If you are new to essay writing, this post is for you. APA style is simply a description of how to set up an essay and how to cite the sources you use for information. An APA essay is set up with 1 inch margins all around and double spaced lines. Here's a sample page of an APA essay.
There are a couple of things to notice. First, each page has a header with a running head on it. The running head is a short version of the paper title in all caps. The reason that you use a shortened version is that some titles might stretch over more than one line, and all you need to do is identify the title for each page. Second, you have a page number in the upper right corner. If you don't know how to set up a running head in MS Word, then read this blog post: How to format headers in APA style.
Notice that in addition to double spacing the lines, there is no extra space between paragraphs and each paragraph starts with an indent of 1/2 inch.
An APA essay also includes a cover page. Here's how to format an APA cover page.
That's all there is to setting up the format of the APA essay. The rest of the details on APA style have to do with how to make citations. Notice that in APA style the references are in the form (Last Name, year, page). That means after you refer to any information from another source, you include a reference to that source. Put the last name of the author(s), the year of the publication and the page number that the information can be found on. If there is more than one author, list up to 5 names. If there are more than 5 authors, list four followed by et al. Notice that "al." is an abbreviation, so requires a period. After the period, put a comma like this: (Francis, Smith, Jones, Brown, et al., 2014, p. 14).
Here's the thing that stymies many students writing an essay in APA style: how to cite a web page. I've done a whole blog post on this, but here's a brief summary. See if you can find an author. If you can name a person who wrote the post (for example in a newspaper article found on-line) then cite the name of the author as you would normally do. If the article is posted by an organization, and the purpose of the organization is related to the topic, then cite the organization. That might be true for citing the Alzheimer's Society, or the Centers for Disease Control (CDC, 2014). But if it's an organization that is organized for the purpose of sharing widely disparate information, then cite the title of the article in quotation marks. This would be the case for example if you cite an article from wikipedia ("Africa", 2014). Notice the dates are included. Many webpages have a date somewhere on the page. If there is not date, put "n.d." Each citation needs to match a citation in your References page. The citations are arranged in alphabetical order according the the name of the author (or organization, or article title). In the citation on the reference page, you would include the full URL so any reader can locate the article. Remember, the purpose of a citation is to let a reader verify any information you provide, so you need to provide clear directions of how to find the original source. Generally this means four pieces of information: Author, Date, Publication, and Publishing source.
And that's APA citation in a nutshell! For more information on specifics of APA citations, I like to refer to the Writing Lab at Purdue University. Also, APA has a blog on which it posts helpful information and answers questions.