Tips for Writing a Research Paper in APA format

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Basics Of APA

  •  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) and to focus on research findings that have been put forth previously (the Intro section), that you have looked at, and how (the Purpose (hypothesis), and Method section), and what your findings were (the Results and Discussion section).
  • Research papers although generally similar may have different requirements depending on the course (and more specifically the instructor). This is not meant to confuse or frustrate students, rather it comes out of the requirements for publication that vary among fields (e.g., the type of information and the way it is presented has different requirements for behavioral journals than for social psychology journals). The best advice is to follow your instructor’s guidelines!
  •  APA style, although similar, may change over the course of time – information such as how to write the reference section has been changed from edition to edition in the APA Publication
  • Manual General Tips on Writing Style 

  • Impersonal style – as a guideline minimize using first person (e.g., “this study was conducted…” rather than “we conducted this study…”) although there are exceptions; see the APA Publication Manual for any questions about this

  •  Do not include any personal statements or anecdotes (e.g., “I was interested in studying eating disorders because my sister was diagnosed with…” does not belong in a research paper!)
  • Verb tense – as a guideline use past tense (e.g., “the results indicated” rather than “the results indicate”) although there are exceptions; see the APA Publication Manual for any questions about this
  •  Contractions – do not use contractions! (e.g., “it does not follow” rather than “it doesn’t follow”) \
  • Biased language– keep up to date with appropriate terms, especially if you are writing a paper that involves gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. The APA Manual includes information about terms that are deemed appropriate for use in research papers
  •  Citations – be sure to cite your sources. Try to paraphrase as much as possible (as opposed to quoting)…a couple of ways to do this:

1. State a fact or make a claim in the text; then cite your source in parentheses within the same sentence: “It has been demonstrated that immediate recall is extremely limited for 5-year-old children (Jones, 1998).” OR “Previous research has shown that response to an auditory stimulus is much faster than response to a visual stimulus (Smith & Jones, 2003).”

2. Can use source as the subject of your sentence: “In a related study, Jones (2005) found that…” OR “In a similar study, Jones and Smith (1999) found that…”

Sections of an APA formatted research paper:

Title Page

  •  Should include a running head (an abbreviated title, no more than 50 characters long and is in all capital letters) and page number, title, author name(s), and affiliation – all double-spaced (should not include instructor’s name, name of the course, etc.)
  •  Title – centered about halfway down page o Ex: “Correctly Using APA Format in a Research Paper
  •  Name – centered under titled o Ex: “Jane Smith”
  • Affiliation – school you are attending; centered under name(s) o Ex: “University of North Dakota”


Title Page


  •  Should include a basic description of the study in about one sentence per section of an APA paper
  •  Should be between 150 – 250
  • Should look like: 


  • It should be a clear and explicit introduction of the construct being investigated
  •  All constructs should be accurately and clearly defined
  •  Literature review conveys what is known about the construct under investigation
  • Literature used in review is appropriate (i.e., from a professional journal)
  • Literature used in review is accurate in ideas
  • Logical presentation of ideas (i.e., no illogical jumps or omissions)
  •  The research proposed is discussed in the context of what is already known
  •  Hypotheses are stated

 Should look like:


Should provide sufficient information to allow the reader to easily replicate the study, including:


  •           Describe how many (N=), gender, race/ethnicity, mean age, etc. (any demographic information that may be relevant to the study) as well as how participants were recruited


  •           Describe measures or apparatus used, including information about the scale of any measures as well as validity and reliability if available


  •            Describe the process of conducting the study (e.g., signing of informed consent, the order of procedures – or questionnaires, if or how participants were compensated for their time, any debriefing procedure, etc.)


 Should look like


Should Include

 Appropriate Statistics

  • This will depend on the design of your study; see your instructor with questions pertaining to the appropriate statistical test to use 
  • The exact value is reported, for instance, p = .02, NOT p < .05

 Appropriate presentation of statistics

  • An example of appropriate presentation for an ANOVA is given below; consult the APA Manual (or your instructor) regarding appropriate presentation for differing statistics (i.e., how to present a t-test vs. an ANOVA)

Appropriate interpretation of statistics

  •  Be sure you are interpreting the meaning of your results accurately (e.g., p= .04 = significant result); know what the numbers mean
  •  Should look like:


Should Include:

  • A clear statement of support or nonsupport of the original hypotheses
  •  An exploration of the similarities and differences between the present findings and the work of others, including relating findings to applicable theory
  • A description of limitations and alternative explanations
  •  Commentary on the importance and implications of the findings
  •  Should look like: Page numbers are always in the upper right-hand corner Restate hypothesis Restate results Relate findings to previous research Discuss limitations of your study and potential future research Discuss implications of your study Bold and centered References
  •  Should be in alphabetical order, see examples of different forms of references below o The examples are of journal articles o Consult the APA Manual for other forms of referencing (e.g., internet sources, edited books)

 Should look like:


  •  Should be in alphabetical order, see examples of different forms of references  below  
  •  The examples are of journal articles  
  •  Consult the APA Manual for other forms of referencing (e.g., internet  sources, edited books)  

 Should look like




All tables and graphs should be labeled with a number, have a title, listed on its  own page, and included in the appendices  

  •  The example table below is a typical “APA-style” table  
  •  Graphs should be appropriate to the scale being used (e.g., nominal,  ordinal, interval, ratio)  
  •  Consult the APA Manual or your instructor for further information on other types of tables and graphsCharts and tables in APA  Writing an “A” Research paper is a very challenging task for a majority of students. Actually, it`s not odd at all that most students encounter a lot of problems on their way to successful assignment completion. They might feel some difficulties while starting their essays, structuring them, and choosing the appropriate writing technique. What is more, some students just can`t avoid failure at checking their own paper. If you recognize yourself in these lines, then you should just do your best and get some professional help. And we are always here for you Our essay writing service is always happy to take some of this academic load off your shoulders. 
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