Writing Tips for APA-Style Research Papers

Most professional journals require papers to be submitted in conformity with the APA (American Psychological Association) style guide. While some may differ slightly in minor areas, the APA style is the accepted format for publication. Here are some writing tips for APA-style research papers.

Basic Tips

Follow the APA Style

The best tip for writers of research papers is to become familiar with the APA style and write your reports and papers according to their guidelines. By doing this, any specific changes that a particular journal may require will only demand minor changes to your draft before submitting.

Use the Standard Organizational Sections

The basic sections of a scientific report or paper are the abstract, introduction, method (experimental, hypothesis), results and conclusions. Each of these sections has very basic formats and requirements for the content. An examination of each section will allow you to both plan your research and be prepared to report it correctly.


The abstract of any scientific paper is designed to reveal what research was performed and to give a very brief summary of the results obtained. According to the APA Style Guide, the abstract of a research paper is to be around 120 words and include approximately one sentence for each of the sections of the paper.

The abstract should include a basic description of the work being reported.


The introduction is much more extensive in scope. It includes a comprehensive review of the literature concerning the topic of research and attempts to convey what is known about the topic of interest.

The introduction also explains, as descriptively and accurately as possible, the basics of the topic of interest and of what will be done to investigate it further. A short discussion of the proposed research in light of what is currently known is undertaken.

The introduction concludes by declaring the hypothesis of the research.


The method section is sometimes referred to as the experimental section. This section is used to describe not only how the research was done, but also what was used during the research.

An example of a chemical or physical experiment would include all the equipment used in the experiment. All hardware used is listed by name, model number and manufacturer.

There should be enough detail included that any other researcher could replicate the results of the reported research without severe difficulty.


Analysis of the data is conducted in the results section. This section evaluates the data and compares it to previous results.

A comparison is also made with results obtained using other methods of measurements.

Discussion Conclusions

The discussion section clearly states whether the hypothesis was supported or not supported by the experiments.

Based on the results, comments are made as to the importance of these studies.


The references used in the paper are to be written in the format specified by the APA style guide. There are specific formats defined for books, articles and online sources.

Ensure that you use the correct citation for sources. List the references alphabetically according to the citation.

Key APA Style Issues

The previous tips are basic for all research papers; but, there are some things you need to remember specifically about the APA style. Specifically:

  • The paper needs to be written in an impersonal style. Their should be no personal statements or anecdotes.
  • You are reporting work that has already been performed, so the paper shoud be written in the past tense.
  • Do not use contractions (such as “don’t”).
  • When citing an external source, either use the source in the structure of your sentence or reference it at the end of the sentence by placing it in parentheses.

Hopefully, these writing tips for APA-style research papers will be useful for you the next time you need to submit a research paper.

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