The American Psychological Association (APA) style is the most commonly used format for writing scientific and scholarly papers in the social sciences. This section provides a brief overview of APA style, including formatting guidelines and tips for creating a clear and concise paper.
What is APA Style?
APA style is a set of guidelines and rules that writers can use when preparing their research papers to ensure that the paper is consistent and easy for others to read. The primary purpose of the APA style is to improve clarity, efficiency, and cohesion in research papers by:
1) Presenting ideas in a clear and concise manner;
2) Following grammatical conventions specific to the social sciences; and
3) Providing comprehensive information about each source so readers can see how it fits into the writer’s argument.
Writing an APA Style Paper
There are two components of writing an APA style paper: (1) formatting content in accordance with APA guidelines; and (2) following other scholarly conventions such as avoiding plagiarism and using appropriate citation methods.
Read also, How to Format a Book for Dummies
APA Style Formatting Guidelines
In general, APA style formatting should be used whenever you are writing a paper that will be read by people other than yourself. This includes papers submitted for publication in scholarly journals, as well as papers written for classes. The following guidelines provide an overview of the key elements of APA style formatting:
- Fonts: Use Times New Roman or another serif font when writing your paper. The font size should be 12 pt.
- Margins: Margins should be at least 1 inch on all sides of the paper.
- Spacing: Double-space your entire document, including block quotations and references.
- Headers & Footers: Include the document title in the header on page one, but no other text in the header or footer.
- Widow/Orphan Control: Avoid “widows” (single lines of text at the bottom of a page) and “orphans” (single lines of text at the top of a page). Highlight any widows or orphans that remain in your final draft before submitting it to your instructor for review. For more information on this topic, see our article on resolving widows and orphans.
- Paragraphs & Indents: APA style uses the tab button to create indents for paragraph beginning, body, and ending. There are no returns between paragraphs.
- Bolding/Italics/Underlining: Italics are used in APA style to indicate titles of books and papers within a reference list entry and titles of larger works (e.g., journal articles). Underlining is never used in APA style. You may bold text when beginning a title or subtitle, but this should be done sparingly and only when there may be confusion if it is not highlighted.
- Term Limits: Limit terms such as “the”, “a”, and “and” to three consecutive occurrences per 100 words in your paper or two consecutive occurrences per occurrence in titles, headings, and subheadings.
- Tables & Figures: Tables and figures should be placed near the text they relate to. All tables and figures should be numbered consecutively, with the title of the table or figure above it. Captions for tables and figures are placed below the table or figure, with the word “Table” or “Figure” at the beginning.
- Page Numbers: Pages should be numbered consecutively starting with page one. The running head (the shortened title of your paper) appears on every page, except the first. For more information on pagination, see our article on setting up your document in APA style.
- References: References are listed at the end of the paper. The reference label and corresponding citation appear in the main body of the text and are formatted differently for different sources, as described below. For more information on APA style references, see our article on citing references in your paper.
How to Format a Research Paper in APA: Step-By-Step Guide
Creating a document in APA style is easy once you understand how to format each element of your paper. This step-by-step guide explains how to create an easily readable final product. To download the Word template for this style, click HERE
Create a new document in Microsoft Word and save it as “MyPaperTitle_FirstLastName_APA.docx” or something similar that will help you remember what the file contains. You can save it directly to Google Drive using Google’s own Word template, which automatically saves everything you do as a backup.
Enter your last name followed by the first initial in the top left corner of the first page. The running head should appear as “MyPaperTitle_FirstLastName.”
Double-space the entire document.
Set the font to Times New Roman or another serif font and the font size to 12 pt.
Margins should be set to 1 inch on all sides of the paper.
Indent the first line of each paragraph using the tab button. Do not use spaces between paragraphs.
Bold or italicize titles of books, papers, and larger works within a reference list entry, but do not underline them. You may bold text when beginning a title or subtitle, but this should be done sparingly and only when there may be confusion if it is not highlighted.
Use the word “Table” or “Figure” at the beginning of each table or figure caption and place them near the text they relate to. All tables and figures should be numbered consecutively, with the title of the table or figure above it.
Page numbers should appear in the upper right-hand corner of each page, except for the first page. The running head should appear on every page, except for the first.
References should be listed at the end of the paper in alphabetical order by author’s last name. The reference label and corresponding citation appear in the main body of the text and are formatted differently for different sources.
What is the Format for an APA Research Paper?
The APA format for a research paper typically includes the following sections: title page, abstract, introduction, method, results, discussion, and references. The order of these sections may vary depending on the specific needs of your paper.
1. Title Page
The title page should include the title of your paper, your name, and your institutional affiliation.
The abstract is a brief summary of your paper that should be around 200-250 words in length. It should include a brief description of your study’s purpose, participants, methods, results, and conclusions.
The introduction should provide a general overview of your topic and explain why it is important to investigate. It should also introduce your thesis statement, which should appear in your concluding paragraph.
The method section should explain the procedures used in your study, including participants, materials, measures, and any special equipment or software required to complete your research methods. If you are using a control group for comparison purposes, be sure to mention it here. Also, provide information about other variables that were controlled or held constant across conditions. Keep this section between 200-500 words in length. Be sure to define all technical terms at their first use within the paper.
This section may include tables of data and figures with graphs depicting important findings from your study. If necessary, you may also provide statistical tests employed in your results here (e.g., t-test, ANOVA, etc.). Results should be reported in a clear and concise manner, without including any interpretation or analysis of the data. This section should be between 200-500 words in length.
The discussion section should interpret your findings, exploring their significance and implications for future research. It should also mention any limitations of your study and suggest areas for further research. Be sure to discuss each table and figure included in your results section. The discussion section should be around 500-750 words in length.
The references section lists all of the sources cited in your paper. Each reference should include the author’s name, publication year, the title of the article or book, and the journal or publisher’s name. References should be listed in alphabetical order.
The APA format for a research paper can seem daunting, but it’s not as difficult as it may seem. Just be sure to adhere to the guidelines laid out in this article and you will be able to create a properly formatted paper that meets all of the requirements of the APA style.