Writing an academically successful research paper is no easy task. To accurately and effectively communicate research results, it is essential to become acquainted with the rules and guidelines for formatting a research paper. The American Psychological Association (APA) has developed a widely recognized and accepted formatting style that is used worldwide for organising and referencing sources in research papers. Following the APA format not only helps authors organise their arguments effectively but also ensures proper crediting of secondary literature and prevents plagiarism. In this guide, we will delve into the fundamental aspects of writing an APA research paper, including formatting guidelines, citation rules, and tips for academic success.
What is APA?
The APA style, developed by the American Psychological Association, serves as a standardised language for research papers and higher education. It provides authors with a consistent and credible format for presenting their research findings and ideas. By adhering to the APA guidelines, researchers can ensure that their papers are well-organised, easy to read, and properly credited.
APA Formatting Guidelines
To achieve clarity and coherence in APA-style papers, certain general requirements must be followed. These guidelines help authors maintain conciseness, professionalism, and effective communication. Let’s explore the key requirements for APA formatting.
APA-style papers, often used in scientific literature, require authors to be concise and precise in their writing. Professional language is crucial, and main ideas should be presented clearly, avoiding unnecessary details. While the paper should encompass the author’s ideas comprehensively, it is important to keep the length to a minimum.
APA formatting rules prescribe that papers should be typed on a standard-sized 8.5 inches by 11 inches paper. The text should be double-spaced with one-inch margins on all sides. While the font choice should ensure readability, 12-point Times New Roman is commonly used. It is important for students to follow these standard guidelines unless specifically instructed otherwise by their professors.
Title Page Components
The 7th edition of the APA style introduced different title page formats for students and professionals. A student paper includes the title, author’s name, institutional affiliation, course name and number, instructor’s name, and due date. The title should be centred, written in boldface, and concise. Irrelevant words and abbreviations should be avoided. The title page, like the rest of the paper, should be double-spaced. Professional papers include the institutional affiliation with the research location, an author’s note, running head, page number and disclosures. Unlike professional papers, student papers do not require an author’s note.
Running heads are not required for student papers, but they are included in professional papers. The 7th edition of APA style removed the label “running head,” and the running head should be flush left on the paper, not exceeding 50 characters, including spacing and punctuation. Additionally, the running head should be in all uppercase, while the page number should be placed flush right on both types of paper.
Table of Contents
While the inclusion of a table of contents is not compulsory in APA style, it is recommended for lengthier papers. The table of contents should start with a centred heading of “Table of Contents” in boldface at the top of the page. Main headings should be flushed to the left, with subheadings indented by five spaces. Lower-level headings can also be included and should be further indented. All headings should follow title case capitalization, and dotted lines can be added between headings and page numbers for better readability. The table of contents should include all pages, including preliminary and supplementary sections, without exceeding two pages. This organisational tool enhances the navigability of the paper, allowing readers to focus on its content.
A solid outline serves as the foundation of a well-organised research paper. In APA format, a research paper is typically divided into three main parts: introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction provides the background and thesis statement, while the body presents the main points supporting the thesis. The conclusion summarises the key findings and justifies the paper’s contribution to existing literature.
The abstract, located after the title page, is an essential component of a well-written research paper. Often overlooked, the abstract serves as a summary of the paper, providing readers with an overview of its purpose and content. It should be concise, informative, and structured. The abstract is typically a single paragraph written in block format. Authors should ensure that each sentence within the abstract is packed with relevant information for maximum impact.
The introduction sets the stage for the study, providing a critical overview of existing literature and stating the research hypothesis or thesis. It should capture the readers’ attention and provide a clear rationale for the study’s importance. For writing an interesting introduction, researchers should introduce a logical flow of ideas that will eventually lead to the research hypothesis. Furthermore, while incorporating references into your introduction, do not describe every single study in complete detail.
The body of an APA-style research paper consists of the introduction, method, results, discussion, and conclusion sections.
- The method section describes the research design, participants, materials, and procedure used to collect data.
- The results section presents the findings of the study, often utilising tables and graphs for better comprehension. Break the section into subsections if your data analyses are complex. Also, don’t share the interpretation of the results here.
- The discussion section interprets the results, relates them to previous research, and addresses limitations and directions for future research.
The conclusion summarises the main points of the study and emphasises its contribution to the field.
The reference page, located at the end of the paper, provides a detailed list of all sources used in the research paper. It should follow specific formatting guidelines outlined in the latest edition of the APA style. The references should be arranged alphabetically, with the first line on the left and subsequent lines indented. Books and journal titles should be italicised, and punctuation and capitalization should be retained as in the original source. The reference page is of utmost importance as it gives credit to the sources used, ensuring the author’s credibility and avoiding plagiarism.
How to Use References in APA
APA referencing consists of two components: the reference list and in-text citations. The reference list contains detailed information about the sources used throughout the paper, while in-text citations are used to credit sources within the text itself. Understanding the core elements of APA citation format is essential for accurate referencing.
The reference list begins with the author’s last name, followed by their initials separated by a comma. Multiple authors are separated by commas, with an ampersand before the last author’s name. If multiple authors share the same surname and initials, their names should be enclosed in square brackets. The publication date follows the authors’ names, with “n.d.” used if the date is unknown. The title of the source is formatted based on the specific type of reference. Periodical titles are italicised, and volume numbers are included. Publisher information is provided, with the location and state code for US publishers and the city and country for publishers outside the US. Following the correct format for the reference list is crucial for maintaining consistency and credibility.
In-text citations are used when paraphrasing or directly quoting information from a source within the paper. The APA style employs the “author-date” method, where the author’s last name is followed by a comma and the year of publication in parentheses. In-text citations are essential for acknowledging sources and avoiding plagiarism. Direct quotes should be used sparingly and should be accompanied by the page number or paragraph number for accurate referencing.
Writing an APA research paper requires a firm grasp of the formatting guidelines and citation rules established by the American Psychological Association. Adhering to the guidelines provided in the blog will ensure organisational consistency, proper crediting of sources, and avoidance of plagiarism.