APA Research Paper Format
Research papers written according to the stylistic guidelines set forth by the American Psychological Association (APA) must follow a specific format as outlined by the APA's Publication Manual. Formatting APA research papers is strikingly different from formatting research papers according to the style outlined by the Modern Language Association (MLA), so take care to follow the specific requirements of the class and discipline the article is for. Typically, fields in the social sciences follow APA style, and fields in the humanities follow MLA. Also keep in mind that there is a difference between APA articles that report on a topic by performing investigative research of existing scholarly literature and APA articles that report on the researcher's own, individually-designed study. This article is about the former.
APA research paper format follows a particular presentation order that typically includes (1) a title page, (2) an abstract, (3) an introduction, (4) a literature review, (5) a results or findings section, (6) a discussion of the implications of the results, (7) a list of references, and (8) if needed or helpful, an appendix. When formatting APA research papers, the writer should be sure that each element of the project follows the specific guidelines of APA style as detailed below.
The title page features the title of the report; the researcher's name and institution; if applicable, the name of the class for which the report was written; and a running head. The running head is a distinguishing characteristic of APA research paper format, and requires that an abbreviated form of the title is presented as a header at the top of the title page.
An abstract is a summary of a report and its findings, and is used by researchers to quickly and easily determine if the report at hand is relevant to a topic of research they may be undertaking. Therefore, the abstract should touch on the major points of the report while remaining brief. Because an abstract encapsulates the scope of the report as a whole, it should be written after the article is complete.
The introduction is the first page of the project itself. It clearly introduces the research topic or research problem, explains why this topic or problem is an important topic of research, and outlines the method of studying or researching that topic or problem. If appropriate or required, the introduction should include a clearly stated hypothesis describing the researcher's expectations for the study's findings.
The literature review is often considered the most difficult component of APA research paper format. A literature review is a comprehensive report on the existing literature available regarding that topic. When presenting the literature review, it is necessary to clearly outline both the procedures undertaken by relevant studies and the findings of each study. Each study should be discussed in its own paragraph or set of paragraphs.
The results or findings section comments on the literature review by critically examining various points made by previous studies and synthesizing those points to present definitive conclusions about the topic.
The final section required when formatting APA research papers is the reference section. The reference section lists the studies and other secondary source materials that the author cited in the body of the document and clearly documents the sources' authors, the year in which they were published, and the details of where the sources can be found.
Some APA papers will include an appendix to present additional information about certain aspects. Typically, an appendix holds information that is too large to represent in full in the body of the text itself, or information that is considered to be supplementary.
Formatting APA research papers is a time-consuming process that requires the writer to follow explicit directions regarding presentation. For detailed advice on formatting and style questions, refer to the APA Publication Manual.
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