Discover how to write a research paper in the APA format

This guide will tell you everything you need to know about how to write an APA-style research paper by following the rules of the 7th edition of APA. You’ll learn the details of the APA academic writing style and how to properly cite and format your research paper to avoid plagiarism and make sure your paper is correct.

What is the APA style?
The APA style is a special format used for citing sources and publishing in academic, business, and research writing. If nothing else is said, the latest edition of the APA format for a research paper is the 7th edition. The APA stands for the American Psychological Association, which is where the abbreviation comes from. To avoid confusion, we will use the latest manual in our APA guidelines. It means you are in the right place if your college professor asks for APA 7th edition.

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The latest version of the writing style manual came out in October 2019. It follows most of the rules that have been published before, with a focus on making things easier to understand and ready for publishing. When it comes to writing research papers, most students who use the APA style format are majoring in Psychology, Sociology, Journalism, Education, Anthropology, Law, or Healthcare. Since it’s not as complicated as Chicago, Harvard, or Turabian, it’s not hard to learn the basic rules as long as you remember:

You must use in-text citations to give credit to a source that you mention in your text. The information that is needed is the name of the author and the date the book came out. You should also give the number of the page or a section of the newspaper if you know it.
At the end of your paper, after your final conclusion, there is a page called “References.” This is where you list all of the sources you used in your research paper. You do this by writing a list of references.
When Should You Cite a Source in APA?
This question comes up a lot. The answer is pretty simple: when you need to summarize some information, you can paraphrase it or quote it from another source. The information in these citations may come from books, scientific journals, online books, newspaper articles, reports, surveys, statistical data, and so on. When you use a reference in APA 7th style, you must write the name of the author and the year it was published. For a single author, this looks like this:

(Jones, 2005)

It means that the author’s last name is Jones and that the book came out in 2005. On the other hand, your in-text citation could look like this:

The idea of mutual co-existence has helped us understand another important idea. Jones (2005), who thought that autocratic leaders can live together in peace and mutual respect, thought that…

What is a page of APA references?
We’re sure you’ve seen at least one references page before when you were reading the last part of an online research article. The References page must list all of your sources alphabetically and may include up to 20 entries for a middle-sized research assignment. From a research journal, this is a typical APA example:

Berry, B., Stipe, J. M., Wahlberg, R., and Zeldman, A. S. (2021). Social Interactions in Georgia State: A look at the American South as a whole. Journal of Social Psychology, 34, 123-136.

As you can see, the names of the authors are in alphabetical order, and the name of the scientific article comes after the year it was published. The journal’s name is written in italics to show how important the source is. It is followed by the volume of the journal and the number of pages cited.

Note: Keep in mind that not every source and reference you find will be good for a research paper. Experts at EduBirdie suggest that you talk to your course instructor first and double-check any extra requirements and formatting. Our guide will tell you the basics of how to set up your research paper so that it meets the standards for formatting.

Disclaimer for the APA Page Layout
Before you look at different parts of our guide to learn how to write a research paper in APA format, it’s important to know that if you’re using a word processor or Google Docs as your writing source, you need to set up a special page layout and the headers that our APA guide will talk about. You can find APA-style templates online, but they aren’t always right. That’s why you need to double-check everything by paying attention to fonts, headers, margins, indents, and other important details!

General Rules for Writing a Research Paper in APA Style Format
1. Page Layout Rules

We’ll start with the page layout, which always has to be there because this part of the APA 7th edition is the same for any paper you might write in college. As you learn how to format a research paper, you must do the following:

Set your page margins to 1 inch on all sides when making a document in MS Word or any other word processor you like.
Your text and APA headings must be double-spaced.
In the 7th edition of the APA, the first line of each paragraph is set back by 0.5 inches. Just hit the TAB key once.
Times New Roman (12 points), Arial (11 points), or Georgia are good fonts for APA style (11 pt.). There are times when you can use other fonts, but you should only do so after talking to your academic advisor.
Every page of your document has a page number in the top right corner, unless you say otherwise.
2: Headers for Pages in the 7th Edition of APA

The manual says that you must set your page header right. Every research paper written in APA format needs to have headings that are all in upper case. When you set up your header, you have to:

Click the “Insert” tab on the toolbar of MS Word.
Click on the Header & Footer tab, then click on Blank and Header.
On the first (title) page of your APA research paper, you must type “MY RESEARCH PAPER TITLE” in the left margin. Of course, it’s just an example, and you should use your real title instead.
Now, tab to the right once or twice.
Close the tab for the header and footer.
3. Page Numbering

When it comes to page numbering, use the default setting in MS Word or any other program to do it for you. The page numbers should be in the top right corner of every page, including the page with your references. In the 7th edition of APA, the title page should start on page 1.

4. Title Page in APA

In APA, your title page must start with the name of the student or authors of the research project, the title of the paper, and the name of the school. All the lines on the title page must be in the middle and centered. You must also include your course number, the name of your teacher, and the date your research paper is due. This is how it will look:


Sample Title Page for General Electrics:

Using the Electrical Circuit Engineering Principles


John Smith

The Engineering Department at Georgia State University

ENGN 222 is about how electricity works.

Dr. Michael John Stipe

11 Octobre, 2008

5. List of What’s Inside

Only if you are writing a thesis paper or a dissertation do you need a table of contents. This part should come between your abstract and the beginning of your paper. Use the same font and size as the rest of your content. The word “Contents” is at the top of your page, where the text begins. Every entry must be in bold font and in the middle.

6. Outline

In APA format, the outline follows the same rules, and most of the time, it can be sent as a separate document. The margins on each page stay the same, and the page numbers start at page one. The structure of a page (which is usually only one page) should include an introduction that talks about the main background points and your thesis, a main body with the evidence that supports your research thesis statement, and a short conclusion that makes your final opinion or position clear.

Note: An outline doesn’t have headers or anything else specific. You can copy the header of the main paper and add the word “OUTLINE” to it.

7. Abstract

Your abstract must be on a separate page after the title page of your research paper. It means the page number should be 2. Write “Abstract” in title case bold and put it in the middle of the top of your page. The abstract comes in the next paragraph, which is set apart by 0.5 inches. The length of your abstract should be no longer than 250 words. You can write it in a single paragraph or in a different way.

Focus on the scientific goals you want to reach as you write. Think about your audience as you describe your method and the problem you want to look into. Explain your results and give a short summary of your work, just like you would in a book review.

Parts of the body

No matter if you are writing an essay or a complicated research paper, APA style format doesn’t say that you have to follow a certain set of rules. So, you should say what kind of paper you are writing. Most research papers should have an introduction with a list of research goals (see an example of an introduction to a research paper), three to five paragraphs that explain and back up your arguments, and a conclusion where you sum up what you’ve said.

The parts of the body should start with the most important point that supports your thesis and gives analysis.

The second paragraph of the body of an APA research paper should include statistical data, which can also be used as a reference. Here is where you can use citations and talk about certain books. This method will help you avoid the risk of plagiarism.

The last paragraph should give other points of view and counterarguments. This is where you can add more citations, graphics, and multimedia sources.

9. In the end

The APA manual mentions that your conclusion part should not use any citation elements in the final section and avoid introducing any new ideas. Keep this in mind and make sure you leave suggestions and a review of the paper as a whole.

Note: If you mention any extra information in your previous paragraphs, you can add certain suggestions as an appendix section after your references page. However, you should always check with your academic advisor to make sure that it is relevant.

10. List of Sources

Put the word “References” at the top of the layout of your document to start your References page. It needs to be in the middle and one inch down. Do not use bold fonts, italics, or capital letters.
All of your references (citations) must be double-spaced and should not have any extra lines between them.
Use tabulation to make a hanging indent if your reference goes past the first line.
In APA 7th edition style, the order of your references is by the first letter of the last name.
ABC says that citations that don’t start with the author go at the beginning of your paper.
The Writing Guides to Follow in APA 7th Citation Style
Basic Citation Rules in APA
Let’s say you are writing a research paper in APA style and you need to cite a book in print. It will need these pieces of information:

The person or people who wrote the book. The surname is always followed by the person’s initials.
In round brackets comes the year that the book came out.
Italics are always used for the book title.
If there is an edition, it will also be in round brackets. If the book is the first edition, you don’t need this part.
DOI (Date of Issue). It needs to be in both the online and print versions (if it’s available).
On a References page, you must leave about 5 spaces between the second line of your citation and the rest of the page.
For instance:

Fisher, J.V. (2006). How do video games affect today’s youth in terms of violence? Penguin Books.

For a citation for a journal article, give the following information:

The person or people who wrote the article. The person’s initials always come after the last name.
The year of publication of the journal comes next in round brackets.
The title of the journal must be in italics.
Give number of journal (in italics).
Put the number of an issue of a journal between round brackets (no italics are necessary here).
Range of pages in an article (if available).
Provide DOI or URL
For instance:

T. Braxton (2005). A study of the health benefits of Asian food. Modern Health Care, 11(4), pp. 34–36.

The rule for using abbreviations in a research paper is that each one should be used at least three times. If your abbreviation is only used once, you need to spell out the whole phrase every time you use it for your assignment. When using APA style for research, you don’t have to use abbreviations in the headings. When you use an abbreviation for the first time, put the full term in parentheses after the abbreviation. The 7th edition of the APA manual says that you should only use these when they help you communicate better with your audience.

Numbers and punctuation: How to Use Them
In section 6.32 of the most recent APA style format guide, we can see that numbers from ten and up must be written as numbers with numerals (12, 34, 721, and so on). When you have to use numbers up to ten, these are written in words such as “three positions”, “two authors”, “seven Chinese brothers”, etc.

As you work with the numbers, you must also use commas between certain groups of three numbers. For instance:

Since more than 2,000 people came to a meeting…

When it comes to punctuation, you must put commas, periods, question marks, and exclamation points inside the quote marks. As for the other punctuation marks, they are not part of your quote.

Note: Block quotations are used when you want to use a direct quote that is more than forty words long.

Graphics and Media in the APA
If you look at an example of a modern research paper in APA format, you will see that there are a lot of graphics and multimedia examples. Graphics can be used.

If you want to use museum artwork in an online form, it looks like this:

Artist Last Name, First Letter. Second letter. (Year). Name of the piece of art [Format]. URL. Location.

If you have a stock photo:

Writer (Year). Name of the picture [format]. Website. URL

If a picture didn’t have a name or a date, it would be like this:

[Work topic and type]. (n.d.). Your image’s URL.

Tips on How to Write an APA-Style Research Paper
To write a good APA style research paper, you need to know that this kind of writing is not the same as a term paper or a simple college essay. It’s also not like a reflection paper. You must give the results of your research. It means that you should use your writer’s voice, but you should do so in a limited way by focusing on how you did your research and how you explained what you found. Depending on your requirements and the grading rubric, you may have to give 2-3 citations per page of your research to back up your arguments and mention at least one important publication that deals with your topic.

As you write your APA-style research paper, make sure to follow these simple tips for academic writing:

Research tone must be present. It means that you shouldn’t write in the first person unless you’re told to. Instead of “This study was done by,” the general APA style guide suggests using “This study was done by.”
When you talk about your experience, it’s best not to give out any personal information. Don’t write the paper as if it were a personal statement. As part of your research assignment, you need to put together information from different sources by comparing, contrasting, and finding similarities.
The 7th edition of the APA style guide says to use the past tense, so you should say that your research paper has shown instead of “shows.” If you look at a certain timeline, there may be some exceptions.
There shouldn’t be too much use of contractions. It means that you should say “It doesn’t lead to” instead of “It doesn’t lead to.”
Your writing should be clear, honest, and not show any bias. Your goal is to do research that doesn’t care about race, sexuality, religion, or gender.
Use of sources must be done correctly so that your paper doesn’t just become a list of sources.
If you follow these simple rules, you’ll be able to stick to the basic rules and write in APA style. As always, there may be exceptions to every rule. If you have any questions, talk to your teacher. Your school or college will always have the last word.

Format for APA Style Language Without Bias Is Important
When writing a paper in APA format, remember the rules for using language that is free of bias, which are also in the APA 7th manual for research writing. The goal is to use pronouns that don’t refer to a person’s gender and to try to avoid showing bias or specific demeaning things that could come across as a bad attitude in your research writing. So, if you’re writing about a sensitive topic, double-check your text and talk to your academic advisor before turning in your work. It will help us all make research projects that are honest, free of bias, and follow the rules of mutual respect, multiculturalism, and democracy.

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