APA Style Research Paper Format: Tips from 12 Experts

APA Style Research Paper Format: Tips from 12 Experts

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:

  • a title page;
  • an abstract;
  • an introduction;
  • a literature review;
  • a results or findings section;
  • a discussion of the implications of the results;
  • a list of references;
  • 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.  

Viewpoint of Author #2

An APA dissertation is one of the most time-consuming and research-intensive projects that any student will have to take on during his or her college years.  APA dissertations are not only required to be well-written and comprehensive research papers, they must be formatted according to the style guidelines of the American Psychological Association.  APA style guidelines are used for many varieties of humanities papers, not just those written on psychology-related topics.

All APA reports should follow a few basic guidelines.  These guidelines require:

  • a properly-formatted cover page;
  • double-spaced text (except for block quotes);
  • 1-inch margins;
  • a header with an abbreviated title and page number;
  • a bibliography;
  • the following sections/chapters:
  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Literature Review
  4. Methodology
  5. Data, Analysis, and Results
  6. Conclusion.

Many instructors require that students begin their APA dissertations at the end.  That is, by gathering all of their reference material.  The listing of references that a student has when he or she begins an APA dissertation is, by no means, a set-in-stone listing that can not include any additional references.  Many students find that as they write their APA dissertation, they come across the need to acquire additional references to answer questions that arise while writing their document or that add clarification to their existing information.

An APA dissertation must be either qualitative or quantitative.  Many students who are undertaking the writing of an APA dissertation don't understand the difference between a qualitative and a quantitative paper.  In short, a quantitative APA dissertation used statistical numerical data to support the thesis.  The writer knows in advance what he or she is looking for and formats his or her research in order to prove his or her thesis.  This does not mean, however, that the thesis is correct and the statistical data gathered during the research may, in fact, disprove the researcher's thesis.  Disproving a thesis is not necessarily a bad outcome for an APA thesis writer as the point of the thesis is conducting the research and writing a good paper rather than merely substantiating a theory.

A qualitative APA dissertation is one that uses words, pictures, and/or objects as the data to be analyzed.  A debate has raged for some time about which type of dissertation is the most credible but most writers and instructors alike agree that the proof is in the end result, not necessarily the format of the APA reference project.  For more information on how to write an APA dissertation, consult a copy of the latest version of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

Viewpoint of Author #3

An APA term paper is a document written in accordance with the stylistic and citation recommendations of the American Psychological Association (APA).  Though the APA is focused on the study of psychology, APA style has become extremely popular and is now widely used across many disciplines.  While papers in the humanities will still be written in MLA style, APA is the predominant writing style for all of the social sciences and many other disciplines, as well.  APA term papers are now common in business, education, nursing courses, and a variety of other fields.  Some of the most common aspects of APA style that are pertinent to writing term papers will be discussed here.

First, it is important for writers to realize the purpose of APA-style texts.  The American Psychological Association designed its writing style to accommodate research texts written in psychology.  Most APA texts, including APA term papers, will be investigation-based texts, meaning they report on either the data and studies of other scholars, the research of the report-writer, or both.  Furthermore, because research in psychology and the other social sciences is constantly being updated, APA style requires that all in-text citations present not only the author's name, but also the year in which the cited study was published.  This is one of the primary characteristics distinguishing APA from MLA style, and illustrates one of the most significant differences between APA term papers and MLA term papers: in psychology and the social sciences, when research was published is almost as important as what the research indicates; in the humanities, wherein scholars study texts and other works of art that do not change, the date of the research is not as important.  Another significant difference between APA and MLA style is that in APA, paraphrasing secondary sources is preferred over quoting.  In MLA, the generous inclusion of textual quotations is a common occurrence.

One of the most important aspects of APA style that will be relevant to the composition of an APA term paper is structure.  One of the most prominent characteristics of APA style is its use of headings.  It is likely that an APA term paper will use only one or two of the five possible levels of APA headings.  These headings should clearly and concisely identify what the primary topic of each section of the report is.  If there are sub-categories for each topic, then sub-headings should be implemented.

When reporting research in an APA term paper, writers must remember to not only paraphrase more often then they quote, but also to report all research in past tense.  Rather than saying "Smith finds" the writer must say "Smith found."

In terms of formatting, all APA term papers must be double-spaced and typed using a standard, 10-12 point font.  APA reports should have a title page that announces the title of the report, the name of the writer, and the name of the course, as well as the term for which the article is submitted.  The text of the document should begin on the page following the title page.

All APA term papers must have a references page.  This page should follow the text and precede any appendices, if there are appendices included.  This page should be titles "References," should be double spaced throughout, and should list in APA format every study cited.

As mentioned previously, in-text citations for APA-style texts must feature the year in which the cited study was published.  In addition, the citation should name the author.  If the citation is citing a paraphrase, the page number on which the information was found in the source should not be listed.  If the citation is citing a direct quote, the page number should be included.

Detailed information regarding all aspects of APA style and how to write APA term papers can be found in the APA Style Manual.  This is the most authoritative source on all matters regarding APA composition.

Viewpoint of Author #4

An APA style research essay is a document that a learner will write according to standard essay writing guidelines.  However, the APA style research essay must specifically follow APA style, as opposed to MLA or Chicago style.  Students may have to write research projects for any course at any grade level.  Therefore, understanding the nature of the report and the requirements of the APA format are important if the student wishes to be a successful project writer.  

First, in order to understand how to format an APA style research essay, learners should first become familiar with the role of the research article.  An article is generally considered to be a relaxed writing format that often requires students to incorporate a first-person perspective and opinions.  Such compositions are also generally short documents.  

A research essay requires that students research a particular topic and communicate their findings.  However, because a report is generally written from a point-of-view, a research essay usually requires students to provide their own opinions about a particular topic, even if the article is not written in first-person.  

When a student is specifically required to write an APA style research essay, the student needs to ensure that he or she follows generally research essay writing requirements.  Additionally, the student must format the report according to APA guidelines.  APA guidelines are very specific and can be applied to all forms of academic writing, including essay writing, paper writing, thesis writing, and more.  

One of the distinguishing characteristics of APA style is that the font should be in size 10 or 12 Times Roman.  All text should be left justified with half inch margins around the page.  Also, every line should be double spaced.  Additionally, all APA style research reports should have a cover page that follows the same APA format.  

APA style research essays are unique from articles that are written in other formats.  One of the most telling differences appears on the cover page.  APA style research reports should include not only a title, but also a title abstract that is left justified at the top of the page.  Also, APA style research reports should have a page number on the cover page.  

While there are many similarities between APA style research essays and MLA essays, students need to be sure that they are following the correct format.  If they are required to write an APA style research essay, they may want to ask a professor for specific guidelines in order to ensure that they have the most accurate information possible regarding the format.  

Viewpoint of Author #5

APA is an acronym that stands for the American Psychological Association.  APA is a style that many learners should be familiar with when they create academic works, as it is very common in academic settings.  When a student needs to write a literature review in APA style, he or she may need to reference the style online or through a printed manual in order to ensure the correct format.

Literature review APA guidelines basically state that the literature review should be typed on standard-sized paper with one-inch margins on all sides.  The font should either by size 10 or size 12, but it should be Times New Roman or something similar to Times New Roman.  Literature reviews in APA style should also be double-spaced.  

All literature reviews in APA style should include a header at the top of the page.  The header should include a page number on the right-hand side of the page, along with the first two or three words of the report title (ending five spaces before the page number).  

There are also four sections that should be included in an APA formatted literature review.  These sections are: title page, abstract, body, and references.  

The title page should contain the page header (note: MLA style papers do not contain a header on the title page).  The next line should contain a running head, which should be flush-left on the page.  The running head should contain part of the title.  The words "Running head" should appear in this line, as well.  After the running head, center the title, byline, university, and professor's name (if required by the professor).

Next, the learner will need to create the abstract, which should be a basic overview of the literature review.  Depending on the length of the report, this abstract can be one paragraph or two paragraphs, but no more—even if the article is very long.  

Following the abstract, the student needs to create the body.  The body should contain an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.  When the student references a source in the body, the student should properly cite that source according to APA style, which differs depending on the resource.  Finally, the references should be included at the end.  Each reference should be cited differently.  

When searching for "Literature review APA style" in Google, a student will soon discover that APA is different from MLA style in many ways.  Most obviously, literature reviews in APA format should include a specific title page that contains the running headline as well as the header that will be used throughout the document.  Citations, font size, and font type may also vary.  Students should always review APA style guidelines before writing a literature review in APA style to ensure that they follow the correct standards and do not confuse them with MLA standards.

Viewpoint of Author #6

When writing an academic paper with APA style citations and bibliography format, the instructor will likely require that the student cite references and write a bibliography showing the sources that were used to conduct the research.  The purpose of citing this information is partially to add clout to the report while also providing the reader with information that he or she may pursue in order to learn more about the subject.

When following the APA style of citation, there are several rules to which the student must strictly adhere.  If the written work is a copy manuscript, for example, it is necessary to double space all of the lines when utilizing APA style.  If the writer is using the style in order to create a final manuscript, on the other hand, single space is the required format.  In this case, however, it is necessary to skip a line between each of the listed references.  If writing a paper for a course, it is important to ask the instructor which of these formats is necessary.

When writing the reference list, all of the items that are listed must be placed in alphabetical order according to the author's name.  When listing the author's name, the author's first and middle names should be listed by initial only, while the author's last name should be written fully.  If the name of the author is not known, the reference should be listed with its title first with the date following this information.

When writing the title of an article or a book, the writer should capitalize only the first word of the title and the first word of the subtitle.  When writing the title of a periodical, on the other hand, the writer should capitalize all of the significant words found within the title.

When using magazine articles as references, the writer must include the month and day on which the magazine was published.  In addition, when utilizing websites, the writer must show the date on which the particular webpage was created.  If this information is not available, the writer should use "n.d."  in place of a date.

Since the rules used when writing in APA style are quite strict, it is essential for the writer to gain a more solid understanding of how to properly write an essay with this style.  In many cases, the instructor will provide the students with a handout that shows the basics of writing an essay with this style.  Nonetheless, it is crucial for the student to acquire more information on this type of formatting before finalizing the document.  The library at the school the student attends will typically be able to provide the student with more information regarding APA style and bibliography format.

Viewpoint of Author #7

During their academic careers, the majority of students are called upon to write one or more research papers.  As part of the requirements for these papers, students are usually required to format their documents according to a particular style guide.  An APA style research paper is an academic paper written to conform to what is called APA formatting.  APA formatting is a style of formatting papers and citing references determined by the American Psychological Association.  The latest version of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association was published in 2001.

Unlike some other formatting guides, the APA style research paper calls for a cover page.  At the top of the cover page, the student should place what is called a "running head".  The running head is simply the title of the report and it is placed in the upper left header of the title page.  The title can be shortened if it is exceptionally long.  The cover page should also include, centered on the page, the title of the document, the name of the student, and the university affiliation.  Never type the title of the report in all caps.

The pages of the project itself should be numbered in the upper right corner of each page.  The entire document should be double-spaced and each paragraph should be indented five to seven spaces (one half inch).  Even the title page should be double spaced.  However, the abstract of the report and long (block) quotations should not be double spaced or indented.  Every page other than the title page should be aligned left.  Many APA style research papers are required to have an abstract and it should appear alone on the second page.  The body of the document should begin on the third page.

APA style research papers require that headings be placed in outline form.  Main headings should be centered using uppercase and lowercase typing.  Secondary headings should be aligned left; again with uppercase and lowercase typing.  Third level headings (and so on) should be indented with uppercase and lowercase typing.  Headings do not need to be bold or in any different font styles.

Each APA style report should have a references page.  This page should be an alphabetical listing of each reference cited in the body.  Citation styles vary according to the type of reference, therefore students should consult the most recent version of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association for in-paper citation formatting advice.  The reference page should have the word "references" at the top of the page and it should begin on a new page.  The first line of each reference should be indented one half inch.  This is called a hanging indent.

APA style research papers are easily recognizable by their formal cover pages and their unique citation styles.  Some instructors do not require the cover page but may require that all of the other APA formatting rules be followed.  Students should be certain to follow the guidelines as dictated by their instructor.  

Viewpoint of Author #8

Many students will have to write APA research paper examples for their courses in all grade levels.  Such articles are common academic assignments that allow students to learn about a particular subject in depth and then communicate their findings in a thoughtful manner.  When a student has to write a report, the student needs to follow a particular style guide, such as MLA or APA style.  Because these two styles are very popular, but different, students may wish to access an MLA or APA research paper example for more information about the format they will need to follow.  

When students need to write a paper using APA style, they should look for a well-written APA research paper example.  There are many resources for APA research paper examples, including online resources, an on-campus writing center, and even a professor.  Therefore, learners should find it fairly easy to get their hands on several different APA research paper examples that can help them understand more about the APA format.

One of the most important things that students need to think about when looking for APA research paper examples is the validity of the example.  All APA reports should follow the same basic format and specific style.  Therefore, it is important for students to find examples that truly represent APA style in all manners.  

Students many want to compare their APA research paper examples with APA guidelines in order to ensure that the example they are using follows the guidelines accurately.  Students may also want to compare one APA research paper example to another in order to look for discrepancies that could affect their own formatting and style choices.  

Basically, all APA research paper examples should have a cover page that contains a title abstract, title, author name, page number, date, and several other elements that are consistent with APA style.  Each page, aside from the cover page, should be written in size 12 Times Roman font with half inch margins around the page.  Sentences should be double spaced, as well.  Each paragraph should be indented by five spaces.  

There are differences between APA research paper examples and MLA paper examples that students should be aware of in order to ensure that they get the right examples.  While MLA and APA styles are very similar, they differ in many important ways, as well.  For example, the cover page of an APA paper contains more information and a different format than the cover page for an MLA paper.  Therefore, finding the right examples is critical.

Viewpoint of Author #9

In many cases, when learners write research papers, they will need to follow a very specific format.  APA and MLA formats are the two most common paper formats for all levels of academic study.  While the two formats are common and very similar, there are enough differences to require students to learn more about the specific styles, if they want to get good grades.  In order to learn about APA style, students may wish to review APA research paper samples.

APA style research papers have very common requirements.  For example, all words should be typed in black Times New Roman font in size 12.  All lines should be double spaced.  The first sentence of each paragraph should be indented by five spaces, or one tab point.  The margins on all sides of the page should be half an inch wide.  Also, the title of the report, page number, and student's last name should appear at the top of each page.  

When students wish to review APA research paper samples, they need to be sure that the samples follow APA style.  APA style is very similar to other styles, making it difficult to distinguish between the two, in some cases.  However, APA research paper samples will have a title abstract and page number on the cover page, which should quickly distinguish them from other samples.  

There are many resources where students may be able to find an APA research paper sample.  Many professors will supply their students with APA research paper samples to review if they are required to write papers using APA research paper formats.  Students may also find an APA research paper sample from an on-campus writing center.  When students use these resources, they may be able to find that they are more reliable than some internet resources.  

However, there are many benefits to using an APA research paper sample from the Internet.  Not only are APA research paper samples available whenever and wherever a student wants, but there is also a great deal of variety online, which may help students to learn even more.  

Students need to keep in mind that no matter where they find their APA research paper samples, the samples should always be accurate and in APA style.  The major competing style is MLA format.  However, in MLA format, the cover page is very plain with only a title, the student's name, and a date.  Therefore, learners should be able to quickly distinguish between the two styles by looking at the cover page.

Viewpoint of Author #10

The American Psychological Association (APA) has a specific format or style for writing quality reports.  There are three main areas of concern when writing APA format research papers.  Formatting for the report, editing the content, and citing references in the text are the three major areas that writers must carefully consider while composing these standardized documents.

First of all, the APA format report should be double-spaced.  It must also have one inch margins for the top, bottom, left, and right side of every page.  The writer must indent five to seven spaces (or ½ inch) at the beginning of every paragraph within the document.  Moreover, the writer must use a 12 point, traditional typeface such as Times New Roman.  For page numbering, the student must remember to add numbers to the upper right-hand corner of every document page, following the running head, which is a short title.

For editing content and style, the APA format research paper is typically uniform in terms of structure and scope.  Students must be sure to write clearly in order to help the reader understand the article's scope or purpose.  To facilitate the writing of coherent and unified APA format research papers, students must prepare rough drafts.  Then, each student can carefully read and correctly revise the rough draft according to universal grammar and usage rules.  Any student who has difficulty with the writing of an APA format research paper must practice organizing thoughts and ideas prior to completing the rough draft and composing the final copy of the document.  Further, learners can seek both online and offline assistance with APA styling and formatting.  Libraries often provide reference materials that illustrate APA format.  Also, there are many websites online that offer tutorials which show how to follow APA procedures for documentation.

For referencing citations in the text of APA format research papers, the student must be aware of collecting current and reliable sources of materials that substantiate the purpose or thesis of the document.  While performing these research steps, the student must give credit to the sources of information that he or she used to compose the document.  By clearly indicating where any quotes or statistics were obtained, every student can avoid plagiarism.  Moreover, using in-text citations instead of lengthy footnotes, the APA format is both concise and accurate.  Lastly, the student must prepare a reference page where he or she delineates all reference materials alphabetically in order to give the reader a comprehensive listing of relevant sources.

Viewpoint of Author #11

A sample APA research paper may help some students to learn how to format their documents according to APA style.  APA style is a particular type of style that is often preferred by journalism professors and students studying media.  A sample APA research paper will help a learner to learn about the required APA font, font size, margins, cover page inclusions, and more.

A style guide is basically a system of determining a particular style that should be used on a paper.  The style helps to make all reports consistent.  In most cases, a professor will prefer one style over another.  For example, if students have to write sample APA research papers, then the professor most likely prefers APA style to MLA style.  

Many style guides are very similar in that they require learners to use Times Roman font at size 10 or 12.  They also require learners to have one inch margins around the edge.  These particular style guide requirements help professors to assess paper length and general word count in order to ensure that a student has correctly completed a project according to the professor's guidelines.  

Style guides often vary in terms of what should be included on the cover page.  Students using sample APA research papers will notice that there is not only a title on the cover page, but there is also a title abstract, which helps to describe the title.  Most sample APA research papers also have an abstract of the document that is about one paragraph long on the page after the cover page.  

If a professor assigns a particular style, then the professor expects students to use it.  The professor may mark points off of the final project grade if students do not use the style guide correctly.  Therefore, it may be wise for students to find or buy a sample APA research paper in orer to make sure they understand what the required style entails.  

There is a difference between sample APA research paper and MLA research papers.  Again, one of the biggest differences has to do with the cover page of the report, where APA reports should have a title abstract.  However, the page title and page number location on each page will also vary based on whether the article is MLA or APA style.  Students should, therefore, be sure that they use a sample APA research paper if they are required to follow APA style and not a sample MLA paper.

Viewpoint of Author #12

An APA research paper is a lengthy text that examines one topic by reporting on a variety of scholarly views on that topic in the writing style preferred by the American Psychological Association (APA).  An APA research paper is different from other types of academic writings only in its style and formatting requirements.  These requirements are typically expressed by the instructor of the course for which the APA research paper is being composed.  They may also be found in the APA Publication Manual.

The content of most research papers, regardless of style and format, will be similar.  They will present multiple scholarly resources on the topic they are examining and discuss what the findings and ideas of those scholarly resources suggest about the topic at large.  APA research papers are no different.  Students will need to devote significant time and dedication to a scholarly investigation of their topic and then present it in a logical and organized way.  The difference in APA research papers is simply in the way in which that content is presented.

The first element of an APA research paper is the title page.  The title page should present the title of the report, the student's name, and the name of the student's course, professor, and institution.  It should also list the date on which the article is being submitted, and what is known as a running head.  A running head is an abbreviated form of the article's title, and should be presented on the first line of the title page, justified to the left.

Following the title page, some instructors will require that APA research papers include abstracts.  An abstract is a summary of the main points.  If included, the abstract should be brief but should encapsulate the primary points of each of the article's main sections.

The body of APA research papers will vary depending on the writer's topic and field.  However, it is customary for all APA research papers to be divided into several different sections that are each clearly labeled with a different heading.  For instance, the beginning of an APA research paper may be labeled "Introduction," the statement of the article's research problems may be labeled "Research Problems," etc.  Frequently, an instructor will determine what sections and headings he or she wants the report to have.

Within the body of the text, the learner will incorporate the findings of his or her research.  Note that APA style favors the use of paraphrasing over quotation.  Therefore, use quotations only when the phrasing cannot be successfully reworded, or when the author's statement is most clear when it is left in quoted form.  Otherwise, summarize researchers' findings in a paraphrase.  Both paraphrases and quotations need to be accurately cited according to APA style, which requires that the name of the author and the year the study was published be documented for all sources.  For quotations, the citation must also include the page number from which the source came.

At the end of the document, the student must include a page titled "References" that lists, in alphabetical order, all of the sources mentioned.  These must be documented according to APA requirements, which are detailed in the APA Publication Manual.

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