How to Write an APA Style Paper
The APA style covers all social sciences and is very popular amongst social, political, and psychological researchers. If you have been assigned a term/research paper formatted according to APA style, the present guide will help you. Here you will get acquainted with the main rules and principles of writing and formatting an APA paper, whatever its type - essay, term paper, dissertation, outline, and so forth.
How to write an APA style paper – 8 essential tips
1. Initial idea and outline
First you need to elucidate your ideas related to the paper. Think about the topic and its proper (precise) formulation. If the topic is already given, you should reflect upon the research problem (question) and the thesis you can offer. A good way to do it is to write down everything which you associate with the given issue. Let’s say that the title of your paper is “Unemployment and alcohol abuse.” This topic indicates a possible relationship between two processes: unemployment and the alcohol abuse. Thus, you have to figure out a strategy for research and for proving your thesis.
You can choose either the empirical or the theoretical approach. If you think that you cannot work on the topic empirically, then it is better to employ the latter approach. An empirical research requires a lot of fieldwork, including contacts with alcohol abusing people and the staff taking care of them. Are you sure you can do it? If not, then it is recommended to re-formulate your topic in order to make it “more theoretical” (for example, you can merely insert a subtitle like “A theoretical approach”).
2. Do some reading
Reading is the key to every good piece of research. Without theoretical background your paper will be a disaster. You can ask your professor to recommend you some literature. If you are shy, then you can merely go to the local library and search by subjects; for instance, “addiction/abuse” or “asocial behavior.” Another way is to use online databases; use key words and search for articles there.
Advice: you will find a lot of information there. For that reason it is important to make your topic even more precise - to specify the age and maybe the location of the people you want to do a research on.
3. Take notes
You must take notes of every quotation or assertion which seems significant in connection with the topic. It is easier to do it when you use electronic books or PDF files. If paper books are used instead, write everything important on your computer; it will help you find necessary information faster.
Remember to write down the name of the author of the given text, the title of the text, the year and publishing house. Always write down the number of the particular page you have taken the quote from!
The structure of your paper should be made clear as early as before writing the paper itself. The best way to do it is to write a short outline. Your outline will cover the main points which you want to put emphasis on - scope of the research, methodology (especially if you do a field research), thesis/hypothesis, observations, analysis of the data, arguments, etc.
Here is a sample outline which can help you find the appropriate structure for your paper.
-Topic: Unemployment and alcohol abuse.
-Introduction to the topic and context of research: this is a research paper which analyzes the relationship between both phenomena. Fieldwork will be used as a methodology. 10 interviews will be held with alcohol-addicted people at the center X.
-Hypothesis: alcohol abuse seriously increases the chances for one being fired. The opposite is not observed often - alcohol addiction does not come after one has been fired.
-Theoretical framework: the author Y has proposed that… (here you present the given theory in short). Besides, the author Z maintains that …
-Observation and interviews (you should fill in this part later): During my observation I saw that… The main points concerned in the interviews were… The overall impression from my fieldwork was that…
-Analysis of the data gathered (here you start from the hypothesis and compare it with the data collected during the field work).
-bibliography (you can add titles one by one here. Try to format them according to the APA requirements from the very beginning).
5. Field research
You must adhere to several rules which are essential for your effective fieldwork:
- Choose the right place to do your research (easily accessible; related to your particular topic).
- Follow your plan (elaborated precisely long before the start of your field research). Prepare a punctual schedule and follow it.
- Keep records of your work (video, photos, audio recording, written notes).
- Always communicate with your hosts (the staff from the institution). Explain to them what you need to do today, for how long, for what reason, with what aim.
- Be ethical - always ask the persons interviewed if you may use their names. By default they remain anonymous until they express agreement to present their names in your paper.
- Express your gratitude to your hosts in the beginning of the paper.
- If possible, do not do this research alone. A team of two or three persons will manage better.
6. Analysis of the data
Never forget that the data you have collected can be influenced by your own observation methods and style of communication. Especially in Psychology the relation observer-observed is dynamical and can differ in different environments. Therefore, never try to generalize data which present only your own research. Try to reconcile them with other pieces of research. The best way to do it is to find similar research and to compare the results.
What you need to do in this part is to show whether the data confirm your hypothesis. It can turn out that some of the interviewed persons were unemployed for long time and then they have started their alcohol abuse. In such a case you must admit your hypothesis is not completely correct, and to modify it accordingly.
Warning: this does not mean you need to re-formulate the initial hypothesis. You should rather formulate the hypothesis anew in the analysis section of the paper. Otherwise the reader will not be able to trace the course and logic of your research.
7. Bibliography and citation
The bibliography is an inevitable part of every paper you write at college level. It contains all the texts referred by you in the paper as well as some additional titles. Keep in mind the rule that the words in the title are not capitalized (except the first word). However, journal names contain capitalized words.
Example for a book:
Roman, P. (1990). Alcohol problem intervention in the workplace: Employee assistance programs and strategic alternatives. Greenwood Publishing Group.
Ruhm, C. (1995). Economic conditions and alcohol problems. Journal of Health Economics, 14(5), 583-603.
The citations you employ in your paper should be short and do not exceed one-sixth of its whole length. This means, if your paper is six pages long, it must contain maximum one page of quotations. In case of practical research (as the one described above), the citations should be even less.
There are two types of citations: short and long. Long quotations contain 40 words or more, and must be presented in a separate block of text with a half-inch margin from the left.
Having written the draft of your paper, you must review it carefully. Look for grammar mistakes, discrepancies between the data collected by you and your conclusion, and vague definitions; replace all mundane words with academic terminology.
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