third level heading, and so on, must be equally important in the point they are mentioned.

In-text Citations

Incorrect: Most common errors found in in-text citations include, spelling irregularities, wrong use of ‘et al.’, inaccurate use of commas and ampersands, and jumbled arrangement of multiple citations in a single parenthesis.

Correct: In-text citations should be accurate and valid. The names and year of publication of citations should be consistent throughout the paper. Multiple citations appearing in a single parenthesis should be arranged in an alphabetic order.


Incorrect: Providing direct quotations without page numbers.

Correct: It is advised to provide page numbers for direct quotations as this will save time and energy used in searching the page that the quotation is taken from. For more information on formatting style, kindly refer to our article on APA style of formatting.

Some Common APA Style Mistakes in Reference Formatting


Incorrect: References are not listed and formatted properly.

Correct: References appear on a new page and are formatted with hanging indentation. The heading is centred and formatted like the rest of the text.

Reference list

Incorrect: Most common APA style mistakes found in the reference list formatting include wrong use of commas, full stops, ampersands, etc., or inappropriate formatting of the reference list.

Correct: Reference list can be effectively formatted using available referencing software. However, in order to format the reference list manually, it is necessary to read carefully and learn the correct way of reference formatting in APA style.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Incorrect: In most research papers, DOIs are either omitted or scarcely provided.

Correct: DOI is a distinctive alphanumeric string used to identify content and offer a constant link to its location on the Internet. DOIs are recommended to be provided with the references as this will help the readers in finding the desired references more easily.

The above mentioned rules offer guidance to avoid the most common APA style mistakes while writing a research paper. Following these guidelines thoroughly can be little difficult. However, regular practice will eventually make you more familiar and better acquainted with the basic rules of APA style.

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