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Writing a Research Paper in APA Format

Becoming academically successful is not an easy task. In order to accurately and formally express research results in writing, you have to get acquainted with the rules of formatting a research paper.

There are many different sets of rules which are applied depending on the specifics of the field of study. One of these sets is the APA writing standard.

What is APA?

The APA is one of the most influential associations of professional psychologists in the world, including specialists from the United States and Canada, as well as associate members from other countries. It includes about 150 thousand members. The organization`s main goal is to promote psychology as a science, profession, and a means of improving the well-being, mental health, and education of people. The organization developed the widespread form of formatting of academic works for social sciences. On the assumption of the name of the organization (American Psychological Association), it is not hard to guess, that this standard is mostly popular in North America, but also is widely used in other English-speaking countries. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, which is the organization`s reference guide, contains recommendations on the formalization of papers, as well as on the documentation of citations, footnotes, tables, fonts and the structure of the research. APA formatting is used predominantly in research publications in such areas as psychology, business, criminology, economics, pedagogy (including applied linguistics), and sociology.

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APA research paper formatting guidelines

General formatting guidelines rarely differ from each other in various frameworks. The APA style is not an exception. If you are now just getting acquainted with the methods of formatting a research paper, these regulations are two fold for you. This format however, does have an innovative feature in the boring world of margins and indentations:

  1. As usual, the text is typed on standard white paper that has familiar parameters of 8.5" x 11".
  2. The APA style requires using an easy to read font and recommends using a 12pt Times New Roman font.
  3. Double spacing is required on both the title page and throughout the paper. 
  4. Margins should be 1" concerning all sides of the page.
  5. Paragraph indentation should be set to one half inch from the left side of the page.
  6. The unique aspect is in creating a special page header that consists of the page number and the running head as typed on the title page in all capitals. 

It is seen that the style keeps up with world`s leading formatting standards not dwelling on having a lot of useless rules. The running head introduction visually brings both writer and reader back to the main idea of the research. In all other respects, the APA style is similar to the other guides.

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Format of an APA research paper

The framework of how to write research papers is the most distinguishable part of each formatting standard. Hardly ever are there are common aspects of the structure of the paper. This style provides the following paper composition.

Title page

Every research paper, if it is not MLA, starts with a title page. The APA pays lots of attention to the design of the front page. The rules are simple but strict.

  1. The title of the paper is placed in the very center of the title page. It is centered regarding the side margins and lies in the middle of the vertical axis.
  2. The title may contain as many words and characters as the writer needs but the APA format recommends less than 12 words and to avoid using fruitless information and abbreviations.
  3. Keeping in mind that double-spacing is required, the name of the author is written beneath the title. The name of the author should not include any formalities such as Ph.D. or Mr. and only include the first and last name.
  4. The same procedure is undergone for the name of the institution which you represent writing this paper.
  5. The running head contains a capitalized short name of the title, the header of the title page includes the words ‘Running head’ followed by a colon and the shortened title written the same way as before.

These rules, are not as demanding as they could be, but still demand enough attention to the formatting of the title page. The APA must be thinking that having a cover attracts more consideration to the research.

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The American Psychological Association contains members who work or study in the field of psychology. This organization has outlined guidelines such as a research paper in APA format, and APA citation formats.

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The abstract is another peculiarity of the style as other standards don`t usually recommend using abstract. The purpose of the abstract serves as an introduction to the ideas of the author, a brief summary of any questions the author investigated and by which means the author came to the answers. It contains all typical information such as defining any in-explicit abbreviations and/or special words and terms. As for the technical requirements, the abstract page starts with the word "Abstract" centered to the page and typed in a 12pt Times New Roman font. It is followed by non indented text that doesn`t exceed 250 words summarizing the main points of the text and any key words are typed in italics. The abstract page helps your paper be found in searches and gives the reader a brief overview of what is contained within the paper. 


The APA style adheres to the long established rules of using essay-form while writing research work. The text in the body can contain as much paragraph or sections as the writer needs, but only on the condition of supporting the idea by answering the questions related to the topic. The beginning of the body once again starts with the name of the survey, which must not be bold, underlined, or italicized. To clearly identify each section, the APA standard advises centering the heading of each paragraph in a bold font.

Text citation and references

The APA format doesn`t differentiate from others regarding the theme of citation policies. The organizations manual reminds of the importance of academic honesty and invokes writers to cite other works properly. The style uses an in-text citation as well. Such a citation is placed in parenthesis where the author`s name and year of publication of the cited part are specified. This information has to be the same as in the reference list. Formatting of the reference list, or bibliography, is represented in the following manner.

  1. References indented one half inch from the left margin.
  2. First, the reference list should be listed alphabetically by authors last name identify up to seven authors by first stating their last name and the initial of their first name.
  3. The year of the publication should immediately follow the authors names in parenthesis.
  4. Then the name of the reference is cited.
  5. Following the name of the reference the volume or page numbers of the referenced material is put in parenthesis.
  6. The final step is to indicate where the source was referenced i.e. a web-page where the material was obtained.

APA formatting style provides numerous rules to edit research papers accurately. This fact does not mean unnecessary efforts but rather that effective and correct formatting of written research that help both the author and the reader to come to an agreement.


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