Home / Blog / How to write a research paper in APA format - Updated for 2024

Writing a research paper accurately is not an easy job. To make it successful, you must have knowledge of formatting rules for research paper writing. In this guide, we’ll provide crucial information on how to write a research paper in APA format according to the rules of APA format 7th edition. This blog covers the general requirements for APA format, how to write your research paper in APA format, and tips for APA writing. If you're not feeling confident in your writing skills or have other commitments, you can always check out Nerdpapers' research paper writing service. Our professional writers are available 24/7 to provide you round the clock support. 
Before moving forward, you must have a clear understanding of an APA format. So, let’s discuss it first.

What is APA format?

The APA format is a special formatting style used in business, academics and research writing to document the sources and publication purposes. It is a set of guidelines that writers use to organize the arguments easily and improve the paper's readability. Moreover, the APA format was introduced by the American Psychological Association as a language to be used in higher education and research papers. If you cite sources properly by using APA format, it helps to avoid plagiarism in your paper. Furthermore, using APA style gives writers credibility because it shows that one is able to "speak" academic language.

The latest widely used APA format was published in 2020, 7th edition. This edition includes a number of modifications with the goal of improving the format's usability for educational stakeholders. Some of the relevant modifications are formatting and citation changes. Professionals and students should use different cover pages, according to the seventh edition. In the 7th edition, student papers do not require a running head, and the term "running head" is not necessary for professional paper’s running heads.

The recent edition also provides leverage in choosing different font styles. The apa format is mostly used in subjects like sociology, journalism, sociology, education, law, anthropology and healthcare. Writers should follow the guidelines specified by the instructor. If not, then follow the instructions included in the latest edition of APA format. 

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What are the general requirements for APA format?

The following are the general requirements for apa formatting style:

✔️Page Layouts 

  • Create a document on MS Word or Google Docs and set the page margin to 1 inch.
  • Double-space your text, including APA headings.
  • Specify the page number on all pages at the top right corner of your document.
  • In APA 7th edition, the recommended font styles are Times New Roman in 12 point size while Georgia and Arial in 11 point size. Other fonts can also be used.
  • Consult with your academic advisor first.
  • Every paragraph's first line is indented by 0.5 inches, according to the APA 7th edition. Simply hit the TAB key once.

✔️Header for APA Format

You must set your research paper header correctly. The apa format must provide headings in upper case. To set up your paper heading:

  • Go to the MS Word toolbar and click on the 'Insert' tab.
  • Click the header and footer tab and select the blank in both header & footer.
  • The title page of your APA research paper must feature the left margin positioning where you type your paper title.
  • At this point, press the tab key once or twice to adjust the right margin.
  • Close the Header & Footer tab.

✔️APA format page numbers 

For page numbering, use the default feature of MS Word, or you can also use any software to do it automatically. The page number should be displayed on the top right corner of all pages, including the title page. According to APA 7th edition, the page number should start from the title page. 

✔️APA Title Page

Your APA title page must start with the title of your project. Then, the student name, institution name, course number, instructor name, and project deadline. All these lines must be centered and start from the middle of the title page. For example, your paper title should look like this:

The apa format title page sample for sociology
Social Media and Political Polarization
Katie John
Department of Sociology, Georgia State University
ENG 112: Sociology
Dr. Sophia Rose Anderson
January 23, 2022

✔️APA Format Table of Contents

The table of contents is only essential in the case of thesis writing or dissertation writing. It should be placed between the abstract and the research paper introduction. The font size and style should be the same as the rest of your project's content. The word "Contents" appears at the top of the text on your page. Each entry needs to be bold and centered.

✔️Outline in APA format

A solid apa format outline makes the foundation of well arranged paper. An APA research paper is split into three main portions: introduction, body and then conclusion. The introduction section covers the background information of your paper and thesis statement. The body section covers the main points of your research, and the conclusion summarizes your overall research. Then, add a reference list that follows the conclusion. Additionally, you must add an abstract before the introduction section. Not all but most of the research papers follow this general outline.

✔️Abstract APA Format

The abstract comes after the title page. It should appear on a separate page with page number 2. Write the word 'Abstract' in bold letters and center it at the top of the page. Moreover, it should not be more than 250 words or a single paragraph. The basic purpose of the abstract is to provide a summary of your research to readers. 
Focus on the requirements that you want to achieve while writing, and keep your target audience in mind as you explain your methodology and the problem that you're going to address. Write your findings and a clear conclusion in the same manner as you would in a book review.

✔️APA Body Format

The APA format body paragraph should start with the most crucial argument of your thesis and provide analytical information. Add arguments and facts to support the objectives that you have mentioned in the introduction part. 
In an APA research paper, statistical data—which is also regarded as a reference—should be used in the second body paragraph. This is the section where you can mention specific articles and use citations. By using this strategy, you can reduce the chance of plagiarism.
The final paragraph should include different viewpoints and counter-arguments, as well as extra citations, visuals, and multimedia sources.

✔️APA Format Conclusion

According to the APA manual, you should avoid adding any new ideas in the conclusion section. Do not use any citation components in the last section. When you write a conclusion in apa format, make sure to provide ideas and an overall review of your research work.

✔️Reference Page in APA Format

The reference list contains detailed information about the sources used while writing your research paper. This section begins on a new page with the heading "References" at the top. It must be centered as well. Additionally, references are double spaced and arranged alphabetically. The reference list should follow the format apa 7th edition. 

The reference page is crucial because it provides credit to the sources that were utilized in the research paper. If the sources are not cited correctly or not mentioned at all, the research paper's author faces the danger of being accused of plagiarism. The APA format is widely used to achieve this purpose. One of the most helpful resources for preparing research papers is the references section of a Wikipedia page. However, finding and formatting a large number of references can be difficult and time-consuming. 

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Guidelines For Writing In APA Format

The following details are required if you wish to publish your research paper in APA format:

  • Book author and his/her surname followed by the initials
  • Book publication near that will come next in the round brackets ().
  • The title of the book is always placed in italics.
  • The edition is also presented in round brackets, if available. This section is not required if it is the first edition.
  • Digital Object Identifier (DOI) must be included (if available) in the print and web versions.
  • In a References page, the second line of your citation needs to be indented by approximately five spaces.
  • Publisher.

In order to write an APA style research paper correctly, you must realize that it is not the same as a term paper or an easy college essay. Furthermore, it is not equivalent to a reflection paper. You have to submit your research results, which includes writing a literature review

✅APA Format Example:

Smith, A. R. (2019). Social Media and its Impact on Mental Health: An Empirical Study. Academic Press.
In case of journal article citation, provide the following details:

  • Full name of the author of the article.
  • Then comes the publication year of a journal in round brackets.
  • The title of the journal and its volume must be in italics.
  • Include the journal's issue number in round brackets (italics are not required).
  • Article's page range (if provided).
  • Give a URL or DOI.

✔️For instance: Williams, E. L. (2020). The Impact of Exercise on Stress Reduction. Journal of Health and Wellness, 8(2), 67-72. https://doi.org/

Rules of Abbreviations

According to the research paper abbreviation guideline, an abbreviation should be used not less than three times. When using an abbreviation for an assignment, you must always spell out your term completely if it is only used once. It is not required to use acronyms inside of headings when conducting research in accordance with APA style. The first time you use an abbreviation, don't forget to include the entire word by putting the shortened form in parenthesis. According to the APA 7th edition manual, these should only be applied when they assist in offering better communication with your intended audience.

Rules for Punctuation and Numbers

According to the latest APA manual, we can see that numbers more than 10 must be expressed as numerals (12, 34, 721, and so on). Moreover, when you have to use numbers up to 10, they must be written as words, such as "three positions," "two authors," "seven Japanese sisters," etc. It is also stated that use commas between groups of three digits, e.g., 1,000 students.

When it comes to punctuation rules, you must enclose your quotation marks with commas, periods, question marks, and exclamation points. The rest of the punctuation marks extend beyond your quotation. After most punctuation, one space is appropriate. Additionally, the APA style format requires the usage of the Oxford comma. There shouldn't be any space added to either side of an en dash or after an em dash. The APA style generally follows standard grammar and punctuation guidelines.

Usage of Graphics in APA 

You'll see that there are many multimedia examples using visuals when you go through the example of a modern research paper in APA format. Graphics can be used with permission.

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Helpful Tips For APA Writing

In order to write an APA style research paper correctly, you must realize that it is not the same as a term paper or an easy college essay. Furthermore, it is not equivalent to a reflection paper. You have to submit your research results. This means that while you should express your writer's voice, do it carefully by concentrating on technique and providing an explanation of what you find out. You might need to include two to three citations on every page of your research, depending on your needs and the grading rubric. These citations will help you support your claims and cite at least one significant work that addresses the topic of your research.

Follow these simple tips for APA writing research paper:

  • There needs to be a research tone. In other words, avoid using the first person in your research article unless asked by your instructor. Alternatively, you may use "This study has been conducted by" statements, as advised by the general APA writing style guideline.
  • Avoid adding personal information such as your life experiences. Your research paper should not sound like a personal piece of writing. In order to complete your research assignment, you must synthesize different publications by writing a comparison, contrast, and similarities analysis.
  • As per the APA manual, use the past tense. It implies that rather than using the word "shows," you should say that your study report has shown. In case you are referring to a certain timeline, there might be certain exceptions.
  • Avoid overuse of contractions. For example, you should say, 'It did not work' instead of 'It didn't work'.
  • You should write honestly, clearly, and without any biases. Moreover, your goal is to conduct research without discrimination based on gender, race, or religion.
  • It's important to carefully incorporate sources without making your paper just a collection of them.

By following these simple rules, you will be able to write a research paper in APA format easily. As always, there are exceptions to every rule, so you must consult your instructor in case of any queries or concerns. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does APA stand for?

APA is an acronym for the American Psychological Association (APA). It is a formatting style that is used to properly format essays and papers. 

What is apa format used for? 

APA is a documentation style of the American Psychological Association (APA). It is commonly used for citing sources in education, social sciences, law and psychology. 

Which people use the APA format?

The researchers, scholars and students of psychology, sociology, and related fields use the APA format to style their research papers. Moreover, this style is not limited to these fields of study but is also used in scientific and other academic writing fields in research paper writing.