How to Write an APA Style Paper

How to Write an APA Style Paper

An abstract should be 100-120 words in length. It provides a summary of the paper so that the reader can decide whether he or she would like to continue reading the entire document. You should include a sentence or two from each of the sections of your paper. Do not include any statistical statements. You want your abstract to be somewhat catchy, as this is what will rope your reader in. In an abstract, you will always use numerals rather than writing out the words. However, number rules for the remainder of the paper do differ. Write out numbers below 10, but use numerals for numbers above 10, unless they begin a sentence (the you write them out).

Each new paragraph should be indented. All margins should be set at one inch. The entire paper should be double-spaced. Follow the format here. For the introduction, the title of the paper comes first, not the words “Introduction.” For the introduction, you should first have a paragraph that introduces the topic to the reader in a broad way. This paragraph can be relatively short, but it needs to get the reader’s attention. So, for example: writing papers is an important task for all college students to master. Writing a paper that is coherent and easy to read can be a difficult task, but once a student has mastered the art of writing a paper in college, he or she will have one less worry in school. The American Psychological Association (APA) has developed some guidelines for students and professionals in the behavioral sciences to follow when writing research type papers. Similar to other formats, such as MLA, APA style is widely used around the country. So, in order to teach new students APA style, this manual has been written.

The next section in your paper should be the literature review. In a literature review, the author of the paper wants to paint a picture for the reader about what has been done in the field already in the past. These next few paragraphs should contain information from each of the articles you have reviewed. Each article will have its own paragraph in your paper. Each paragraph should begin by you (the author) indicating whose research you are referring to, what they studied, how they studied it, and what they found. These findings should be related somehow to what you are studying. For instance, let’s say your topic was on the effects of taking attendance in college courses. Shimoff and Catania (2001) performed a study on the effects of taking attendance, but specific to an introductory psychology class. These researchers studied 114 undergraduate students enrolled in an introductory psychology class at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The participants were assigned numbers based on their listing on the class roster. Half the class was told to sit on the left side of the room and the other class on the right side of the room. The students knew that they were a part of an experiment and were told it was on the effects of recording attendance on quiz performance. From that point on, one half of the class received an attendance sheet where they were to write their names. For the other half of the class the number of students in attendance was recorded, with no individual names taken down. At the 10th quiz students were asked to rate the effect on their attendance that attendance recording had. The researchers found that recording attendance increased attendance, even if it does not factor into grades. In addition, researchers found that quiz scores for the group whose attendance was recorded were higher than the group whose attendance was not recorded.

The next paragraph would be yet another article presented in a similar format. You will need a transition from the last paragraph that leads into this paragraph also, so that the paper flows. Once you have reported all of the literature you are required to present, you will have a final paragraph that states what your (the current or present) study will be investigating, how, and what you expect to find (your hypotheses).

The current study will investigate the effects of taking attendance in college courses. Participants will be asked to indicate the number of times they miss class in a semester, and then will take a test for that class. (Bad design…yours would be much better!) It is hypothesized that students who miss less class will have better test scores than students who miss class frequently.


You want to describe your participants in this section. You should tell the reader how many, where they’re from, gender breakdown, ethnicity, and age range (with mean).

In this section you want to describe in detail what you used to measure whatever it is you measured. If it is a questionnaire with a 5-point Likert scale, then you will want to give an example of the types of questions that are asked on the questionnaire, you will want to say that it is a 5-point Likert scale. You’ll want to explain what the five points represent (i.e., an answer of 1 indicated strongly agree and an answer of 5 indicated strongly disagree). If any of the items had to be reverse scored, you’ll want to say that.

You will want to tell the reader what you and the participant actually did in this section. Literally from the first thing you did to the last thing, and it should be in order. The researcher approached various students around campus and asked if they’d like to participate in student research. List everything you did. Then conclude with the debriefing and thanking the participants.

As you can see up through this point, each section continues on from the last. All sections will do that, except appendices and references. In the results section, you want to state the actual statistical findings from your research. For example, results indicated that men reported significantly less negative interactions at work (M = 2.2) than women (M = 4.1), t (98) = 56.34, p < .05. Women were more likely to have had to deal with sexual harassment, lawsuits, etc. (these would be pulled from however you operationally defined negative interactions at work) than men.

In this section you will want to remind the reader of the purpose of the study, what you were studying, as well as what the results were. Then you should tell the reader what you think the results mean. Why do you think you found what you found? Were your hypotheses supported or refuted? How do the results from the current study relate to results from previous studies on this topic (you will need to reference at least two of the previous articles cited in your introduction)? If they are inconsistent with results from previous research, explain why that might be. What is the importance of the current findings? What are the implications? In addition, were there any methodological problems with your research? Was something not controlled that should have been? Were the subjects’ characteristics not varied enough? What are some directions for future research when it comes to your topic?

Abreau, F., Templer, D. I., Schuyler, B. A., & Hutchinson, H. T. (1990). Neuropsychological assessment of soccer players. Neuropsychology, 4, 175-181.
Gean, A. D. (1994). Imaging of head trauma. New York: Raven Press.
Shimoff, E., & Catania, A. C. (2001). Effects of recording attendance on grades in introductory psychology. Teaching of Psychology, 28, 192- 195.

*Note: these should be listed in alphabetical order by first author. DO NOT REARRANGE THE ORDER OF THE AUTHORS WITHIN A CITATION!!!
To get the hanging indent, ask me, unless you already know. If you are including a figure (graph) or table, it belongs in the appendix. The appropriate format for setting up a figure or table is on the following pages.

Figure Caption
Figure 1. Mean negative interactions for males and females. (Note: the figure would appear on the following page by itself)

*Note: Tables are included in appendices as well.