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Learn How to Write a Research Paper in APA Format Style

This guide will provide you with essential information on how to write a research paper in APA format by following the rules of APA 7th edition. You will learn the specifics of APA academic writing style and learn how to cite and format your research paper correctly to avoid plagiarism risks and keep your paper accurate.

What is APA Formatting?

The APA style is a special format used in academic, business, and research writing for documentation of sources and publishing purposes. A research paper in APA format that you create must be presented in the latest 7th edition unless specified otherwise. Created by the American Psychological Association, hence the abbreviation, the latest manual is what we are going to reference in our APA guidelines to avoid confusion. It means that if your college professor asks for APA 7th edition, you are in the right place!

Published in October 2019, the latest edition of the writing style manual follows most rules that have been published before with a focus on simplification and readiness for publishing purposes. Speaking of research paper writing, the majority of students that use APA style format are majoring in subjects like Psychology, Sociology, Journalism, Education, Anthropology, Law, and Healthcare. Since it's relatively simple compared to Chicago, Harvard, or Turabian, it’s not hard to learn the basic rules as long as you remember the following:

  • There are in-text citations that you must use to provide a reference to a source mentioned in your text. The information that is required includes the author's name and the date of publication. You should also provide the page number or a section in the newspaper if such data is available.
  • There is a page called "References" that is placed at the end of your paper after your final conclusion part. This is exactly where you provide information (references) that list all of your sources that have been implemented in your research paper.

When to Cite a Source in APA Format?

This question often comes up. The answer is quite simple: when you need to bring out a summary of some data, paraphrase information that you discover, or quote something from another source. These citations may include it all from books in print, scientific journals, online books, articles in a newspaper, reports, surveys, statistical data, and so on. When you use a reference, the APA 7th style format requires mentioning the name of the author and the year of publication that will look this way for a single author:

(Jones, 2005)

It means that you are dealing with an author with the last name Jones and something that has been published in 2005. Alternatively, your in-text citation can look this way:

Another important notion has been explained by the concept of mutual co-existence. According to Jones (2005), who believed that authoritarian leaders can exist in peace and mutual respect, we can conclude that...

What is APA References Page?

We are certain that you have seen at least one references page before as you were looking through the final part of a research article online. The References page must list all of your sources alphabetically and may include up to 20 entries for a middle-sized research assignment. A typical APA example coming from a research journal looks this way:

Berry, B., Stipe, J. M., Wahlberg, R., and Zeldman, A. S. (2021). Social Interactions in Georgia State: A an overview of American South. Journal of Social Psychology, 34, 123-136.

As you can see, we have listed the authors alphabetically and mentioned the year of publication that is followed by the name of the scientific article. The name of the journal is given in italics to specify the importance of the source. It is followed by the journal’s volume and the number of pages that have been referenced.

Note: Remember that far not all sources and references that you may encounter are suitable for a research paper. EduBirdie experts recommend talking to your course instructor first and checking things twice regarding additional requirements and formatting. Our guide will provide you with the basic instructions on how to set things up to help your research paper meet the formatting standards.

APA Page Layout Disclaimer

Before you learn how to write a research paper in APA format by turning to various sections of our guide, it must be mentioned that using a Word processor or Google Docs as your writing source, it is essential to create a special page layout and the relevant headers that will be mentioned in our APA guide. While you can find online templates in APA format, these are not always accurate, which is why you must check things twice by focusing on fonts, headers, margins, indents, and other important aspects!

Writing a Research Paper in APA Style Format: General Requirements

1. Page Layout Rules

We'll start with the page layout that must be there all the time as this part of the APA 7th edition remains the same for all papers that you may encounter as a college student. Here is what you must do as you learn how to format a research paper:

  • Creating a document in MS Word or any other word processor of your choice, set your page margins to 1 inch on all sides of the page.
  • Your text must be double-spaced, including APA headings.
  • The APA 7th edition uses indents of the first line in every paragraph by 0.5 inches. Just press your TAB key once.
  • The recommended fonts for APA style format include Times New Roman (12 pt.), Arial (11 pt.), or Georgia (11 pt.). In certain cases, other fonts may be used, yet do so only after consulting your academic advisor.
  • Page numbers are included on every page of your document in the top right corner unless specified otherwise.

2 . Page Headers in APA 7th Edition

According to the manual, you must set your page header correctly. Every APA format research paper must provide headings that are written in upper case. Setting up your header, you must:

  • Click on the "Insert" tab in the MS Word toolbar.
  • Choose Header & Footer tab, click on Header and Blank.
  • The first (title) page of your APA research paper must include the left margin positioning where you type: MY RESEARCH PAPER TITLE. Of course, it's only an example and must be replaced by your actual title.
  • Tab once or twice to the right margin now.
  • Close your Header & Footer tab.

3. Page Numbering

Speaking of page numbering, use the default feature in MS Word or any other software to do so automatically. The page numbers must be placed in the top right corner and be present on all pages, including your references page. The title page in APA 7th edition should start from page number 1.

4. APA Title Page

Your title page in APA must start with the title of your paper, the name of the student or authors of the research project, and the institutional affiliation. All the lines must be centered and start in the middle of the title page. In addition to that, you must include your course number, instructor's name, and the due date of your research paper. It will look this way: 

 

The General Electrics Sample Title Page: 

Following the Engineering Principles of Electrical Circuit 

 

John Smith

Department of Engineering, Georgia State University

ENGN 222: Electrical Engineering

Dr. Michael John Stipe

October 11, 2008

5. Table of Contents

A table of contents is only necessary if you are writing a thesis paper or working on a dissertation. This section must be placed between your abstract part and the introduction. Use the same font and size as the rest of your content. The text starts at the top of your page with the word "Contents". Every entry must be centered and in bold font. 

6. Outline

The outline in APA format follows the same rules and can be delivered as a separate document in most cases. The page margins remain the same with the page numbering starting from page one. The structure of a page (usually one page only) should include an introduction that mentions the main background points and your thesis, the main body with the elements that support your research thesis statement, and a short conclusion that makes your final take on things or your position clear.

Note: There are no headers or anything specific for an outline. You may copy the main paper's header by adding the word "OUTLINE". 

7. Abstract

Your abstract must appear on a separate page after your research paper's title page. It means that it should be numbered as page 2. Write "Abstract" in bold title case and center it at the top of your page. The abstract itself comes as the next paragraph with the 0.5 inches indent. The length of your abstract should be no longer than 250 words. You may write it down in a single paragraph or use a different kind of structure.

As you write, focus on the requirements that you want to achieve scientifically, consider your target audience as you explain your methodology and the problem that you are planning to explore. Describe your results and provide a brief conclusion to your work exactly as it would be done in a book’s review.

8. Body Parts

It does not matter if you are working on an essay or a complex research paper, APA style format does not mention any specific rules that must be used. Therefore, you should refer to your paper type. The majority of research papers should include an introduction with the list of research objectives (see research paper introduction example), three to five body paragraphs that explain and support your arguments, and the conclusion part where you sum things up.

The body parts should start with the most important argument that speaks of your thesis and provides analytical information.

The second paragraph of the body in the APA research paper should implement statistical data, which is also considered as a reference. This is where you can use citations and refer to certain publications. Such an approach will help you to avoid plagiarism risks.

The last paragraph should provide alternative opinions and provide counter-arguments where additional citations, graphics, and multimedia sources can be added.

9. Conclusion

The APA manual mentions that your conclusion part should not use any citation elements in the final section and avoid introducing any new ideas. Keep this fact in mind and make sure that you leave suggestions and an overall review of your research paper.

Note: If you have any additional information that you refer to in your previous paragraphs, certain recommendations can be added as an appendix section after your references page, yet always ask your academic advisor to ensure that it is applicable.

10. References Page

  • Start your References page by placing the word "References" at the top of the document’s layout. It must be centered and placed one inch down. Do not use capitalization, bold fonts, or italics.
  • All of your citations (references) must be double spaced and should have no additional lines in between.
  • If your reference goes past the first line, create a hanging indent by using tabulation.
  • Your references in APA 7th edition style are placed in alphabetical order.
  • If your reference does not start with the author, these are placed at the start of your paper, according to ABC.

The Writing Guides to Follow in APA 7th Citation Style

Basic Citation Rules in APA

Let us imagine a situation when you need to cite a book in print for your research paper in APA style format. It will require the following information:

  • Author or authors of the book. The surname is always followed by the person's initials. 
  • The Year of publication of the book comes next in round brackets. 
  • The book title is always placed in italics. 
  • Edition (if available) also comes in round brackets. If the book represents the first edition, this part is not necessary. 
  • Publisher. 
  • DOI. It is necessary to include it (if available) for both online and print versions. 
  • The second line of your citation in a References page must be indented per about 5 spaces.

For example: 

Fisher, J.V. (2006). Teenage Violence: How do video games affect the modern youth?. Penguin Books. 

For a journal article citation, provide the following information:

  • Author or authors of the article. The surname is always followed by the person's initials. 
  • The year of publication of the journal comes next in round brackets. 
  • Journal title must be in italics.
  • Provide volume of journal (in italics).
  • Add an issue number of a journal in round brackets (no italics are necessary here).
  • Page range of article (if available).
  • Provide DOI or URL

For example: 

Braxton, T. (2005). Asian Cuisine: A study of health benefits. Modern Health Care, 11(4), 34-36. https://doi.org/

Abbreviations

The rule of abbreviations in a research paper states that there should be at least three times when a certain abbreviation is used. If your abbreviation is only met once, it’s necessary to provide a complete spelling of your phrase each time you implement it for your assignment. When using APA style for research purposes, the use of abbreviation within headings is not necessary. Remember to provide a full term the first time you use an abbreviation by adding the abbreviated form in parentheses. APA 7th edition manual states that these must be used only when they help to provide a better kind of communication with your target audience.

The Use of Numbers & Punctuation

Turning to section 6.32 in the latest APA style format manual, we can learn that one must use numerals to express numbers going from ten and above as numbers (12, 34, 721, and so on). When you have to use numbers up to ten, these are written in words such as "three positions", "two authors", "seven Chinese brothers", etc.

The rules also state that one must use commas between certain groups of three digits as you work with the figures. For example:

As over 2,000 people have participated in a meeting... 

Speaking of punctuation rules, the use of commas, periods, question marks, and exclamation cases must be put inside your quote marks. As for the rest of the punctuation marks, they go beyond your quotation.

Note: When you are planning to use a direct quote that is more than forty words, the block quotations are used with the indent.

Graphics & Multimedia in APA

Looking through the modern research paper APA format example, you will notice that there are frequent multimedia examples with the use of graphics. The use of graphics is permissible.

If you are planning to use artwork from a museum in an online form, it looks this way:

Artist Last Name, First Initial. Second Initial. (Year). Title of the artwork [Format]. Location. URL

If there is a stock image:

Author. (Year). Title of image [format]. Website. URL

An image with no author or date would be resolved to this:

[Subject and type of work]. (n.d.). Your image's URL.

Tips On How to Write a Research Paper in APA Format

Composing APA style research paper correctly, you must understand that such type of writing is not the same thing as the term paper or a simple essay that you do for college. It's not the same as a reflection paper either. You must provide research findings. It means that you should provide your writer's voice but do so in a limited way by focusing on methodology and an explanation of what you discover. Depending on your requirements and the grading rubric, you may have to provide 2-3 citations per page of your research as a way to support your arguments and reference at least one important publication that is dealing with your subject.

As you compose your research paper in the APA style format, make sure that you follow these simple academic writing tips:

  1. Research tone must be present. It means that your research paper should not use the first person unless asked to. The general APA writing style manual recommends using "This study has been conducted by" phrases instead.
  2. It’s recommended to avoid any personal information where you describe your experience. Don’t make the paper sound like a personal statement piece of writing. Your research assignment must synthesize various publications by comparing, contrasting, and finding similarities as you write.
  3. APA 7th style manual asks to use the past tense, which means that you should say that your research paper has shown instead of using "shows". There may be certain exceptions if you are turning to a certain timeline.
  4. The use of contractions must be limited. It means that you should say "It does not result in" instead of "it doesn't result in".
  5. Your writing should stay honest and clear without specific bias. Your purpose is to research things without racial, sexual, religious, or gender discrimination.
  6. The use of sources must be implemented correctly without turning your paper into a collection of sources.

Following these simple rules, you will be able to stay within the basic guidelines and follow the rules of APA-style writing. As always, there may be exceptions to every rule, which is why you must talk to your instructor in case of any doubts. Your college or university will always have a final say.

APA Style Format Bias-Free Language Matters

Writing a paper in APA format, one must remember the rules of bias-free language that are also mentioned in the APA 7th manual for research writing. The purpose is to use gender-neutral pronouns and strive for the avoidance of prejudicial beliefs or specific demeaning aspects that may appear as a negative attitude in your research writing. Therefore, when dealing with a sensitive subject, proofread your text twice and talk to your academic advisor before submitting your work. It will help us all create sincere and bias-free research works that follow the rules of mutual respect, multiculturalism, and democracy.

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