APA Research Paper Format Basics

posted by Andy Preisler 30 Nov 2021

Do you know how you should use the APA research paper format? If not, or you’re not quite sure that you’ve mastered it, you should read this article. Writing a research paper in high school or college is quite a challenge for most students. It's a complex task that requires students to complete several different phases. From brainstorming topic ideas to proofreading a final version, it takes a lot of time, energy, and hard work. It can be especially difficult if you’re not sure how one may write it, what formatting they may use, and what steps should be followed. That's why choosing a specific academic writing style and mastering it is super important.

There are many writing styles you can choose from, including MLA, APA, and Chicago. This article covers everything one may know about APA paper format and will help you master it quickly. Keep reading for all the information you better remember.

What is APA: General Info

In order for you to properly use APA style of academic writing, you first must know what it is. The APA style has been created and named after the American Psychological Association. It refers to a set of guidelines that are to be used when writing a research paper, essay, or any other piece of literature in higher education.

These guidelines help writers produce high-quality pieces of writing by respecting the following norms:

  • Properly stating  APA works cited in your work;
  • creating better readability; 
  • organizing information logically;
  • being consistent in language, form, tone, and style of writing.

When you master and start applying APA standard in your writing, you'll be making sure you follow the requirements of your educational institution. Rules that are set by APA essay format will guide you when writing and editing research papers.

Simply put, writing according to APA research paper format is a skill that every student, academic, and scholar need to have up their sleeve.

APA 7th Edition: Brief Overview

The American Psychological Association is constantly working on improving an existing APA manual and making it up to date. Latest change was introduced in October 2019, when they issued the 7th edition of the APA Publication Manual.

The APA new edition of the manual introduced some changes and updates to existing APA rules and is a great starting point for APA beginners. The changes that were introduced include inclusive and bias-free language, references and citation rules, paper format guidelines, as well as style guidelines. The manual provides essential rules and information and is a great resource for beginning to learn about APA style or even for mastering it.

APA Research Paper Format Basics

To know how to use APA style of writing, you need to learn about formatting. Many rules define this writing style and make it as special as it is. Below, we've selected and covered the basics of APA formatting. Keep reading to learn about specifics and how to apply them to each of your next research papers.

General Paper Length

When it comes to paper length, there's no strict rule about a number of pages of words that need to be used in your research. Still, authors have to pay attention to content and make sure it’s up to standard.

Since most APA-written research papers are scientific, writer needs to pay attention to how extensive and elaborate his writing is. The guidelines state that there should be nothing repetitive, redundant, or insignificant in the research paper.

When it comes to APA formatting, this type of conciseness and brevity will make your work far more informative and meaningful. If you think you'll have trouble succeeding at this, look for research paper writing services that can help. Help of a specialist may be crucial in case if your writing is highly influential on your overall mark and further education.

Margin Sizes

The APA manual also covers rules about the size of the margins. This is a fixed rule that is never to be changed. The margins are supposed to be 1-inch, on all four sides of the paper.

Further, a size of the paper should be 8.5x11 inches and font size needs to be 12. As far as font style goes, APA doesn’t strictly define which one to use, but they do recommend it to be easy to read. This way, those reading it will be able to focus on nothing else but content. 

Finally, double-spacing is required across an entire research paper.

APA Title Page

The title page of your research paper is actually the APA cover page that carries significant information about you and the work itself. There are rules about what to include, how to organize it, and what kind of visual representation to create.

The information you need to include is as follows: paper title, your first and last name (or any other authors’ names), educational institution, course name and number, a mentor or instructor’s name, as well as a due date.

To respect the APA title page format, you’ll need to place paper title in the middle of a page and make it boldface. Below, at the bottom of a page, place the rest of information in the order we’ve listed it above.

Respect general APA rules and continue using double-spacing and font size 12. This way, your title page will be formatted exactly the way it should be in APA style and exclusively contain information that is supposed to be there.

Here’s a sample of what it should look like.

title page in apa

APA Format Running Heads

A running head is page header that appears atop every page of your research paper.

According to 7th edition of the APA manual, running heads are not required for student papers, unless your academic adviser tells you differently. Student papers do need a page number in an upper right corner.

Still, professional papers require running heads. You can see this in any APA research paper example that you take a look at. Running heads must be done in upper-case, justified to the left, include full title of your research paper (unless it is longer than 50 characters) or its shorter version. They must also be one inch away from page’s top and left side.

Your APA style header has to respect these standards, so make sure you apply them faithfully.

style header in apa

APA Outline

When you're writing a research paper, the best preparation is to create an informative outline. An outline contains only very important information about each paper you’ll be writing and can help you do it faster and better.

The benefits of creating an outline before you start writing include:

  • Better topic definition;
  • organizing information better;
  • choosing what information to include;
  • finding relevant sources of information;
  • polishing your idea;
  • saving time;
  • respecting APA formatting.

Simply put, you require an outline to write a paper that is professional and true to its topic. Without it, your ideas can easily get mixed up. This is especially important for argumentative research paper topics, where you must really organize your ideas. When such a paper is graded, the formatting and alignment with rules may greatly affect your mark.

To write an outline, you’ll first do some research and brainstorming. After that, you’ll have a general idea of what you want to cover and research in your work. However, you shouldn’t go into too much detail. Only create basic structure that includes title, main sections of your paper with section titles, sub-points and ideas for each section, topic sentences for each section, as well as supporting ideas for each section.

That means you’ll create a plan for what your research paper will look like once you finish writing it. It does take some time to write an outline, but it'll save you time once you start working on paper itself.

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APA Abstract

An abstract is another essential part of any research paper, and you must think about it when writing your paper. An abstract is a part of research paper that comes right after title page. It should be about one-page long and cover the most important aspects of your paper.

Simply put, your APA format essay abstract will tell each reader about the purpose of your research, how it contributes to respective area of study and why it’s important that people read it. Also, it should tell a reader a bit about your research’s background, tools and methods you used to conduct it, as well as its results.

Paper’s Body

Once you start writing your report, you’ll need to cover three main parts. If you take a look at any APA format example, you’ll see the following main sections: introduction, body, conclusion. Below, we’ll discuss each of these sections and the information they should contain. 

The introduction section of your research paper is often the hardest one to write. Many people struggle to write it properly. Research paper helpers often have their hands full helping writers create a high-quality introduction. Why? Because the writer should create a summary and an overview of why decided to do this research.

Also, the introduction contains the “hook”, which is supposed to raise interest in the reader and motivate them to read the whole paper. By the end of introduction, writer introduces their hypothesis and thesis statement, defining exactly what the paper will explore.

Therefore, the introduction part, which comes right after the title page, should be attention-grabbing and motivating for the readers - most APA guidelines agree on that.

Next, the body of a paper is the main part that will lay out all the information you’ve gathered, selected, assessed, and created yourself. Body must be divided into sections. Each section covers one important idea and presents it in a logical, well-organized manner. The body can come in different formats, but normally will include the following sections: methods, results, and discussion. These sections let the reader know everything there is about the research they’ve conducted, the participants, empirical methods and tools used, as well as the data processing and presenting strategies.

Finally, the concluding section revises how the research contributes to the scientific branch it belongs to and what you managed to achieve with it.

Reference Page

Since you’ll be using a lot of different sources to create your research paper, you’ll need to create a reference page APA style. Reference page contains a list of all those resources you’ve been using and mentioning throughout the work.

Different universities can have varying rules as to what references one may use, how recent the chosen publications should be, and, of course, how one must format their reference page. Before we delve into its proper structure and formatting, we want to draw your attention to the fact that reference page formatting should first and foremost be in line with norms set by your educational institution, so do specify those before you start working on your writing.

There are many rules when it comes to properly stating sources used to write your work. APA citation page will be double-spaced and use font size 12. It must be left-aligned, while references have to be organized alphabetically. There's a specific reference format that needs to be respected that we’ll discuss in a separate section.

APA Headings and Subheadings

To organize your writing and information within, use headings and subheadings. A proper heading tells readers what each section is about, and helps them understand an importance of each one.
Subheadings further divide a topic into paragraphs and provide readers with more specific information.

How to Use Reference & APA Citation?

The next thing you may worry about is the proper citation. Referencing all sources you're using is a must, and there's a specific way on how to do it. To be precise, there are two ways to cite your source: in-text citation or reference list.

The in-text citation refers to mentioning an author's idea, exact words, or paraphrased words within the body of the paper. You do it by putting author's name and year of source's publication in parentheses at an end of citation. Here's an example of APA format citation:

Technological advancement has introduced one major change in the education system: remote learning is more widespread than ever. (Goh, 2020).

The other type of reference is a reference list also known as bibliography. It contains a list with full details about every source you've used. Those details include authors' names, year of publication, full name of cited work, page number, publisher information, and website URL stating where a source was retrieved from.

Here’s a sample of proper APA reference: Goh, P. S., & Sandars, J. (2020). A vision of the use of technology in medical education after the COVID-19 pandemic. MedEdPublish, 9.

Usage of Graphics (Photos, Tables, & Figures)

When you’re using graphics such as photos, tables, charts, or figures, you must number them according to an order in which they appear in your work. So, you’ll name them as follows: Table 1, Table 2, Table 3, etc.

Tables and figures should be left-aligned. Photographs need to be black and white. All graphics should introduce new information instead of repeating information that’s already covered. If you feel like this is too much for you to handle, you can always type “do my research paper” in Google and find a professional writer to do it for you. Just make sure they know everything about an APA style, from formatting to creating an APA bibliography.

Final Thoughts 

This article sums up everything you should know about APA research format. Use the tips, examples, and information we’ve shared to learn how to use the APA format properly and easily.

Hopefully, this ultimate guide met your expectations and will serve you as a reference point for mastering the APA research paper format.

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