How to Write an APA Research Paper

Psychology/neuroscience 201, v iew in pdf format.

An APA-style paper includes the following sections: title page, abstract, introduction, method, results, discussion, and references. Your paper may also include one or more tables and/or figures. Different types of information about your study are addressed in each of the sections, as described below.

General formatting rules are as follows:

Do not put page breaks in between the introduction, method, results, and discussion sections.

The title page, abstract, references, table(s), and figure(s) should be on their own pages. The entire paper should be written in the past tense, in a 12-point font, double-spaced, and with one-inch margins all around.

(see sample on p. 41 of APA manual)

  • Title should be between 10-12 words and should reflect content of paper (e.g., IV and DV).
  • Title, your name, and Hamilton College are all double-spaced (no extra spaces)
  • Create a page header using the “View header” function in MS Word. On the title page, the header should include the following: Flush left: Running head: THE RUNNING HEAD SHOULD BE IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. The running head is a short title that appears at the top of pages of published articles. It should not exceed 50 characters, including punctuation and spacing. (Note: on the title page, you actually write the words “Running head,” but these words do not appear on subsequent pages; just the actual running head does. If you make a section break between the title page and the rest of the paper you can make the header different for those two parts of the manuscript). Flush right, on same line: page number. Use the toolbox to insert a page number, so it will automatically number each page.

Abstract (labeled, centered, not bold)

No more than 120 words, one paragraph, block format (i.e., don’t indent), double-spaced.

  • State topic, preferably in one sentence. Provide overview of method, results, and discussion.

Introduction

(Do not label as “Introduction.” Title of paper goes at the top of the page—not bold)

The introduction of an APA-style paper is the most difficult to write. A good introduction will summarize, integrate, and critically evaluate the empirical knowledge in the relevant area(s) in a way that sets the stage for your study and why you conducted it. The introduction starts out broad (but not too broad!) and gets more focused toward the end. Here are some guidelines for constructing a good introduction:

  • Don’t put your readers to sleep by beginning your paper with the time-worn sentence, “Past research has shown (blah blah blah)” They’ll be snoring within a paragraph!  Try to draw your reader in by saying something interesting or thought-provoking right off the bat.  Take a look at articles you’ve read. Which ones captured your attention right away? How did the authors accomplish this task? Which ones didn’t?  Why not?  See if you can use articles you liked as a model. One way to begin (but not the only way) is to provide an example or anecdote illustrative of your topic area.
  • Although you won’t go into the details of your study and hypotheses until the end of the intro, you should foreshadow your study a bit at the end of the first paragraph by stating your purpose briefly, to give your reader a schema for all the information you will present next.
  • Your intro should be a logical flow of ideas that leads up to your hypothesis. Try to organize it in terms of the ideas rather than who did what when. In other words, your intro shouldn’t read like a story of “Schmirdley did such-and-such in 1991. Then Gurglehoff did something-or-other in 1993.  Then....(etc.)” First, brainstorm all of the ideas you think are necessary to include in your paper. Next, decide which ideas make sense to present first, second, third, and so forth, and think about how you want to transition between ideas. When an idea is complex, don’t be afraid to use a real-life example to clarify it for your reader. The introduction will end with a brief overview of your study and, finally, your specific hypotheses. The hypotheses should flow logically out of everything that’s been presented, so that the reader has the sense of, “Of course. This hypothesis makes complete sense, given all the other research that was presented.”
  • When incorporating references into your intro, you do not necessarily need to describe every single study in complete detail, particularly if different studies use similar methodologies. Certainly you want to summarize briefly key articles, though, and point out differences in methods or findings of relevant studies when necessary. Don’t make one mistake typical of a novice APA-paper writer by stating overtly why you’re including a particular article (e.g., “This article is relevant to my study because…”). It should be obvious to the reader why you’re including a reference without your explicitly saying so.  DO NOT quote from the articles, instead paraphrase by putting the information in your own words.
  • Be careful about citing your sources (see APA manual). Make sure there is a one-to-one correspondence between the articles you’ve cited in your intro and the articles listed in your reference section.
  • Remember that your audience is the broader scientific community, not the other students in your class or your professor.  Therefore, you should assume they have a basic understanding of psychology, but you need to provide them with the complete information necessary for them to understand the research you are presenting.

Method (labeled, centered, bold)

The Method section of an APA-style paper is the most straightforward to write, but requires precision. Your goal is to describe the details of your study in such a way that another researcher could duplicate your methods exactly.

The Method section typically includes Participants, Materials and/or Apparatus, and Procedure sections. If the design is particularly complicated (multiple IVs in a factorial experiment, for example), you might also include a separate Design subsection or have a “Design and Procedure” section.

Note that in some studies (e.g., questionnaire studies in which there are many measures to describe but the procedure is brief), it may be more useful to present the Procedure section prior to the Materials section rather than after it.

Participants (labeled, flush left, bold)

Total number of participants (# women, # men), age range, mean and SD for age, racial/ethnic composition (if applicable), population type (e.g., college students). Remember to write numbers out when they begin a sentence.

  • How were the participants recruited? (Don’t say “randomly” if it wasn’t random!) Were they compensated for their time in any way? (e.g., money, extra credit points)
  • Write for a broad audience. Thus, do not write, “Students in Psych. 280...” Rather, write (for instance), “Students in a psychological statistics and research methods course at a small liberal arts college….”
  • Try to avoid short, choppy sentences. Combine information into a longer sentence when possible.

Materials (labeled, flush left, bold)

Carefully describe any stimuli, questionnaires, and so forth. It is unnecessary to mention things such as the paper and pencil used to record the responses, the data recording sheet, the computer that ran the data analysis, the color of the computer, and so forth.

  • If you included a questionnaire, you should describe it in detail. For instance, note how many items were on the questionnaire, what the response format was (e.g., a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree)), how many items were reverse-scored, whether the measure had subscales, and so forth. Provide a sample item or two for your reader.
  • If you have created a new instrument, you should attach it as an Appendix.
  • If you presented participants with various word lists to remember or stimuli to judge, you should describe those in detail here. Use subheadings to separate different types of stimuli if needed.  If you are only describing questionnaires, you may call this section “Measures.”

Apparatus (labeled, flush left, bold)

Include an apparatus section if you used specialized equipment for your study (e.g., the eye tracking machine) and need to describe it in detail.

Procedure (labeled, flush left, bold)

What did participants do, and in what order? When you list a control variable (e.g., “Participants all sat two feet from the experimenter.”), explain WHY you did what you did.  In other words, what nuisance variable were you controlling for? Your procedure should be as brief and concise as possible. Read through it. Did you repeat yourself anywhere? If so, how can you rearrange things to avoid redundancy? You may either write the instructions to the participants verbatim or paraphrase, whichever you deem more appropriate. Don’t forget to include brief statements about informed consent and debriefing.

Results (labeled, centered, bold)

In this section, describe how you analyzed the data and what you found. If your data analyses were complex, feel free to break this section down into labeled subsections, perhaps one section for each hypothesis.

  • Include a section for descriptive statistics
  • List what type of analysis or test you conducted to test each hypothesis.
  • Refer to your Statistics textbook for the proper way to report results in APA style. A t-test, for example, is reported in the following format: t (18) = 3.57, p < .001, where 18 is the number of degrees of freedom (N – 2 for an independent-groups t test). For a correlation: r (32) = -.52, p < .001, where 32 is the number of degrees of freedom (N – 2 for a correlation). For a one-way ANOVA: F (2, 18) = 7.00, p < .001, where 2 represents the between and 18 represents df within Remember that if a finding has a p value greater than .05, it is “nonsignificant,” not “insignificant.” For nonsignificant findings, still provide the exact p values. For correlations, be sure to report the r 2 value as an assessment of the strength of the finding, to show what proportion of variability is shared by the two variables you’re correlating. For t- tests and ANOVAs, report eta 2 .
  • Report exact p values to two or three decimal places (e.g., p = .042; see p. 114 of APA manual).  However, for p-values less than .001, simply put p < .001.
  • Following the presentation of all the statistics and numbers, be sure to state the nature of your finding(s) in words and whether or not they support your hypothesis (e.g., “As predicted …”). This information can typically be presented in a sentence or two following the numbers (within the same paragraph). Also, be sure to include the relevant means and SDs.
  • It may be useful to include a table or figure to represent your results visually. Be sure to refer to these in your paper (e.g., “As illustrated in Figure 1…”). Remember that you may present a set of findings either as a table or as a figure, but not as both. Make sure that your text is not redundant with your tables/figures. For instance, if you present a table of means and standard deviations, you do not need to also report these in the text. However, if you use a figure to represent your results, you may wish to report means and standard deviations in the text, as these may not always be precisely ascertained by examining the figure. Do describe the trends shown in the figure.
  • Do not spend any time interpreting or explaining the results; save that for the Discussion section.

Discussion (labeled, centered, bold)

The goal of the discussion section is to interpret your findings and place them in the broader context of the literature in the area. A discussion section is like the reverse of the introduction, in that you begin with the specifics and work toward the more general (funnel out). Some points to consider:

  • Begin with a brief restatement of your main findings (using words, not numbers). Did they support the hypothesis or not? If not, why not, do you think? Were there any surprising or interesting findings? How do your findings tie into the existing literature on the topic, or extend previous research? What do the results say about the broader behavior under investigation? Bring back some of the literature you discussed in the Introduction, and show how your results fit in (or don’t fit in, as the case may be). If you have surprising findings, you might discuss other theories that can help to explain the findings. Begin with the assumption that your results are valid, and explain why they might differ from others in the literature.
  • What are the limitations of the study? If your findings differ from those of other researchers, or if you did not get statistically significant results, don’t spend pages and pages detailing what might have gone wrong with your study, but do provide one or two suggestions. Perhaps these could be incorporated into the future research section, below.
  • What additional questions were generated from this study? What further research should be conducted on the topic? What gaps are there in the current body of research? Whenever you present an idea for a future research study, be sure to explain why you think that particular study should be conducted. What new knowledge would be gained from it?  Don’t just say, “I think it would be interesting to re-run the study on a different college campus” or “It would be better to run the study again with more participants.” Really put some thought into what extensions of the research might be interesting/informative, and why.
  • What are the theoretical and/or practical implications of your findings? How do these results relate to larger issues of human thoughts, feelings, and behavior? Give your readers “the big picture.” Try to answer the question, “So what?

Final paragraph: Be sure to sum up your paper with a final concluding statement. Don’t just trail off with an idea for a future study. End on a positive note by reminding your reader why your study was important and what it added to the literature.

References (labeled, centered, not bold)

Provide an alphabetical listing of the references (alphabetize by last name of first author). Double-space all, with no extra spaces between references. The second line of each reference should be indented (this is called a hanging indent and is easily accomplished using the ruler in Microsoft Word). See the APA manual for how to format references correctly.

Examples of references to journal articles start on p. 198 of the manual, and examples of references to books and book chapters start on pp. 202. Digital object identifiers (DOIs) are now included for electronic sources (see pp. 187-192 of APA manual to learn more).

Journal article example: [Note that only the first letter of the first word of the article title is capitalized; the journal name and volume are italicized. If the journal name had multiple words, each of the major words would be capitalized.] 

Ebner-Priemer, U. W., & Trull, T. J. (2009). Ecological momentary assessment of mood disorders and mood dysregulation. Psychological Assessment, 21, 463-475. doi:10.1037/a0017075

Book chapter example: [Note that only the first letter of the first word of both the chapter title and book title are capitalized.]

Stephan, W. G. (1985). Intergroup relations. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology (3 rd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 599-658). New York: Random House.

Book example: Gray, P. (2010). Psychology (6 th ed.). New York: Worth

Table There are various formats for tables, depending upon the information you wish to include. See the APA manual. Be sure to provide a table number and table title (the latter is italicized). Tables can be single or double-spaced.

Figure If you have more than one figure, each one gets its own page. Use a sans serif font, such as Helvetica, for any text within your figure. Be sure to label your x- and y-axes clearly, and make sure you’ve noted the units of measurement of the DV. Underneath the figure provide a label and brief caption (e.g., “Figure 1. Mean evaluation of job applicant qualifications as a function of applicant attractiveness level”). The figure caption typically includes the IVs/predictor variables and the DV. Include error bars in your bar graphs, and note what the bars represent in the figure caption: Error bars represent one standard error above and below the mean.

In-Text Citations: (see pp. 174-179 of APA manual) When citing sources in your paper, you need to include the authors’ names and publication date.

You should use the following formats:

  • When including the citation as part of the sentence, use AND: “According to Jones and Smith (2003), the…”
  • When the citation appears in parentheses, use “&”: “Studies have shown that priming can affect actual motor behavior (Jones & Smith, 2003; Klein, Bailey, & Hammer, 1999).” The studies appearing in parentheses should be ordered alphabetically by the first author’s last name, and should be separated by semicolons.
  • If you are quoting directly (which you should avoid), you also need to include the page number.
  • For sources with three or more authors, once you have listed all the authors’ names, you may write “et al.” on subsequent mentions. For example: “Klein et al. (1999) found that….” For sources with two authors, both authors must be included every time the source is cited. When a source has six or more authors, the first author’s last name and “et al.” are used every time the source is cited (including the first time). 

Secondary Sources

“Secondary source” is the term used to describe material that is cited in another source. If in his article entitled “Behavioral Study of Obedience” (1963), Stanley Milgram makes reference to the ideas of Snow (presented above), Snow (1961) is the primary source, and Milgram (1963) is the secondary source.

Try to avoid using secondary sources in your papers; in other words, try to find the primary source and read it before citing it in your own work. If you must use a secondary source, however, you should cite it in the following way:

Snow (as cited in Milgram, 1963) argued that, historically, the cause of most criminal acts... The reference for the Milgram article (but not the Snow reference) should then appear in the reference list at the end of your paper.

Office / Department Name

Nesbitt-Johnston Writing Center

Contact Name

Jennifer Ambrose

Writing Center Director

Hamilton College blue wordmark

Help us provide an accessible education, offer innovative resources and programs, and foster intellectual exploration.

Site Search

  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Therapy Center
  • When To See a Therapist
  • Types of Therapy
  • Best Online Therapy
  • Best Couples Therapy
  • Best Family Therapy
  • Managing Stress
  • Sleep and Dreaming
  • Understanding Emotions
  • Self-Improvement
  • Healthy Relationships
  • Student Resources
  • Personality Types
  • Verywell Mind Insights
  • 2023 Verywell Mind 25
  • Mental Health in the Classroom
  • Editorial Process
  • Meet Our Review Board
  • Crisis Support

APA Format Guidelines, Tips, and Examples

How to Write in APA Format

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

tips for writing apa research paper

Amanda Tust is a fact-checker, researcher, and writer with a Master of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

tips for writing apa research paper

10'000 Hours / Getty Images

APA format is the official style used by the  American Psychological Association  and is commonly used in the fields of psychology , education , and other social sciences. APA style refers to the way that student and professional publications are formatted for submission and publication. Knowing how to write in APA format is an important skill for both students and professionals.

The seventh edition of the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association" is the official guidebook for formatting your APA papers. It's the latest edition published in 2019. Of course, if you have further questions about how to format your paper, check with your professor or instructor on what they prefer.

If you're a beginner and need to write a paper in APA format, the following step-by-step guide can help you format your paper correctly and create the different sections that you will need.

General APA Format Guidelines

There are some basic rules of APA format that apply to any type of APA paper. These include:

  • Type on standard-size (8.5-inch by 11-inch) paper
  • Have a 1-inch margin on all sides
  • Have a title page, a reference list , and a byline
  • Use an easy-to-read font such as Calibri or Times New Roman
  • Double-space the whole paper
  • Align text to the left-hand side
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph by 0.5 inches

According to APA guidelines, your paper should include four main sections: a title page, abstract, main body, and references.

APA format emphasizes accessibility for all readers. Be sure to review their official information on how to make your paper accessible .

APA Format Title Page

There are two different versions of an APA title page : the student and professional versions. A student title page should include:

  • Title of paper
  • Name of each author of the paper (the byline)
  • Affiliation for each author (the university attended, including the name of the department)
  • Course number and name
  • Instructor name (check with the instructor for their preferred format)
  • Assignment due date (i.e., November 4, 2020)
  • Page number

For a professional APA paper, include:

  • Name of each author of the paper (byline)
  • Affiliation for each author
  • Author note
  • Running head (an abbreviated version of the paper title)

For both student and professional papers, the paper title is in title case, bold, and centered. It should be about three to four lines down from the top margin of the page.

Be concise. Your title should be a short statement of what the reader will find in the paper. Your title will often identify the major variables and their relationships. Examples of APA paper titles include:

  • Effect of Sleep Deprivation on Math Performance
  • Impact of Leadership Style on Employee Productivity
  • How Music Tempo Affects Running Pace
  • How Medication Improves Smoking Cessation Outcomes

A title page for a professional paper should also include an author note, which provides more information about the paper's authors, study registration, data sharing, disclaimers on any conflicts of interest, a point of contact, and funding sources.

When writing your title, be concise and avoid any extraneous words that do not add meaning to your title. The APA style guide advises writers to avoid phrases such as "An Experimental Investigation of..." or "A Study of...".

APA Format Abstract

Think of an abstract as a summary of your paper. If you are a student, your instructor may or may not require an abstract; be sure to check.

Follow these tips for writing your abstract in APA format:

  • The abstract should have its own page right after the title page.
  • Centered at the top of the page in bold, write "Abstract."
  • In the next line, briefly summarize the main points of the paper.
  • While the content will vary, an abstract typically includes the research topic , research questions, information on participants and methods , the data analysis used, and main conclusions. 
  • An abstract should be a single paragraph, double-spaced, and usually no more than 250 words.

The "Publication Manual" states that a good abstract is accurate, coherent, and concise. Be sure not to include any information in the abstract that isn't in the paper itself.

Tables in APA Format

Tables are an efficient way to display a great deal of information in a concise, clear, and easy-to-read format. In APA format papers, tables are generally used to describe the results of statistical analysis and other pertinent quantitative data .

However, it is important to note that not all data should be presented in a table. If you have little numeric information to present, it should be described in the text of your paper.

The APA's publication manual recommends designing your table with the reader in mind. Strive to communicate data in a way that is clear and easy to understand.

Basic Rules for Tables

Keep these tips in mind when using a table in your APA format publication:

  • Add an individual title to each table. It should be italicized and capitalized in APA style.
  • Begin each table after the reference list on a page of its own.
  • Number all tables (i.e., Table 1, Table 2, Table 3).
  • Reference all tables in the text of the paper.

Remember that your table is there to supplement rather than replicate the text of your paper. Do not feel the need to discuss every element of your table in your text. Extraneous information can overwhelm and confuse the reader. Stick to reporting the most important data.

Instead, focus on keeping your table concise. Mention key highlights and tell the reader what to look for in your table.

Table Headings

Keep these tips in mind when writing table headings:

  • Capitalize the first letter of each heading.
  • Identify each column using a descriptive heading.
  • Use abbreviations for standard terms in the table itself. Uncommon definitions should be explained in a note below the table.

Additional Notes

If an additional explanation is needed, a note can be added below the table. There are three kinds of notes: general notes, specific notes, and probability notes.

General notes refer to some aspect of the entire table; specific notes refer to a particular column, row, or cell; probability notes specify the values of symbols in your table.

Reference Pages in APA Format

All sources cited in your paper should be included in the reference page. The reference page should appear at the end of your APA paper. This page makes it easy for the reader to easily look up all of the materials you cited.

Anything cited in the text must appear in the reference section and anything included in the reference section must be cited somewhere in the text.

Your references should begin on a new page with the title "References" in bold and centered at the very top. Do not underline, italicize, or place quotation marks around the title.

Basic Reference Page Rules

Be sure not to forget these rules when putting together your APA format reference page:

  • Alphabetize references by the last names of the first author of each source.
  • Capitalize all major words in the title of a journal (i.e., The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology ).
  • Capitalize only the first letter in article titles. If a colon appears in the title, the first letter after the colon should also be capitalized. The title should not be placed in quotations, underlined, or italicized.
  • Double-space all references.
  • Italicize the titles of books and journals.
  • When the same author is cited multiple times, list references in chronological order with the oldest first, working your way up to the most recent one.
  • Use a hanging indentation for each reference; the first line of the reference should be aligned to the left, but each additional line needs to be indented.

Journals and Periodicals

Journal articles should appear in alphabetical order in your reference list. More APA format tips include:

  • Capitalize the first letter of the first word in the title, subtitle, and proper nouns.
  • Italicize the name of the publication and the volume number.

The basic format of a journal article reference is to first list authors by their last names followed by the initials of their first names. Next, the publication year is enclosed in parentheses and followed by a period.

The title of the article should then follow, with only the first letter of the first word capitalized as well as the first letter of any proper nouns.

The italicized title of the journal comes after, followed by a comma. Place the volume number next, also italicized. Follow this with the issue number in parentheses, followed by a comma.

Then, place page numbers, using a hyphen in between if it's a range of pages. Place a period after this. Finally, a hyperlink including the DOI number should be included if there is one available.

This style is applicable to printed texts. The format for citing books in APA format is as follows:

  • Name of author (last name, first initial)
  • The date of the publication in parentheses
  • The italicized title of the book
  • If applicable, put the edition of the book in parentheses
  • Publisher name
  • Hyperlink with DOI number

Note: Place a period after each of these elements.

Electronic Sources

The basic format of an electronic reference is very similar to that of any other reference. However, you typically need to include the online location of the document.

Since online URLs can change, the APA recommends utilizing a digital object identifier (DOI) in your references whenever possible.

A DOI is a unique alphanumeric string that begins with a 10 as well as a prefix (usually a four-digit number assigned to organizations) and a suffix (a number assigned by the publisher).

Many publishers will include the DOI on the first page of an electronic document. If a DOI is available, simply include it as a hyperlink at the end of the reference as follows: https://doi.org/10.0000/00000000000.

Be sure to consult the latest information from The American Psychological Association for more information on citing electronic sources.

A Word From Verywell

It's helpful to consult the latest edition of the APA "Publication Manual" when you have questions about proper formatting for your APA paper. If you're a student, it's a great idea to consult with your instructor as well. They can help establish clear guidelines and expectations for your papers before you submit them.

Nicoll LH, Oermann MH, Chinn PL, Conklin JL, Amarasekara S, Mccarty M. Guidance provided to authors on citing and formatting references in nursing journals . J Nurses Prof Dev . 2018;34(2):54-59. doi:10.1097/NND.0000000000000430

American Psychological Association. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Seventh Edition (2020) .

American Psychological Association.  Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association  (7th ed.). Washington DC: The American Psychological Association; 2020.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

  • PRO Courses Guides New Tech Help Pro Expert Videos About wikiHow Pro Upgrade Sign In
  • EDIT Edit this Article
  • EXPLORE Tech Help Pro About Us Random Article Quizzes Request a New Article Community Dashboard This Or That Game Popular Categories Arts and Entertainment Artwork Books Movies Computers and Electronics Computers Phone Skills Technology Hacks Health Men's Health Mental Health Women's Health Relationships Dating Love Relationship Issues Hobbies and Crafts Crafts Drawing Games Education & Communication Communication Skills Personal Development Studying Personal Care and Style Fashion Hair Care Personal Hygiene Youth Personal Care School Stuff Dating All Categories Arts and Entertainment Finance and Business Home and Garden Relationship Quizzes Cars & Other Vehicles Food and Entertaining Personal Care and Style Sports and Fitness Computers and Electronics Health Pets and Animals Travel Education & Communication Hobbies and Crafts Philosophy and Religion Work World Family Life Holidays and Traditions Relationships Youth
  • Browse Articles
  • Learn Something New
  • Quizzes Hot
  • This Or That Game New
  • Train Your Brain
  • Explore More
  • Support wikiHow
  • About wikiHow
  • Log in / Sign up
  • Education and Communications
  • College University and Postgraduate
  • Academic Writing

How to Write an APA Style Paper

Last Updated: February 14, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Noah Taxis . Noah Taxis is an English Teacher based in San Francisco, California. He has taught as a credentialed teacher for over four years: first at Mountain View High School as a 9th- and 11th-grade English Teacher, then at UISA (Ukiah Independent Study Academy) as a Middle School Independent Study Teacher. He is now a high school English teacher at St. Ignatius College Preparatory School in San Francisco. He received an MA in Secondary Education and Teaching from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education. He also received an MA in Comparative and World Literature from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a BA in International Literary & Visual Studies and English from Tufts University. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 332,253 times.

The American Psychological Association's (APA) method of citation is one of the most widely used styles for writing scientific and research papers, particularly in fields like psychology, sociology, business, economics, and medicine. This style can seem intimidating, but it’s mostly a matter of dividing your paper into the right sections and following basic formatting guidelines. Give your paper a strong intro, then follow up with the methods, results, and discussion sections. Include references, an abstract, and any relevant tables or figures, and you’re good to go!

APA Style Paper Outline

tips for writing apa research paper

Formatting the Title Page and Abstract

Step 1 Set the basic layout parameters.

  • For instance, a title like “Age, Health, and Cities” is too short and vague.
  • ”Age-Based Influences on the Perception of Access to Healthcare in Cities” is more informative.
  • Center the title on the page.

Step 3 Include your name and institution below the title.

  • Age as an Influence on Perceived Access to Healthcare in Cities
  • Rohanda Jenkins
  • University of Toledo

Step 4 Make use of the page header.

  • For example, “AGE AND PERCEIVED ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE”

Step 5 Set the page number in the upper right.

Creating the Main Body

Step 1 Introduce your paper.

  • Your introduction should summarize your topic, it’s relevance to other research, and how you arrived at your hypothesis.
  • Keep things interesting. Avoid boring your readers with lists like “Schmidt concluded in 2009 that…. As Donaldson conferred in 2011…. In 2013, Pavlov then argued…”
  • Instead, write in terms of ideas: “Scholars such as Schmidt and Donaldson have proven that there is widespread variability in access to healthcare. The role of age in creating this variability has not been adequately considered. Knowledge of health care options among the elderly is an important starting point that Pavlov’s research explores, but a more comprehensive study of age-based influences is needed.”

Step 2 Label the methods section.

  • Title each subsection (“Participants,” “Materials,” “Procedures”) in bold print, and set the subsection titles all the way to the left. Begin each paragraph on the next line.
  • If it is necessary to describe the equipment you used, you can also include an “Apparatus” section instead of or in addition to the “Materials” section.
  • The goal of the methods section is to show other researches how to replicate the study, if they wanted to.

Step 3 Share your results.

  • Refer to the APA manual or your specific field for precise information on how to format statistics.
  • Make references to any supplementary materials you have in your paper (charts, images, graphs, tables, etc.). For example, you might write something like “As Figure 1 indicates…”

Step 4 Tell readers the significance of your work in the discussion section.

  • For example, your discussion might say something “Although this study indicated that teens perceive health care as being less accessible than adults over 35, additional research is needed to explore this topic among 18-35 year olds.”

Applying the Finishing Touches

Step 1 Tack on the references section.

  • List the references alphabetically, according to the first author’s last name.
  • Don’t put an extra space between each reference. Regular double spacing is all you need.
  • Use hanging indentation for the reference entries.
  • Make sure to also include APA style in-text citations if you cite a reference in the body of your essay.

Step 2 Include any tables or figures you created.

  • If you are a student, however, your instructor may ask you to incorporate tables or figures into the body of your paper. Always ask if you aren’t sure.

Step 3 Devote a separate page to the abstract.

  • Put the word “Abstract” centered in regular type on the line above the paragraph.
  • You should write the abstract after you’re finished with the paper, put position it on its own page just after the title page.

Expert Q&A

Noah Taxis

You Might Also Like

Write an Ethics Paper

Expert Interview

tips for writing apa research paper

Thanks for reading our article! If you’d like to learn more about academic writing, check out our in-depth interview with Noah Taxis .

  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa6_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/general_format.html
  • ↑ https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/paper-format/title-page
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_style_introduction.html
  • ↑ https://www.canadacollege.edu/htpcommittee/docs/GUIDELINES%20FOR%20RESEARCH%20PAPER%20S14.pdf
  • ↑ https://apastyle.apa.org/instructional-aids/discussion-phrases-guide.pdf
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/reference_list_basic_rules.html
  • ↑ https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/tables-figures/figures
  • ↑ https://apastyle.apa.org/instructional-aids/abstract-keywords-guide.pdf

About This Article

Noah Taxis

To write an APA-style paper, use a 12-point font size, double spacing, and 1-inch margins all around. You should also include a title page with the title of your paper and your name and institution. Also, include a page header at the top of every page that gives a brief synopsis of your paper's title in under 50 characters. At the end of your paper, make a "References" page that contains all of the sources you used in alphabetical order according to the author's last name. To learn how to write and format the body of an APA-style paper, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No

  • Send fan mail to authors

Reader Success Stories

Vandana Panwar

Vandana Panwar

Nov 7, 2016

Did this article help you?

Vandana Panwar

Jun 21, 2018

Faryal Ahmed

Faryal Ahmed

Jan 7, 2018

Shweta Singh

Shweta Singh

Feb 24, 2018

Am I a Narcissist or an Empath Quiz

Featured Articles

What Does a Forehead Kiss Mean? 10+ Reasons Behind This Personal Peck

Trending Articles

8 Reasons Why Life Sucks & 15 Ways to Deal With It

Watch Articles

Fold Boxer Briefs

  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Policy
  • Do Not Sell or Share My Info
  • Not Selling Info

wikiHow Tech Help Pro:

Develop the tech skills you need for work and life

Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

APA Sample Paper

OWL logo

Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

Note:  This page reflects the latest version of the APA Publication Manual (i.e., APA 7), which released in October 2019. The equivalent resource for the older APA 6 style  can be found here .

Media Files: APA Sample Student Paper  ,  APA Sample Professional Paper

This resource is enhanced by Acrobat PDF files. Download the free Acrobat Reader

Note: The APA Publication Manual, 7 th Edition specifies different formatting conventions for student  and  professional  papers (i.e., papers written for credit in a course and papers intended for scholarly publication). These differences mostly extend to the title page and running head. Crucially, citation practices do not differ between the two styles of paper.

However, for your convenience, we have provided two versions of our APA 7 sample paper below: one in  student style and one in  professional  style.

Note: For accessibility purposes, we have used "Track Changes" to make comments along the margins of these samples. Those authored by [AF] denote explanations of formatting and [AWC] denote directions for writing and citing in APA 7. 

APA 7 Student Paper:

Apa 7 professional paper:.

Enago Academy

How to Write a Research Paper in APA Format — A Complete Guide

' src=

Completed your research experiments and collated your results? Does it feel like you have crossed a major hurdle in your research journey? No, not even close! What lies next is — publishing your research work for it to reach the science world! The process of publishing a research paper is so intricate, if you miss one aspect, you could end up struggling with revisions and reworks or getting a rejection! Thus, there is a necessity of following an exceptional mode of writing. The APA style research format comes to a researcher’s rescue.

This article discusses how to effortlessly write an APA style research paper and how it is necessary to understand the basic elements of APA style research paper in order to write an article in APA style research format.

Table of Contents

What Is APA Style?

The APA format is the official style of American Psychological Association (APA) and is commonly used to cite sources in psychology, education and social sciences. APA research paper format is widely used in the research publishing industry.

Students and researchers usually get confused with various research paper writing formats and are unclear about the requirements from the research publication journals. Therefore, the best way to deal with beginning to write a research paper is to first know the journal’s requirement and then follow the guidelines accordingly.

Though the reference section may change over the course of time, the information related to the other sections in APA research paper format is similar and could be referred to, for writing an exemplary research paper.

Guidelines for APA Style Paper (7th edition)

An APA style research format is different as compared to a term paper, a creative writing paper, a composition-style paper, or a thought paper. Throughout the paper you need to apply these guidelines while writing the paper –

Page Layout:

Type the content and keep double-space on standard-sized paper (8.5” x 11”), with 1” margins on all sides.

You should indent the first line of every paragraph 0.5 inches

Include a page number on every page.

You could use an accessible font like Times New Roman 12pt., Arial 11pt., or Georgia 11pt.

APA Research Paper Sections

The APA research paper format is based on seven main components: title page, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, and references. The sections in APA-style paper are as follows:

1. Title Page

As per the APA research paper format, the title should be between 10-12 words and should reflect the essence of the paper. After writing the title, write your name followed by name of the college. Furthermore, create a page header using the “View Header” function in MS Word and on the title page include a running head — a short title that appears at the top of pages of published articles (flush left) and page number on the same line (flush right). The running head should not exceed 50 characters, including punctuation and spacing. Moreover, you could use the toolbox to insert a page number, so that it automatically numbers each page.

APA research paper format

2. Abstract

Abstract should contain no more than 120 words , and should be one paragraph written in block format with double spacing. Additionally, state the topic in a sentence or two. Also, provide overview of methods, results, and discussion.

APA research paper format

APA Style – Abstract in APA Style

3. Introduction

An introduction of APA research paper format is the most difficult section to write. A good introduction critically evaluates the empirical knowledge in the relevant area(s) in a way that defines the knowledge gap and expresses your aim for your study and why you conducted it. However, the challenge here is to keep the reader’s interest in reading your paper.

A good introduction keeps readers engaged with your paper. For writing an interesting introduction, researchers should introduce logical flow of ideas which will eventually lead to the research hypothesis . Furthermore, while incorporating references into your introduction, do not describe every single study in complete detail. Summarize the key findings from the article and do not quote from the articles, instead paraphrase the content .

The method section in APA research paper format is straightforward. However, the protocol and requirements should be mentioned precisely. The goal of this section is to describe your study and experiments in detail, so that there is no issue in reproducibility of results and other researchers could duplicate your methods effectively.

This section includes Materials and/or Apparatus and Experiments/Procedures/Protocols. Furthermore, keep the procedures brief and accurate, and make sure to read through so as to not repeat the steps or avoid redundancy.

In this section, you could describe how you analyzed the data and explain your findings. If your data analyses are complex, then break the section into subsections, ideally a subsection for each hypothesis and elaborate the subsections by using statistical analysis and including tables or figures to represent results visually. Most importantly, do not share interpretation of the results here. You can interpret and explain the results in the discussion section.

6. Discussion

Results are interpreted and understood in this section. Discussion section helps understand the research hypothesis better and places the results in the broader context of the literature in the area. This section is the reversal of introduction section, wherein you begin with the specifics and explain the general understanding of the topics.

In discussion, you start with a brief of your main findings, followed by explaining if your research findings support your hypothesis. Furthermore, you could explain how your findings enhance or support the existing literature on the topic. Connect your results with some of the literature mentioned in the introduction to bring your story back to full circle. You could also mention if there are any interesting or surprising findings in your results. Discuss other theories which could help you justify your surprising results.

Explain the limitation of your study and mention all the additional questions that were generated from your study. You could also mention what further research should be conducted on the topic and what are the knowledge gaps in the current body of research. Finally, mention how your results could relate to the larger issues of human existence and highlight “the big picture” for your readers.

7. References

Provide an alphabetical listing of the references. Do not keep extra spaces between references and double-space all the references. The second line of each reference should be intended. You could refer to the examples (mentioned below) to know how to format references correctly.

I. Journal Article:

Only first letter of the first word of the article title is capitalized; the journal name and volume are italicized. If the journal name had multiple words, each of the major words are capitalized.

Example: Ebner-Priemer, U. W., & Trull, T. J. (2009). Ecological momentary assessment of mood disorders and mood dysregulation. Psychological Assessment, 21 , 463-475. doi:10.1037/a0017075

II. Book Chapter:

Only the first letter of the first word of both the chapter title and book title are capitalized.

Example: Stephan, W. G. (1985). Intergroup relations. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology (3rd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 599-658). New York: Random House.

Example: Gray, P. (2010). Psychology (6th ed.). New York: Worth

There are various formats for tables, depending upon the information you wish to include. So, be thorough and provide a table number and title (the latter should be italicized). Tables can be single or double-spaced.

Be sure to mention x- and y-axes clearly. Underneath the figure provide a label and brief caption. The figure caption typically includes variables and units of measurements. Also, include error bars in your bar graphs, and note what the bars represent in the figure caption – Error bars represent one standard error above and below the mean.

VI. In-Text Citation:

  • Mention the authors’ names and publication date while citing sources in your paper.
  • When including the citation as part of the sentence, use AND: “According to Jones and Smith (2003), the…”
  • When the citation is written in parentheses, use &: “Studies have shown that priming can affect actual motor behavior (Jones & Smith, 2003; Kiley, Bailey, & Hammer, 1999). The studies in parentheses should appear alphabetically by first author’s last name, and separate it with semicolons.
  • You should avoid quoting directly, but in case you do – along with the name and date, include the page number.
  • For sources with three or more authors, once you have listed all the authors’ names, you may write “et al.” on subsequent mentions: “Klein et al. (1999) found that…”.
  • Meanwhile, when source has six or more authors, the first author’s last name and “et al.” are used every time the source is cited.

VII. Secondary Source:

It is a term used to describe material that is cited in another source. Avoid using secondary sources in your papers. Try to find the primary source and read it before citing in your work. However, if you must mention a secondary source, refer to the APA style paper example below:

Primary source author’s last name (as cited in secondary source author’s last name, year) argued that…

7 Tips for Writing an Error-free APA Style Research Paper

APA research paper format

  • Although there are exceptions, minimize using first person while writing.
  • Avoid including personal statements or anecdotes.
  • Although there are exceptions, use past tense while writing.
  • Do not use contractions. (e.g., “it does not follow” rather than “it doesn’t follow”)
  • Avoid biased language – Be updated with appropriate terminologies, especially if you are writing a paper that includes gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.
  • Be certain to cite your sources.
  • Try to paraphrase as much as possible, and do not directly quote from source articles.

This article contains only a few aspects of an APA research paper format. There are many APA style rules which can be explored before you begin to write an APA style research paper. Many of the APA research paper format rules are dynamic and subject to change, so it is best to refer to 7 th edition (latest) of the APA Publication Manual and be thorough with every section’s format before writing a research paper.

Have you used an APA research paper format to write your article? Do write to us or comment below and tell us how your experience writing an APA style paper was?

Frequently Asked Questions

The APA format is the official style of American Psychological Association (APA) and is commonly used to cite sources in psychology, education and social sciences.

APA stands for the American Psychological Association. It is a professional organization that focuses on the field of psychology and related disciplines.

Citing sources in APA format involves specific guidelines for different types of sources. In-text Citations: For a paraphrased or summarized idea from a source, include the author's last name and the publication year in parentheses. Example: (Smith, 2021) Reference List Entry for a Journal Article: Only first letter of the first word of the article title is capitalized; the journal name and volume are italicized. If the journal name had multiple words, each of the major words are capitalized. Example: Ebner-Priemer, U. W., & Trull, T. J. (2009). Ecological momentary assessment of mood disorders and mood dysregulation. Psychological Assessment, 21, 463-475. doi:10.1037/a0017075

The APA (American Psychological Association) style is primarily used by researchers, scholars, and students in the social sciences, including psychology, sociology, education, and related fields. However, the APA style is not limited to these disciplines and is also used in other academic and scientific fields when writing research papers or scholarly articles.

As per the 7th edition of APA citation (published in 2020), the last name and first/middle initials for all authors (up to first 20 authors) are mentioned in the bibliography. If there are 21 or more authors, an ellipsis (but no ampersand) is used after the 19th author, and then the final author’s name is added. Generic format: Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article. Title of Journal, Volume # (issue number), Pages. https://doi.org/xx.xxx/yyyy Example: Ebner-Priemer, U. W., & Trull, T. J. (2009). Ecological momentary assessment of mood disorders and mood dysregulation. Psychological Assessment, 21, 463-475. doi:10.1037/a0017075

When quoting in APA format, you need to properly incorporate and cite direct quotations from sources. Introduce the Quote: Begin with a signal phrase or an introductory statement to lead into the quote. This helps provide context and relevance for the quotation. Provide In-text Citation: Immediately after the closing quotation mark, include an in-text citation that provides the author's last name, publication year, and, if applicable, page number(s) of the quoted material. Example: (Smith, 2021, p. 25) Cite the Source in the Reference List: Include a corresponding entry in the reference list for the source you are quoting. The format for the reference list entry depends on the type of source being quoted (e.g., book, journal article, website).

' src=

Good explanation given

It was really helpful. Thanks!

nice article

Perfect explanation thank you

It was really amazing perfect

very explanation, i can now make a research paper easier

very god explanation, i can now make a research paper easier

Rate this article Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published.

tips for writing apa research paper

Enago Academy's Most Popular Articles

Content Analysis vs Thematic Analysis: What's the difference?

  • Reporting Research

Choosing the Right Analytical Approach: Thematic analysis vs. content analysis for data interpretation

In research, choosing the right approach to understand data is crucial for deriving meaningful insights.…

Cross-sectional and Longitudinal Study Design

Comparing Cross Sectional and Longitudinal Studies: 5 steps for choosing the right approach

The process of choosing the right research design can put ourselves at the crossroads of…

Networking in Academic Conferences

  • Career Corner

Unlocking the Power of Networking in Academic Conferences

Embarking on your first academic conference experience? Fear not, we got you covered! Academic conferences…

Research recommendation

Research Recommendations – Guiding policy-makers for evidence-based decision making

Research recommendations play a crucial role in guiding scholars and researchers toward fruitful avenues of…

tips for writing apa research paper

  • AI in Academia

Disclosing the Use of Generative AI: Best practices for authors in manuscript preparation

The rapid proliferation of generative and other AI-based tools in research writing has ignited an…

Choosing the Right Analytical Approach: Thematic analysis vs. content analysis for…

Comparing Cross Sectional and Longitudinal Studies: 5 steps for choosing the right…

Setting Rationale in Research: Cracking the code for excelling at research

tips for writing apa research paper

Sign-up to read more

Subscribe for free to get unrestricted access to all our resources on research writing and academic publishing including:

  • 2000+ blog articles
  • 50+ Webinars
  • 10+ Expert podcasts
  • 50+ Infographics
  • 10+ Checklists
  • Research Guides

We hate spam too. We promise to protect your privacy and never spam you.

I am looking for Editing/ Proofreading services for my manuscript Tentative date of next journal submission:

tips for writing apa research paper

What should universities' stance be on AI tools in research and academic writing?

Logo for M Libraries Publishing

Want to create or adapt books like this? Learn more about how Pressbooks supports open publishing practices.

13.1 Formatting a Research Paper

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the major components of a research paper written using American Psychological Association (APA) style.
  • Apply general APA style and formatting conventions in a research paper.

In this chapter, you will learn how to use APA style , the documentation and formatting style followed by the American Psychological Association, as well as MLA style , from the Modern Language Association. There are a few major formatting styles used in academic texts, including AMA, Chicago, and Turabian:

  • AMA (American Medical Association) for medicine, health, and biological sciences
  • APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the social sciences
  • Chicago—a common style used in everyday publications like magazines, newspapers, and books
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) for English, literature, arts, and humanities
  • Turabian—another common style designed for its universal application across all subjects and disciplines

While all the formatting and citation styles have their own use and applications, in this chapter we focus our attention on the two styles you are most likely to use in your academic studies: APA and MLA.

If you find that the rules of proper source documentation are difficult to keep straight, you are not alone. Writing a good research paper is, in and of itself, a major intellectual challenge. Having to follow detailed citation and formatting guidelines as well may seem like just one more task to add to an already-too-long list of requirements.

Following these guidelines, however, serves several important purposes. First, it signals to your readers that your paper should be taken seriously as a student’s contribution to a given academic or professional field; it is the literary equivalent of wearing a tailored suit to a job interview. Second, it shows that you respect other people’s work enough to give them proper credit for it. Finally, it helps your reader find additional materials if he or she wishes to learn more about your topic.

Furthermore, producing a letter-perfect APA-style paper need not be burdensome. Yes, it requires careful attention to detail. However, you can simplify the process if you keep these broad guidelines in mind:

  • Work ahead whenever you can. Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” includes tips for keeping track of your sources early in the research process, which will save time later on.
  • Get it right the first time. Apply APA guidelines as you write, so you will not have much to correct during the editing stage. Again, putting in a little extra time early on can save time later.
  • Use the resources available to you. In addition to the guidelines provided in this chapter, you may wish to consult the APA website at http://www.apa.org or the Purdue University Online Writing lab at http://owl.english.purdue.edu , which regularly updates its online style guidelines.

General Formatting Guidelines

This chapter provides detailed guidelines for using the citation and formatting conventions developed by the American Psychological Association, or APA. Writers in disciplines as diverse as astrophysics, biology, psychology, and education follow APA style. The major components of a paper written in APA style are listed in the following box.

These are the major components of an APA-style paper:

Body, which includes the following:

  • Headings and, if necessary, subheadings to organize the content
  • In-text citations of research sources
  • References page

All these components must be saved in one document, not as separate documents.

The title page of your paper includes the following information:

  • Title of the paper
  • Author’s name
  • Name of the institution with which the author is affiliated
  • Header at the top of the page with the paper title (in capital letters) and the page number (If the title is lengthy, you may use a shortened form of it in the header.)

List the first three elements in the order given in the previous list, centered about one third of the way down from the top of the page. Use the headers and footers tool of your word-processing program to add the header, with the title text at the left and the page number in the upper-right corner. Your title page should look like the following example.

Beyond the Hype: Evaluating Low-Carb Diets cover page

The next page of your paper provides an abstract , or brief summary of your findings. An abstract does not need to be provided in every paper, but an abstract should be used in papers that include a hypothesis. A good abstract is concise—about one hundred fifty to two hundred fifty words—and is written in an objective, impersonal style. Your writing voice will not be as apparent here as in the body of your paper. When writing the abstract, take a just-the-facts approach, and summarize your research question and your findings in a few sentences.

In Chapter 12 “Writing a Research Paper” , you read a paper written by a student named Jorge, who researched the effectiveness of low-carbohydrate diets. Read Jorge’s abstract. Note how it sums up the major ideas in his paper without going into excessive detail.

Beyond the Hype: Abstract

Write an abstract summarizing your paper. Briefly introduce the topic, state your findings, and sum up what conclusions you can draw from your research. Use the word count feature of your word-processing program to make sure your abstract does not exceed one hundred fifty words.

Depending on your field of study, you may sometimes write research papers that present extensive primary research, such as your own experiment or survey. In your abstract, summarize your research question and your findings, and briefly indicate how your study relates to prior research in the field.

Margins, Pagination, and Headings

APA style requirements also address specific formatting concerns, such as margins, pagination, and heading styles, within the body of the paper. Review the following APA guidelines.

Use these general guidelines to format the paper:

  • Set the top, bottom, and side margins of your paper at 1 inch.
  • Use double-spaced text throughout your paper.
  • Use a standard font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, in a legible size (10- to 12-point).
  • Use continuous pagination throughout the paper, including the title page and the references section. Page numbers appear flush right within your header.
  • Section headings and subsection headings within the body of your paper use different types of formatting depending on the level of information you are presenting. Additional details from Jorge’s paper are provided.

Cover Page

Begin formatting the final draft of your paper according to APA guidelines. You may work with an existing document or set up a new document if you choose. Include the following:

  • Your title page
  • The abstract you created in Note 13.8 “Exercise 1”
  • Correct headers and page numbers for your title page and abstract

APA style uses section headings to organize information, making it easy for the reader to follow the writer’s train of thought and to know immediately what major topics are covered. Depending on the length and complexity of the paper, its major sections may also be divided into subsections, sub-subsections, and so on. These smaller sections, in turn, use different heading styles to indicate different levels of information. In essence, you are using headings to create a hierarchy of information.

The following heading styles used in APA formatting are listed in order of greatest to least importance:

  • Section headings use centered, boldface type. Headings use title case, with important words in the heading capitalized.
  • Subsection headings use left-aligned, boldface type. Headings use title case.
  • The third level uses left-aligned, indented, boldface type. Headings use a capital letter only for the first word, and they end in a period.
  • The fourth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are boldfaced and italicized.
  • The fifth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are italicized and not boldfaced.

Visually, the hierarchy of information is organized as indicated in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” .

Table 13.1 Section Headings

A college research paper may not use all the heading levels shown in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” , but you are likely to encounter them in academic journal articles that use APA style. For a brief paper, you may find that level 1 headings suffice. Longer or more complex papers may need level 2 headings or other lower-level headings to organize information clearly. Use your outline to craft your major section headings and determine whether any subtopics are substantial enough to require additional levels of headings.

Working with the document you developed in Note 13.11 “Exercise 2” , begin setting up the heading structure of the final draft of your research paper according to APA guidelines. Include your title and at least two to three major section headings, and follow the formatting guidelines provided above. If your major sections should be broken into subsections, add those headings as well. Use your outline to help you.

Because Jorge used only level 1 headings, his Exercise 3 would look like the following:

Citation Guidelines

In-text citations.

Throughout the body of your paper, include a citation whenever you quote or paraphrase material from your research sources. As you learned in Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” , the purpose of citations is twofold: to give credit to others for their ideas and to allow your reader to follow up and learn more about the topic if desired. Your in-text citations provide basic information about your source; each source you cite will have a longer entry in the references section that provides more detailed information.

In-text citations must provide the name of the author or authors and the year the source was published. (When a given source does not list an individual author, you may provide the source title or the name of the organization that published the material instead.) When directly quoting a source, it is also required that you include the page number where the quote appears in your citation.

This information may be included within the sentence or in a parenthetical reference at the end of the sentence, as in these examples.

Epstein (2010) points out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Here, the writer names the source author when introducing the quote and provides the publication date in parentheses after the author’s name. The page number appears in parentheses after the closing quotation marks and before the period that ends the sentence.

Addiction researchers caution that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (Epstein, 2010, p. 137).

Here, the writer provides a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence that includes the author’s name, the year of publication, and the page number separated by commas. Again, the parenthetical citation is placed after the closing quotation marks and before the period at the end of the sentence.

As noted in the book Junk Food, Junk Science (Epstein, 2010, p. 137), “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive.”

Here, the writer chose to mention the source title in the sentence (an optional piece of information to include) and followed the title with a parenthetical citation. Note that the parenthetical citation is placed before the comma that signals the end of the introductory phrase.

David Epstein’s book Junk Food, Junk Science (2010) pointed out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Another variation is to introduce the author and the source title in your sentence and include the publication date and page number in parentheses within the sentence or at the end of the sentence. As long as you have included the essential information, you can choose the option that works best for that particular sentence and source.

Citing a book with a single author is usually a straightforward task. Of course, your research may require that you cite many other types of sources, such as books or articles with more than one author or sources with no individual author listed. You may also need to cite sources available in both print and online and nonprint sources, such as websites and personal interviews. Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.2 “Citing and Referencing Techniques” and Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provide extensive guidelines for citing a variety of source types.

Writing at Work

APA is just one of several different styles with its own guidelines for documentation, formatting, and language usage. Depending on your field of interest, you may be exposed to additional styles, such as the following:

  • MLA style. Determined by the Modern Languages Association and used for papers in literature, languages, and other disciplines in the humanities.
  • Chicago style. Outlined in the Chicago Manual of Style and sometimes used for papers in the humanities and the sciences; many professional organizations use this style for publications as well.
  • Associated Press (AP) style. Used by professional journalists.

References List

The brief citations included in the body of your paper correspond to the more detailed citations provided at the end of the paper in the references section. In-text citations provide basic information—the author’s name, the publication date, and the page number if necessary—while the references section provides more extensive bibliographical information. Again, this information allows your reader to follow up on the sources you cited and do additional reading about the topic if desired.

The specific format of entries in the list of references varies slightly for different source types, but the entries generally include the following information:

  • The name(s) of the author(s) or institution that wrote the source
  • The year of publication and, where applicable, the exact date of publication
  • The full title of the source
  • For books, the city of publication
  • For articles or essays, the name of the periodical or book in which the article or essay appears
  • For magazine and journal articles, the volume number, issue number, and pages where the article appears
  • For sources on the web, the URL where the source is located

The references page is double spaced and lists entries in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. If an entry continues for more than one line, the second line and each subsequent line are indented five spaces. Review the following example. ( Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provides extensive guidelines for formatting reference entries for different types of sources.)

References Section

In APA style, book and article titles are formatted in sentence case, not title case. Sentence case means that only the first word is capitalized, along with any proper nouns.

Key Takeaways

  • Following proper citation and formatting guidelines helps writers ensure that their work will be taken seriously, give proper credit to other authors for their work, and provide valuable information to readers.
  • Working ahead and taking care to cite sources correctly the first time are ways writers can save time during the editing stage of writing a research paper.
  • APA papers usually include an abstract that concisely summarizes the paper.
  • APA papers use a specific headings structure to provide a clear hierarchy of information.
  • In APA papers, in-text citations usually include the name(s) of the author(s) and the year of publication.
  • In-text citations correspond to entries in the references section, which provide detailed bibliographical information about a source.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

  • Search This Site All UCSD Sites Faculty/Staff Search Term
  • Contact & Directions
  • Climate Statement
  • Cognitive Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Adjunct Faculty
  • Non-Senate Instructors
  • Researchers
  • Psychology Grads
  • Affiliated Grads
  • New and Prospective Students
  • Honors Program
  • Experiential Learning
  • Programs & Events
  • Psi Chi / Psychology Club
  • Prospective PhD Students
  • Current PhD Students
  • Area Brown Bags
  • Colloquium Series
  • Anderson Distinguished Lecture Series
  • Speaker Videos
  • Undergraduate Program

Academic and Writing Resources

  • Writing Research Papers

Writing Research Papers 

Information and resources.

One of the most important skills that you can learn in this department is how to write a research paper.  For many of you, this will be in fulfillment of the Psychology B.S. Degree Research Paper requirement and/or the Psychology Honors Program Thesis requirement.  You may also be writing an American Psychological Association (APA) formatted research paper for a Psychology course (such as a term paper or a summary of an empirical research paper).  In some cases, such as for certain job, graduate school, and fellowship applications, you may be asked to provide a writing sample; a well-written research paper can be ideal for that purpose.  The ability to write research papers is crucial for those who wish to pursue graduate school and research careers.  To assist with these potential goals, we’ve gathered important information and helpful tips for you.

Should I Use a Specific Format and Style?

In the psychological sciences, it is common for research papers to adhere to the guidelines of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (papers in other fields often use APA format as well).  APA guidelines not only specify the types of sections that a research paper should have, but also the order of those sections, the manner in which scholarly sources should be cited in the text and in a separate references section, appropriate methods of reporting experimental and statistical results, the proper use of language, and other details.  A well-written psychology research paper typically follows those guidelines .

How to Write a Successful Research Paper in APA Style

For more information on writing research papers in APA style, please checking out the following pages.  Here you’ll find details on multiple aspects of the research paper writing process, ranging from how the paper should be structured to how to write more effectively.

  • Structure and Format – the critical components of each section of an APA-formatted research paper (Introduction, Methods, and on), as well as how those sections should be formatted according to APA guidelines.

► Structure of Research Papers in APA Style

► Formatting Research Papers in APA Style

  • Finding, Evaluating, and Citing References – how to search databases, how to obtain references, how to take notes when reading references, what types of references to use, how to include in-text citations, and how to create an APA-formatted reference list.

► Using Databases and Finding References

► What Types of References Are Appropriate for Research Papers?

► Evaluating References and Taking Notes

► Citing References in APA Style

  • Writing a Literature Review, the Writing Process, and Improving Writing – how to write a literature review (an overview or summary of prior research, which is a common technique of introducing a research topic in the early sections of a paper), as well as recommendations for the writing process, improving clarity and conciseness, examples of adequate and better paragraphs, and links to resources on improving writing.

► Writing Literature Reviews

► Writing Process and Revising

► Improving Scientific Writing

  • Avoiding Plagiarism – how to make sure that your research paper represents your writing and ideas and does not erroneously or unethically appropriate the works of others.

► Academic Integrity and Avoiding Plagiarism

  • How-To Videos – for video guides to the different major sections of research papers, plus literature reviews and references, please see the following:

► Writing Research Papers Videos

In addition, you may be interested in downloading “ How to Write a Research Paper in APA Style ”, a comprehensive guide developed by Prof. Emma Geller, “ Tips for Writing APA Style Research Papers ” (a short summary of multiple aspects of the paper-writing process), and an Example B.S. Degree Research Paper written in APA Style .

Workshops and Downloadable Resources

  • For in-person discussion of the process of writing research papers, please consider attending this department’s “Writing Research Papers” workshop (for dates and times, please check the undergraduate workshops calendar).
  • How to Write APA Style Research Papers (a comprehensive guide) [ PDF ]
  • Tips for Writing APA Style Research Papers (a brief summary) [ PDF ]
  • Example APA Style Research Paper (for B.S. Degree – empirical research) [ PDF ]
  • Example APA Style Research Paper (for B.S. Degree – literature review) [ PDF ]

Further Resources

  • OASIS Language and Writing Program
  • UCSD Writing Programs and Resources
  • UCSD Muir College Writing Hub
  • UCSD Writing Hub

External Resources

  • APA Style Guide from the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL)
  • APA Tutorial on the Basics of APA Style
  • EasyBib Guide to Writing and Citing in APA Format
  • Formatting APA Style Papers in Microsoft Word
  • How to Write an APA Style Research Paper from Hamilton University
  • Online Learning: Plagiarism and Paraphrasing
  • Sample APA Formatted Paper with Comments
  • Sample APA Formatted Paper
  • Tips for Writing a Paper in APA Style
  • WikiHow Guide to Writing APA Research Papers

Back to top

  • Research Paper Structure
  • Formatting Research Papers
  • Using Databases and Finding References
  • What Types of References Are Appropriate?
  • Evaluating References and Taking Notes
  • Citing References
  • Writing a Literature Review
  • Writing Process and Revising
  • Improving Scientific Writing
  • Academic Integrity and Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Writing Research Papers Videos
  • Effective Studying

IMAGES

  1. Get tips for how to create an APA title page. Let this simple guide

    tips for writing apa research paper

  2. Sample APA Research Paper Free Download

    tips for writing apa research paper

  3. APA Reference Page Examples and Format Guide

    tips for writing apa research paper

  4. How to properly write an essay in apa format

    tips for writing apa research paper

  5. Apa format free essay examples and research papers

    tips for writing apa research paper

  6. Writing An Outline For A Research Paper Apa Format

    tips for writing apa research paper

VIDEO

  1. APA Research Paper Refuting Opposing Viewpoints

  2. How do I format my APA References page in online Word?

  3. Practical Tips on Writing an A+ Research paper

  4. How to Use Sources in an APA Research Paper or Essay

  5. How To Use APA Format and Style in Research

  6. MLA vs APA Style

COMMENTS

  1. PDF APA Style Tip Sheet

    APA Style Tip Sheet When learning APA Style, it can be helpful to refer to a tip sheet. For example, this tip sheet contains tips about paper format, inclusive language, and references. We recommend creating your own tip . sheet according to your writing needs. Paper Format Tips • Use default font and margin settings. • Double-space text.

  2. PDF Tips for Writing a Research Paper in APA format Basics

    Tips for Writing a Research Paper in APA format: Basics: A research paper (especially one that requires APA style) is different than a term paper, a creative writing paper, a composition-style paper, or a thought paper. A research paper requires you to leave out any personal information (both as content or in your writing style - see below ...

  3. A step-by-step guide for creating and formatting APA Style student papers

    This article walks through the formatting steps needed to create an APA Style student paper, starting with a basic setup that applies to the entire paper (margins, font, line spacing, paragraph alignment and indentation, and page headers). It then covers formatting for the major sections of a student paper: the title page, the text, tables and ...

  4. PDF Student Paper Setup Guide, APA Style 7th Edition

    Indent the first line of every paragraph of text 0.5 in. using the tab key or the paragraph-formatting function of your word-processing program. Page numbers: Put a page number in the top right corner of every page, including the title page or cover page, which is page 1. Student papers do not require a running head on any page.

  5. APA format for academic papers and essays

    Throughout your paper, you need to apply the following APA format guidelines: Set page margins to 1 inch on all sides. Double-space all text, including headings. Indent the first line of every paragraph 0.5 inches. Use an accessible font (e.g., Times New Roman 12pt., Arial 11pt., or Georgia 11pt.).

  6. How to Write an APA Research Paper

    Title page. (see sample on p. 41 of APA manual) Title should be between 10-12 words and should reflect content of paper (e.g., IV and DV). Title, your name, and Hamilton College are all double-spaced (no extra spaces) Create a page header using the "View header" function in MS Word. On the title page, the header should include the following:

  7. PDF Tips for Writing APA Style Research Papers

    Steps for writing a literature review can include: Identify and clearly define the topic. Conduct a literature search on the topic. Read the research carefully and take notes. Organize your notes; create an outline. Write the review; edit and revise as needed. Incorporate the review into the research paper.

  8. APA Format: Guidelines, Tips, and Examples

    There are some basic rules of APA format that apply to any type of APA paper. These include: Type on standard-size (8.5-inch by 11-inch) paper. Have a 1-inch margin on all sides. Have a title page, a reference list, and a byline. Use an easy-to-read font such as Calibri or Times New Roman.

  9. Reporting Research Results in APA Style

    Reporting Research Results in APA Style | Tips & Examples. Published on December 21, 2020 by Pritha Bhandari.Revised on January 17, 2024. The results section of a quantitative research paper is where you summarize your data and report the findings of any relevant statistical analyses.. The APA manual provides rigorous guidelines for what to report in quantitative research papers in the fields ...

  10. How to Write an APA Style Paper: 12 Steps (with Pictures)

    Download Article. 1. Introduce your paper. The first section of an APA style paper will be the introduction, but it doesn't have to be labeled. Just write the title of your paper (in regular type) on the start of the next page, then begin writing your introduction on the line below it.

  11. APA Sample Paper

    Crucially, citation practices do not differ between the two styles of paper. However, for your convenience, we have provided two versions of our APA 7 sample paper below: one in student style and one in professional style. Note: For accessibility purposes, we have used "Track Changes" to make comments along the margins of these samples.

  12. How to Write an APA Methods Section

    To structure your methods section, you can use the subheadings of "Participants," "Materials," and "Procedures.". These headings are not mandatory—aim to organize your methods section using subheadings that make sense for your specific study. Note that not all of these topics will necessarily be relevant for your study.

  13. PDF How to Write APA Style Research Papers

    Use one-inch margins on all sides of the paper. 3. The text should be left-justified (a straight line), and the right side should be "ragged" (do not justify on both sides) 4. Paragraphs should be indented at the beginning (please use paragraphs!) 5.

  14. How to Write a Research Paper in APA Format

    The sections in APA-style paper are as follows: 1. Title Page. As per the APA research paper format, the title should be between 10-12 words and should reflect the essence of the paper. After writing the title, write your name followed by name of the college.

  15. 13.1 Formatting a Research Paper

    Set the top, bottom, and side margins of your paper at 1 inch. Use double-spaced text throughout your paper. Use a standard font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, in a legible size (10- to 12-point). Use continuous pagination throughout the paper, including the title page and the references section.

  16. Writing Tips for APA-Style Research Papers

    Understanding writing tips for APA-style research papers will minimize rewrites.

  17. Writing a Research Paper Introduction

    Step 1: Introduce your topic. Step 2: Describe the background. Step 3: Establish your research problem. Step 4: Specify your objective (s) Step 5: Map out your paper. Research paper introduction examples. Frequently asked questions about the research paper introduction.

  18. Writing Research Papers

    For more information on writing research papers in APA style, please checking out the following pages. Here you'll find details on multiple aspects of the research paper writing process, ranging from how the paper should be structured to how to write more effectively. Structure and Format - the critical components of each section of an APA ...

  19. Psych./Neuro. 201 How to Write an APA Style Research Paper

    An APA-style paper includes the following sections: title page, abstract, introduction, method, results, discussion, and references. Your paper may also include one or more tables and/or figures. Different types of information about your study are addressed in each of the sections, as described below. General formatting rules are as follows:

  20. How to Write a Research Paper

    Develop a thesis statement. Create a research paper outline. Write a first draft of the research paper. Write the introduction. Write a compelling body of text. Write the conclusion. The second draft. The revision process. Research paper checklist.