What is an APA Format?
By definition, an APA format refers to a set of citation and formatting guidelines that are developed by the American Psychological Association. This style of formatting is utilized by students and researchers in the field of psychology, economics, business, and sciences. This style of formatting originated in the year 1929, and it first appeared in an article that was published by the Psychological Bulletin. The guidelines that were published in that bulletin would eventually go on to be expanded and the APA Publication Manual was created in the year 1952. This manual aims to provide writers with a detailed guide on ordering, structuring, and formatting a research paper. This manual also provides a way of properly citing the works of others.
General Guidelines in Formatting an APA Paper
Guidelines in writing a research paper must be properly observed in order to maintain consistency and proper formatting and structuring of the research paper. With that being said, here are the basic guidelines that are to be followed in making an APA format paper:
- A paper size of 8.5 x 11-inches is to be used.
- A standard white paper is used.
- A one-inch margin is to be used on all sides of the paper.
- An indention is to be used on all paragraphs in the paper.
- A double-spaced type of line spacing is to be used on all texts in the paper.
- A 12-point font is used throughout the paper. Font styles such as Calibri, Times New Roman, and Arial are considered acceptable choices.
- A page number is used on all pages of the paper, to be included at the upper right-hand corner of the paper.
- A space after every punctuation mark is recommended.
- A page header should appear in the top margin of every page of the paper.
The 3 Levels of Specification in an APA-style Paper
A standard research paper that is written in the APA format typically fulfills three levels of specification. Here are those:
- Level 1. This level states how a research paper should be properly organized and formatted. The research paper should include a title page, abstract, introduction, methodology, results, discussion, and references. The formatting of abstracts and title pages must also be done in accordance with the APA manual of style that is being used.
- Level 2. This level indicates the style of writing that is to be used. This level dictates that the style of writing should be formal and without the usage of slang, humor, any bias in the language, and any references in the pop culture. This also dictates that the paper should be written in a direct format and should appropriately use any technical terms.
- Level 3. This level specifies the mechanics in writing the research paper, such as the use of double-spacing, the use of title case for the headings, in-text citations for sources, using footnotes sparingly, hyphenating compound adjectives, left-aligning all tables and figures, and so on.
Key Elements of an APA Style Paper
The structure of a paper written in APA style consists of various elements, which may vary depending on the type of paper being written in this particular style. It is important for someone who is writing the paper to be aware of the following key elements:
Title Page. This element serves as the cover page of the APA paper. The purpose of this page is to present the title. In a research paper, the title page indicates the name of the paper, the name of the authors of the paper, and their corresponding institutional affiliations. In a student-written APA paper, the title page should also include the course number and name, the instructor’s name, and the due date. In a professionally written APA paper, the title page must also include the author’s note and a running head (an abbreviated version of the paper’s title). The author’s note may contain an acknowledgement of any funding support that was received throughout the project, and also the names of the individuals who assisted the author in the project.Abstract. This element serves as a summary of the paper. The abstract usually only consists of a maximum of 250 words. Although brief, an abstract should also be comprehensively written. An abstract helps the reader decide if it is worth their time to continue reading the rest of the paper. In writing an abstract, it is important to include the summary of the following key components of your paper: The overall purpose of the paper, a clearly stated hypothesis or hypotheses, the information concerning the method used in the study and the participants, the main findings of the study conducted, and their significance.Introduction. This element of the paper answers the question “What is the topic?” and usually describes the topic, summarizes the relevant research that was conducted, identifies any ongoing issues that the research is going to address, and provides a brief overview of the study that is going to be expanded in greater detail.Methods. This part of the paper answers the question “What did you do?” and details the methods in how the research was conducted. This also contains the details of the participants that were involved in the study, the design of the study, the materials or equipment used, and the procedure of the study. The methods section should be detailed enough to allow another researcher to duplicate your study.Results/Findings. This element of the paper answers the question “What did you find?” describes the data that was gathered during the duration of the research, and if any statistical tests were performed, their findings are also described here. If multiple experiments were conducted during the study, their results are to be listed separately from each other.Discussion. This serves as the last major part of the paper and answers the question “What is the significance of your results?”. This element contains a summary of the results that were gathered during the duration of the study, describes how they affect the study, and expands on the implications of the findings. The discussion part also usually addresses the limitations and gives directions for future research.Reference Section. This section is where the author of the study provides detailed information about the references that were used throughout the paper. The reference section of an APA paper should follow all the appropriate APA guidelines about the author names, dates, article titles, volume numbers, page numbers, book publishers, their locations, and etc.Appendix Section. This element of an APA paper is optional. It contains supplementary information that is usually not critical to understanding the research paper. The information here is usually too detailed to be included in the main body of the research paper and would be too distracting to the reader. The content that is present in here should also be easily presented in print format.
Step by Step Process in Writing an APA Paper
Here are the steps needed to write an effective paper in the APA format:
1. Formatting the title page.
In formatting the title page, keep in mind that it should be between 10-12 words and should reflect the content of the research paper. It should also be double spaced along with your name and school. In making the running head, keep in mind that it should be in all capital letters, and it also should be 50 characters in maximum (including the spacing and punctuation).
2. Write the abstract.
As stated earlier in the article, the abstract serves as the summary of the paper and is 250 words in maximum. An abstract should be written in block format and double-spaced. It should be comprehensively written even if it is only condensed into a single paragraph. The abstract should state the topic, the method, the results, and the discussion.
3. Write the introduction.
In writing this part, keep in mind that you do not actually label it as “Introduction”. Instead, the title of the paper goes at the top of this page but not in bold format. A good introduction integrates, summarizes, and evaluates the empirical knowledge in a way that sets the stage for your study and why you conducted it. It usually starts out in a slightly broad manner and gets more and more detailed towards the end.
4. Write the methods and results.
This is usually the most straightforward to write type of section in the APA paper. To effectively write this section, you must describe the details of your study in such a way that if another researcher comes across your study, he/she can easily duplicate the methods that are written. Note that the method section usually consists of the participants, the materials used, and the procedures that were done.
In writing the results section, you should describe how you analyzed the data and what you found while conducting the research. You can break this section down into labeled subsections if you find your data analyses to be complex. In this section, you should also state the nature of your finding/s and if they support your hypothesis or not.
5. Write the discussion section.
This is where you interpret your findings in a broader context. This section should start with specific information and end in a broader form of language. Begin this section with a brief statement of your findings. Additional elements to be included in this section are the limitations of the study, additional questions that were generated, and the theoretical or practical implications of the findings of your study. After everything is written, sum up with a conclusion on a positive note.
6. Include the references.
In this area, provide an alphabetical listing of the references (sorted by the last name of the author, or the last name of the first author if there are multiple authors). Keep in mind that it should be double-spaced without any other extra spaces between references. The second line of the reference should also be indented.
What is a citation?
A citation is a method of giving credit to the individuals for their works that you used to support your own study. A citation typically includes the author’s name, date, location of the company that published their work, the title of their work, and a Digital Object Identifier.
What is a case study?
A case study is a category of research paper that presents information that is related to an individual, a group, or a larger set of individuals. These subjects are then analyzed for a specific reason or a case and the researcher will then report on the methods that were done, the results that were found, and the conclusions based on the results during their study.
How long should an APA paper be?
An APA-style paper is generally used in the field of science. For this reason, it is better to fit a large amount of data in a short amount of text. In other words, it should be as brief as possible without omitting any important details, and it should not be too long and full of unnecessary details. You should be as clear, as direct, and as professional as possible whenever you write an APA paper, ensuring that you are able to get your points across in a brief and clear way.
Writing a paper in the APA format or any kind of format is always going to be an intimidating task when you write one for the first time. But as you familiarize yourself with the rules and the proper format of an APA paper and build experience, it will get easier. A properly formatted APA paper with consistency in its structure and order will allow the readers to focus on the paper’s content instead of its presentation. In this article, examples of an effective APA style paper are provided for use as a reference.