APA Template Guide

Guide: LibreOffice Writer template for student papers following APA style

This guide provides usage instructions for a template I designed for writing academic papers with LibreOffice Writer (“LibreOffice,” n.d.). The template was designed, in large part, to conform to the requirements of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA), 6th Edition (2009). In addition, the template incorporates certain formatting conventions and enhancements to assist university students in the writing of academic papers.

This guide assumes a certain basic knowledge of your computer operating system (e.g.: Linux, Mac OS, or Microsoft Windows), LibreOffice Writer, and the APA 6th edition style manual. Please also refer to your university’s specific requirements.

Download the template from Github.

Has this template helped you? Share your experiences in the Comments section, below. Or send some encouragement.

The Writer Workspace

To get the most out of the template, you are encouraged to enable the following features from the Writer menu:

  • Format > Style and Formatting
  • View > Field Shadings
  • View > Navigator, and
  • View > Comments

The Style and Formatting window allows you to select and apply pre-formatted styles to the paragraphs and headings within your document. Note that styles are a critical component for organizing and identifying the parts of your paper.

The Field Shadings tool highlights any text that is being inserted automatically by some feature of Writer. Such automated text is referred to as a field. Field shading will provide you a visual cue for where these fields are located so you won’t mistakenly remove them. For example, page numbers in this template are fields and they will be generated automatically. You will not need to key page numbers in directly. If you are using Zotero (“Zotero: Quick start guide,” n.d.), citations will be automated fields, as well.

The Navigator window is key in moving easily between sections of your paper. For example, an efficient way of moving between headings within the document is to double-click heading titles under the Headings item in the Navigator window.

The Comments feature displays margin notes in the Writer display window. The template contains some existing comments and you may wish to insert comments of your own, as notes to yourself, as you work on your paper.

Loading the Template

The template file itself is in a special template format and its filename ends with the .ott extension. To load the template, simply open it through the Writer File menu or by double-clicking the file itself. Writer will create a new document based on the template. That is, Writer does not actually open the template file itself. Because the template file is designated as a Writer template, Writer will generate a duplicate document which you will be required to save separately from the template file. (To edit the template file itself requires a different approach, outside the scope of this guide.) Thus, the template file remains unchanged, ready to be used as a launching point for subsequent documents you may wish to create.

Working with Styles

The Styles and Formatting window.
The Styles and Formatting window.

As noted earlier, styles are a critical component for organizing and identifying the parts of your paper. Styles are simply sets of formatting instructions that define the appearance and behaviour of any block of text to which the style is applied. For example, the default paragraph style in the template is set to Times New Roman, 12-pt., double-spaced, with an indent of 0.5 inches on the first line, as per the APA style manual (2009).

Styles are named and listed in the Style and Formatting window. To apply a style to some text, place your cursor within the text and then double-click the desired style name from the Style and Formatting window.

Rather than changing your text formatting by selecting blocks of text and then using Format > Paragraph or Format > Character or—worse still—using toolbar buttons to style your text in a piecemeal fashion, you are encouraged to use the Styles and Formatting window to select and apply from the collection of pre-formatted styles included with the template. The Styles and Formatting window provides access to the Paragraph Styles, Character Styles, and Page Styles used in this template. To switch between these various sets of styles click the appropriate icon at the top of the Styles and Formatting window.

Default paragraph style

The default paragraph style in the template is named custom. To change any paragraph to a different style place your cursor anywhere within the paragraph and then double-click on a style listed in the Styles and Formatting window, such as custom_Watch_blue. To change the style back, double-click the custom style.

Heading styles

There are five heading styles, as described in the APA style manual (2009, p. 62). Heading levels 1 and 2 are set as Paragraph Styles. They behave as paragraphs do, occupying their own space and being followed by a line break. Heading levels 3, 4, and 5 are set as Character Styles. Please refer to the APA style manual for an explanation of how these are to be used (American Psychological Association, 2009, p. 62).

Chapter headings

The level 1 heading is available in the template as a Paragraph Style named custom_Heading-1. Any headings that use this style will be automatically included in the Table of Contents (TOC). This style is set to prepend the word “Chapter” and the chapter number in Arabic numerals to the chapter title. (To change this label, see Tools > Outline Numbering.) Two alternate level 1 headings are available:

  • The custom_Heading-1 (No chapter) style excludes the “Chapter” label.
  • The custom_Heading-1 (Exclude from TOC) style excludes the “Chapter” label and will also exclude the heading from appearing in the TOC. You might apply this style to the TOC heading itself or similar sections like the List of Figures and the List of Tables.

Level 2 headings

The level 2 heading is available as custom_Heading-2. Headings using this style will be automatically included in the TOC. To exclude level 2 headings from the TOC, apply the custom_Heading-2 (Exclude from TOC) style instead. You might wish to exclude from the TOC the level 2 headings in sections such as appendices.

Other headings

Level 3, 4, and 5 headings are treated as inline headings, that is, they appear as part of paragraphs instead of as separate lines. Inline headings are found under the Character Styles section of the Styles and Formatting window. These styles are named custom_Heading-3-inline, custom_Heading-4-inline, and custom_Heading-5-inline. Unlike Paragraph Styles, which affect the entire paragraph in which a cursor is positioned, Character Styles will only be applied to selected blocks of text.

Custom and system styles

Most of the styles configured for the template are named with the “custom_” prefix. However, there are a few fixed system styles that cannot be renamed. These system Paragraph Styles are Bibliography 1, Default Style, Footer, and Header. A good way to see only the styles used in the template is to choose Applied Styles view from the bottom of the Styles and Formatting window. The Custom Styles view may be useful, as well.

Page styles

Page Styles are different from Paragraph Styles and can be found in the Page Styles section of the Styles and Formatting window. There are four key Page Styles in the template.

  • The Default Style applies to all inside pages, including Appendices. It places a page header with page number at the top of all its pages.
  • The custom_Page-title-page style is for the document title page.
  • The custom_Page-references style is for the references section at the end of the paper.
  • The custom_Page-right style is for pages, such as the beginnings of a chapter, that should start on an odd-numbered page, that is, on the right side of facing pages.

Note that this template is designed for U.S. letter-sized paper (8½ x 11 inches) in “portrait” orientation. The APA style manual appears to neglect providing any advice regarding paper size. It does indicate maximum line-length (16.51 cm) and side-margin widths (2.54 cm) the total of which could be met within the measure of A4 format paper (21 cm) (2009, p. 229).

Page numbering

The APA style manual indicates page numbering should start at the title page. However, the APA style manual does not provide any guidance regarding TOC, Lists of Figures, or Lists of Tables. These listings are often required in students papers such as dissertations and theses.

Title page

The content on the title page is centred vertically through the use of a text frame. This frame expands or shrinks according to the number of text lines it contains. It will remain vertically centred as the number of text lines changes.

Table of Contents

A format for a TOC is not expressly defined in the APA style manual. The format used in the template is based on the requirements at my university. Your institution may have different requirements.

The TOC will be generated automatically from headings styled as custom_Heading-1 or custom_Heading-2. The TOC itself is not listed in the TOC because its heading uses the custom_Heading-1 (Exclude from TOC) style.

Unlike stand-alone Paragraph Style headings (levels 1 and 2), inline Character Style headings cannot be used for generating automatic Table of Contents (TOC) entries in Writer.


An abstract can be accommodated by inserting the word “Abstract” in the desired location and applying the Paragraph Style custom_Heading-1 (Exclude from TOC) and the Page Style custom_Page-right (American Psychological Association, 2009, pp. 25–27, 41).


Appendices can be inserted by first typing the appendix title, for example, “Appendix A.” Set the Paragraph Style for the appendix title to custom_Heading-1. Set the Page Style to custom_Page-right.

Other page elements

Running heads

The document running head is set using the document properties. See File > Properties > Custom Properties.

Footer data

The footer for several of the Page Styles contains an automated field that displays the path and filename of the current document, with the date and time of the latest file save. This is meant for tracking drafts and is not required by APA style. The footer text may be deleted when your document is ready to be submitted.


The APA style manual permits limited footnotes (American Psychological Association, 2009, p. 37). Place the cursor at the position where you want the footnote to be referenced, then select Insert > Footnote/Endnote.

The formatting for footnote containers, such as the separator line, is styled separately from the custom_Footnote Paragraph Style. Instead, style the footnote container through its associated Page Style. To change the formatting for a footnote container select the desired Page Style, access the Modify command through a context-click (right-click or Ctrl-click), then select the Footnote tab.



The template is optimized for duplex (two-sided) printing. Certain pages can be styled using the custom_Page-right Page Style. This does a couple of things. First, it makes the styled page into the right-hand (odd-numbered) page. Second, if the page would have otherwise been a left-hand page (even-numbered) then a blank page is inserted. These blank pages do not appear in the Writer interface but they will be generated when the document is printed. To make sure these blank pages are inserted when printing, select File > Printer Settings… > Options…, then activate the checkbox for Print automatically inserted blank pages.

Citations and references: Zotero

In addition to LibreOffice Writer, I strongly recommend the Firefox web browser along with the Zotero plugin. I simply cannot imagine creating any academic paper without these tools (“Download Firefox,” n.d., “Zotero: Quick start guide,” n.d.).

Template Extras

There are two versions of the template. The bare version contains a few blank pages from which you can start working immediately.

The extended version of the template provides comprehensive examples of Paragraph Styles, Character Styles, and Page Styles, along with some description of their use. The extended template also displays information that may be helpful while the document is in draft form. The information includes document statistics, document metadata, and document user data. This additional content may be deleted once your paper is ready to be submitted.

Styles Listing

The following lists the customized styles available within the template, along with some brief descriptions.

Paragraph Styles

  • Bibliography 1 – For the references list. (Applied automatically by Zotero.)
  • custom – Default style for all text.
  • custom_Blockquote – For longer quotations (American Psychological Association, 2009, pp. 92, 170–171).
  • custom_Content-listing+ – Shared base style for custom_Contents-… styles (not used directly).
  • custom_Contents-1 – TOC listing for level 1 headings.
  • custom_Contents-2 – TOC listing for level 2 headings.
  • custom_Footnote – For footnotes.
  • custom-Heading-… –
    • custom_Heading+ – Base style for custom_Heading-… styles (not used directly).
    • custom_Heading-1 – Level 1 heading, with chapter number and flagged for TOC.
    • custom_Heading-1 (Exclude from TOC) – Level 1 heading, excluded from TOC.
    • custom_Heading-1 (No chapter) – Level 1 heading, excluded from TOC and without chapter number.
    • custom_Heading-2 – Level 2 heading, flagged for TOC.
    • custom_Heading-2 (Exclude from TOC) – Level 2 heading, excluded for TOC and without chapter number.
    • custom_Heading-title-page (caps) – All-caps heading for title page.
  • custom_List-of-Figures (Contents 1) – Listing for List of Figures.
  • custom_List-of-Tables (Contents 1) – Listing for List of Tables.
  • custom_Page-footer – Page footer for tracking draft versions.
  • custom_Page-header – Page header with running head and page number.
  • custom_Table… – For formatting parts of tables.
    • custom_Table
    • custom_Table (No TOC)
    • custom_Table-caption (footer) – Caption below table.
    • custom_Table-caption (header) – Caption above table.
    • custom_Table-note
    • custom_Table-number
    • custom_Table-text – Table contents.
  • custom_Watch… – This group of seven styles are a tool for highlighting and grouping paragraphs while your paper is in draft form. They mark the paragraph with a vertical line in the left margin. They are interchangeable with the default Paragraph Style custom. They are not part of APA style and should be replaced with the custom Paragraph Style before your paper is submitted.
    • custom_Watch-black
    • custom_Watch-black-dashed
    • custom_Watch-black-double
    • custom_Watch-blue
    • custom_Watch-green
    • custom_Watch-orange
    • custom_Watch-pink
  • Default Style – Unused.
  • Footer – Unused.

Character Styles

  • custom_Heading-… These three heading styles conform to the APA style “paragraph headings” (American Psychological Association, 2009, pp. 62).
    • custom_Heading-3-inline
    • custom_Heading-4-inline
    • custom_Heading-5-inline

Page Styles

  • custom_Page-left – Used to ensure a page appears on the left-hand side of facing pages (even-numbered).
  • custom_Page-references – Style for the references section.
  • custom_Page-right – Used to ensure a page appears on the right-hand side of facing pages (odd-numbered).
  • custom_Page-title-page – For title page.
  • Default Style – Unused.
  • References – Unused.
  • Title Page – Unused.
  • TOC – Unused.


The designer of the template offers no guarantees that it will be appropriate for your purposes or that it will work in any way at all. Use at your own risk. Constructive feedback is welcome but the template designer does not offer any support for the template.


Has this template helped you? Share your experiences in the Comments section, below. Or send some encouragement.
See this page at https://kinasevych.ca/index.php