How to Write a Research Paper using APA Style

The American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines for research paper writing are challenging, but easy to follow. A student writer facing the task of doing a major research paper using APA guidelines might, at first, feel overwhelmed. However, take a breath, and – as the saying goes – “eat the elephant one bite at a time.”

Follow the steps in this article and approach the writing task in an organized and efficient manner and earn that high grade you deserve. This guide will focus on the formatting, structure, and reference citations involved in writing the research paper using APA format. The starting point in the process discussed here begins after – repeat: after – the research is completed, the citations have been gathered, and the first draft of the research paper is finished. Don’t try to do both tasks at once. Get your research and draft done first.

What you’ll need

All the APA expertise in the world won’t help you unless you have a well-researched draft paper to whip into academic shape. You need to spend the time listing your reference material used in your draft and to check out the format and protocol for listing the various sources and types reference material. It is worth the money to invest in an APA style manual.

Before you start, here are a few tips:

Rome and research papers were not built in a day, so start early! Do the reading an research first. Don’t rush it! Allow the research to “simmer,” and your subconscious will do the rest. Use the APA guidelines to make your “Works Cited” page. Remember that every reference you use must be cited in the body of the paper.

Now follow these steps:

First, write your first draft. Mark your quotations, paraphrasing, summaries – anything that needs to be sourced to avoid plagiarism. They will need an in-text citation.

Next, compile your citation listing. APA citations contain the following information in this order:

1. Author name(s)
2. Date of publication
3. Work Title

Next, prepare your References Page. The References page is the final page of your APA research paper, but it should be the first page your actually prepare. The Reference Page is:

– a list of every source that you marked in your paper
– the information necessary for a reader to find and access any sources cited in your paper
– alphabetized by item (author or title)
– double-spaced with a hanging indent (second and succeeding lines of a citation are indented one inch from the left margin)

Go to the Purdue OnLine Writing Lab APA Sample Works Cited Page for a detailed example and guide.

Now you’ll have to go back to your rough draft text and insert your in-text citations. Often referred to as “parenthetical citations,” they:

– are cited within the text of the paper after having been quoted or paraphrased from a source.

– include the author’s last name, date of publication, and the page or section (if any) where the material you used can be found.

Again, each source cited in the paper must appear on your Works Cited Page list and vice versa. One excellent source among the many on the web is the University of Maryland’s APA Citation Examples.

Now you’re ready for your final product!

Follow the guidelines on Purdue’s Online Writing Lab web page on APA General Format.  Your research paper needs a cover page, an abstract (if required by the instructor), the main body in addition to the References Page. Essentially, you’re saving the drudgery of listing, compiling and incorporating your APA citations and formatting as the last steps in the process of writing your paper. Again, leave all that aside and concentrate first on the reading, research, thinking and writing that is the heart of any paper. When you combine the elegant academic discipline of APA format and citations with a well-written paper, you have a winning enterprise. Write on!