Format Nursing Papers in APA Format: A Guide

Written by Brandon L.
May 21, 202417 min read

The Institute of Medicine shows that nurses are responsible for 65% of healthcare delivered in the US. With this amount of responsibility, students preparing to join the nursing profession must adhere to the highest academic standards. One way to ensure this is by following formatting guidelines when writing nursing school assignments. The American Psychological Association (APA) style is a standard formatting style used in nursing papers that provides a comprehensive framework for structuring documents, citing sources, and presenting research findings.

Since nursing studies rely on evidence-based practice, rigorous research, and attention to detail in conveying ideas and documenting sources, one must master how to format nursing papers in APA format. Whether you are writing an essay or research paper, following proper referencing in nursing papers is essential for success.

In this article, we will provide you with all the details of APA format nursing, from forming title pages, headings, citations, references, and overall paper structure.

What is APA and Why Is APA Important for Nursing Papers?

APA guidelines refer to the set of writing institutions, and guidelines followed when citing papers in Nursing, psychology, and related fields. These guidelines are provided by The American Psychological Association (APA, 2006) to facilitate scientific communication for manuscripts submitted to the same publication. Thus, the APA formatting style is used in papers submitted to publications and student papers submitted to nursing schools.

Nursing students are encouraged to use the APA formatting style for the following reasons:

Provide Clear and Concise Citations

APA style enables uniformity in locating critical findings and ideas in nursing and medical research and provides clear guidelines on how to cite these sources. By including these sources in your paper, it ensures that proper credibility is given to the original authors while also allowing readers to assess the provided information.

Encourage Clarity of Information

APA guidelines provide a standardized way of formatting all nursing papers, including title pages, spacing margins, etc. This encourages uniformity and consistency in the papers, which allows readers to easily read them.

In addition, APA encourages the use of clear language, such as active voice, unambiguous tone, and being mindful of the writing style.

Provide Logical Organization of Ideas

APA formatting guidelines emphasize the logical organization of information, which is crucial in nursing papers. You must include headings and subheadings to divide the information in your paper into logical sections. This ensures your arguments and ideas are well-represented and organized with enough scientific evidence.

Please note that using the APA format in nursing is challenging, but our nursing writers understand this. If you are struggling, our writers can help.

How to write Nursing papers in APA Style

Now that you understand why using the APA style in your nursing papers is important, let's dive into how to use it.

Nursing Paper Title Page in APA Format

The first thing you will need to write is an APA title page. It should appear on the top page of your nursing paper. A good title must be clear and concise and express the main ideas discussed in the body section. Ensure you eliminate irrelevant words or phrases. Additionally, do not include abbreviations in the title of your nursing paper.

According to the APA manual 7th edition, a good title page must include the following key elements in order:

Page Number

A page number is the first element appearing on a title page. When you want to write nursing papers in APA format, place the page number at the top right side of the page. Ensure you keep a 1-inch side margin and 0.5-inch top margin.

Title of the Paper or Essay

The second element of the title page is the title itself. Center the title at least 3–4 lines from the top margin. Capitalize the first letter of every important word then bold the whole title.

Please note that there is no maximum length for writing titles in nursing. However, ensure the title is clear and concise. For instance, the Impact of the Middle Eastern War on the Lives of Women and Children.

Author Byline

This is where you provide your details for readers to know who you are. Just like the title, center your name just below the title (leave a double space below the two). Write your name using both Upper case and Lower Case, for example, John Smith.

If you wrote the paper or essay with another person, include their names and separate the names with the word "and." If this was a group project and there were more than two people, separate each name with a comma (,) and use the word "and" to separate the last name.


The affiliation is your institution's name. Provide both the course department and the name of the school, which are separated by a comma. For instance, the Department of Nursing, Harvard University. This information should appear below the author by line. Place a double space between the two.

Course Name and Number

Just below the author affiliation, provide the course number and name. Use a colon to separate the two. For instance, BIO 204: Introduction to Biology.

Instructors Name

After the course name and number, place a double space, and then write your instructor's name. Just like the other elements, center the names and write them just as they appear on the course manual. For instance, Dr. Edward Smith.

Assignment Due Date

When using APA style for nursing papers, you must also provide the due date for your assignment. Center this information just below the name of your instructor. There is no appropriate way to write the date; use the standard date format in your country.

The following is an APA nursing paper example for a title Page,

Source: APA Style

Write the Abstract

When writing nursing papers in APA format, you must provide an abstract, which comes after the title page. An abstract is a short, comprehensive summary of your paper that describes what you have done in the research paper.

An abstract is necessary for the following reasons:

The recommended length for an abstract in APA format is 250 words. Anything above that will be deemed unnecessary.

The abstract of your research paper should address the following:

According to APA, the abstract of a nursing paper must include descriptive keywords that capture the most important parts of your research. Some of the keywords you should use include research, population, method, and research topic. Include at least three or five of these keywords in the paper.

How to Format an Abstract in APA Style

Follow these instructions to write an abstract:

For the keywords, indent them and use the title "keywords" for easy identification. Follow these guidelines to format the keywords.

Please note that if your instructor asks you to include a running head, you need to provide it at the top margin of every page in your paper. The running head appears with the page number. Follow these guidelines to insert a running head in MS Word.

Running heads are not necessary for student papers, but they are mandatory for professional papers.

Here is an example of an abstract of an APA-style paper.

How to Structure the Nursing APA Paper

Here is how you are supposed to structure the body of your paper.


If you have added a running head, ensure you include it in the body of the essay or research paper and repeat the title of the paper.

Once you have written this, include a concise introduction that provides a context for the paper. Unlike an abstract, an introduction describes and provides the context of your research. It must include the following information:

The introduction of the nursing paper must begin on a new line.

When writing an introduction, move from general to specific, and then end with a thesis statement. Ensure you include the importance of the problem and why the research was necessary.

There is no need to include the label "introduction" because its position is easily identifiable.


Another piece of information to include when writing a nursing paper structure in APA is the research methodology. This section is important because it describes how you conducted the research and ensures it is reproducible. Ensure you provide the following subheading in the method section of your research paper:

The methodology section can range between 1500 to 2500, depending on the length of your research paper.

APA Results Section

Also called the findings, the results section outlines what you find out in your research. It is essentially the most important part of the research paper. You have to report your findings based on the research questions in order. Ensure you write this section without any bias.

Please ensure you are summarizing the results of the study instead of reporting them in full detail.

The APA results section should also include both text and illustrations. Doing so makes it easier for readers to go through the results of your findings, especially if you are dealing with large amounts of data.

Consider using tables and figures to summarize these results. The best way to do this is to first create the tables and figures, organize the results logically, and then provide a summary of your findings.

A table outlines numerical data and textual information, e.g., responses from the research participants. On the other hand, a figure is any other thing that is not a table. This could be a graph, chart, plot, drawing, etc.

Follow the above guidelines to follow tables and figures in nursing research:

Table number.

This must appear above the title of the table in bold. If there is more than one table, number them in the order they appear in the paper.


The title comes second after the table number. Place a double space between the two. Capitalize the title in italic title case.


Depending on how you arranged your research data, a table could have multiple headings. For all your tables, include a column heading and a subheading (leftmost). If there is no other suitable heading, use the label "variable." Ensure you center the headings.

According to the Publication Manual, some tables could have column spanners, table spanners, and decked heads.


The body section of your table should include rows and columns.

The following is an illustration of the components of a table in APA.

Source: APA

Figures must have the following components:


This appears first on top of the title in bold font.


Place a double space below the number and capitalize the title of the figure in an italic title case. Ensure you provide a descriptive title.


This could be the graph, photograph, or chat you plan to use in the paper.


If present, provide a legend or key within the figure's border. Ensure you explain all the symbols used in the figure.


Nursing papers in APA format must also include a discussion section as the final part of the body section. This is where you evaluate, interpret, and explain the implications and limitations of your research findings.

According to the APA guidelines, the discussion section must draw inferences and conclusions from your results; you must show how it contributes to the field of nursing.

So, how do you structure the discussion section in the APA section?


The reference section is the last page of your research paper or essay. It consists of the following elements: author, date, title, and source.

The most important element in the reference section is consistency. Here are the rules for formatting the reference section;

Please note that for essays, you do not need to include the discussion, results, or method section. An essay in APA format only has four main parts: The title page, the abstract, the main body, and the reference page.

In-text Citation for Nursing Papers

In APA, your essay or research paper must include an in-text citation, which is a brief reference in the body section of the paper. This is one way of acknowledging the contributions of other authors in your field.

So, how do you cite and in-text citations in APA? An in-text citation in APA follows the Author-Date format (year of publication), e.g., (Smith, 1996.)

The following are general guidelines for in-text citation:

Only use in-text citations where appropriate, for instance, when you do either of the following:

Nursing Paper Headings and Subheadings

Headings are important when writing nursing papers in APA format. These headings help in dividing the different sections of your paper. All your headings should be as descriptive as possible.

APA style of referencing has five levels of headings.

  1. Level 1- This is the highest level of heading.
  2. Level 2- is the subheading of level 1.
  3. Level 3- This comes below level 2.
  4. Level 4 is the subheading of level 3.
  5. Level 5 is the subheading of level 4,

You do not need to use all the heading levels. The number you use will depend on the length and complexity of your nursing paper.

Final Word

Writing nursing papers in APA format is one of the ways of ensuring uniformity and consistency in your work. Writing a paper in APA format requires that you begin with a title page, abstract, body of the paper, and reference section. Ensure you follow all the above instructions to ensure your paper meets all the APA guidelines.

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