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How do I write a research paper in APA format: things you may not know

APA refers to the American Psychological Association, and is a style of formatting that is most often used in research written on the social sciences, such as sociology and psychology. If you are set a paper in these fields, and are required to use APA, you need to know the basics in order to avoid losing marks. But, what kinds of things might you not know about this, particularly if you are unused to it?

  • General Format
  • The paper in APA, as in most other recommended style guides, needs to be presented in a clear font, APA recommends using Times New Roman, 12 point, and all text should be double spaced. On each page, you must have the title of your paper, in shortened version, in the header.

  • Structure
  • The structure of an APA paper is always the same, or should be, and must include four main sections: Title (Title of paper, Name of Author, Name of Course, Date of Submission), Abstract (a clear overview of what the paper will demonstrate), Body (your evidence and argument, research), References (a list of all of the sources that your paper has employed).

  • Citations
  • The single distinctive feature of the majority of style guides is the way that citations are introduced and formatted. In APA, a citation must appear in text, in the same sentence in which the reference occurs. The citation should include all relevant information, as in, if you have mentioned an author (Smith thinks A), then the citation should be to the year (Smith thinks A (1999)). If the author’s name does not appear in the sentence, then this must be in citation too: ‘Some think A is the case (Smith, 1999)’.

  • Bibliography
  • As with in-text citations, another distinctive feature of different style guides is the way that bibliographical information is presented. In APA, a bibliographical reference to a book has the following format:

    Smith, A. (1990). APA Style. London: Smith and Smith.

As with all other style guides, there is a huge amount of information about style in APA, and summarising is hard! Do have a look at the guide itself, which your library should be able to supply.


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