APA style guide

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Easy guide to APA style

There is no doubt that students taking academic courses are going to write plenty of academic papers and have them formatted according to APA style. Therefore, the questions like “What is the APA format?” and “how to format an APA paper?” are bothering the minds of many learners.

APA, or American Psychological Association Style, is one of the most commonly used formatting and citation styles. It was initially designed for psychological disciplines by a group of scientists (mainly psychologists, anthropologists and business managers) in 1929. Yet, now it is often used in other sciences as well, mainly in the social ones. American Psychological Association Style was developed in an attempt to establish a set of rules, which would determine the usage of the requisite elements for each academic paper in order to uniform the written material. Such standardization provides readers an easier navigation in the researchers’ works, a better understanding of their structure, and their connections with other scientific papers. Obviously, there were numerous changes to the APA style, which were represented in several editions of the manual. In 2009, American Psychological Organization has released a sixth edition of the manual, which is currently the latest version of the guide.

What is APA format used for?

Obviously, academic papers are not among the types of writing where the author can get to be creative in terms of formatting. Just as many other professional texts, scientific papers should comply with an established set of rules. And although the APA guidelines for papers might seem endless and complicated at first, they are not that hard to follow. Once you take a closer look at a detailed APA formatting and style guide, you will manage to avoid many pitfalls on the way of creating an impeccable writing piece that conforms to high standards of academic writing.

It is needless to say that any academic writing should be clear and straightforward. In effect, following a particular formatting style is not about the way the paper looks, but rather the way how author’s thoughts are enounced. As a matter of fact, the strict rules presented in APA writing manual are designed to help a researcher express his or her ideas in the most effective way. Using APA paper formatting guide makes it much easier to communicate one’s thoughts in a clear and consistent manner. It also allows readers to understand the writing, as well as find the information they are interested in, much easier. In addition, if the author is planning to get one’s manuscript published, he or she should be aware that editors and publishers pay a close attention to the way the writing is formatted.

It is worth noting that the typical editorial style predetermines the use of numerous elements. The main aspects are the following:

  • In-text citations and references
  • Particular headings, length
  • Punctuation and abbreviations
  • Construction of tables and figures
  • Presentation of statistical data
  • Other elements which constitute a manuscript

How guidelines for APA format differ from other formatting styles?

Unlike other types of writing and paper formats, which tolerate some forms of creativity or deviation from the standard language, APA style is notable for its strict formal structure (which depends on the type of work) and language. It establishes the general formula, to which each writing piece should conform. Consequently, memorizing this formula and using it on a constant basis will help you master writing a paper using APA format to perfection. The main requirement of this format is to keep the structure simple, the sentences brief and the language clear, in order to make the material comprehensible.


What is APA writing style?

As it was already mentioned above, formatting a paper according to American Psychological Association Style means adhering to the number of strict rules. These rules concern the text stylistics and determine the language that should be used.

1. Viewpoint and Voice

When it comes to the point of view that a researcher should use in APA paper, it is worth noting that he or she can use the first person while describing the stages of a conducted research, for example, “I studied…”. Same applies if a research was conducted with a co-author, “We explored…” or “We found in the course…”. The use of first person is favored in order to avoid the humanization of the work. For instance, it is obvious that, unlike researchers, a research cannot “investigate”, “examine” or “study” something.

At the same time, be sure that you use “we” only when you are referring to yourself and your co-author. As, basically, you have to put the main emphasis on the research itself (“The obtained findings show that…”), and not the people who conducted it.

If you look at previous editions of APA writing style guide, you will notice that it was recommended to use the third person and passive voice constructions in most occasions for this writing style. However, nowadays, using an active voice and personal pronouns “I” and “we” is a more preferred and favorable way for describing the steps the researchers have taken while conducting a research study. For instance, “We have carried out an experiment…” as an alternative to “The experiments have been carried out…”

Active voice is, in particular, required for experimental reports where there is a need to clearly mark the participants taking part in the experiment. For instance, “The surveyed participants responded that…” or “The respondents confirmed that…”

2. Competent Word Choice

The appropriate word choice is crucial for professional academic and scientific writing. Therefore, a researcher should be very selective towards the words, especially the terms that he or she is using in one’s work. This is especially important for social sciences, where one and the same word can have multiple meanings. The erroneous choice of a word can lead to reader’s misunderstanding of the content and distorted comprehension of what was initially meant. Hence, to avoid bias and ensure the accuracy and adherence of the written material, authors should consider the following recommendations regarding the word choice:

  • Use terms “participants” or “respondents” instead of “subjects” to specify that people were involved in your research.
  • Use words like “children” or “public representatives” to give more details about the members of the study.
  • Use phrases like “The study indicates…”, “The expanding evidence provides support to…” or “The obtained research results provide support to/indicate…” instead of words “proof” or “proves”, as the convention of any academic and scientific writing is that in fact a single study can never confirm or dismiss a hypothesis or a theory. Therefore, it is advised to use the evidence from a significant number of various studies in order to support your findings.
  • Review the discourse of your subject to examine the commonly accepted terminology.

3. Avoiding poetic and flowery language

The language of professional writing is naturally devoid of poetic and figurative expressions, as such poetic constructions would divert the readers’ attention from the information, conveyed in the work. The main goal here is to keep it as concise, brief, and explicit as possible. To achieve this goal, make sure to:

  • Avoid using figurative speech such as metaphors, similes, personification, or hyperboles. Their use can be justified only as a means of explication of some complex notions or ideas that are impossible to explain without using such language.
  • Avoid using poetic devices such as alliteration, assonance, or onomatopoeia. These devices are typical for verse and should be used only if they are somehow connected with the subject of the writing.
  • Choose the descriptive adjectives and plain words preferably to ensure that readers will not have difficulties understanding the provided information.

4. Relevancy and Precision

The information, which you present in your writing, should be clear and relevant. It is better to give less information but make sure it is adequate to the topic and will be interesting for the potential readers, rather than stuff the work with unneeded or vague details. Be extremely concise and consistent in descriptions and explanations of experiments and procedures.

This rule especially refers to the introduction and abstract, which should be completely devoid of any redundant information.

5. Avoiding bias

Naturally, the researchers are working in various fields and often have to survey and communicate with people of different generations, communities, nations, races and genders. Thus, each researcher should always ascertain that the language of his work is free of stereotypes and labels. For the most part, bias refer to the areas of:

  • Race and ethnicity
  • Disability
  • Sexuality

Sure enough, it may be rather hard to choose the appropriate words to replace those, which are sometimes deemed to be offensive. One of the solutions to this problem is calling people the way they choose to be called.

It is also necessary to get your work free of gendered pronouns wherever possible. The writers should be precise when it comes to the sex identity of respondents or participants of their research. For this very reason, APA writing guidelines do not recommend replacing pronouns “she” and “he” with “he or she” as it may mangle the information and, respectively, the readers’ perception of the presented information.

What are the ways to avoid gendered pronouns? First of all, you can try paraphrasing the sentences, without changing their meaning. You can also use plural nouns or pronouns, such as “they” or “their”, or an article instead of a pronoun, e.g. “the” instead of “his” or “her”. Other than that, you can just bypass the pronouns where it is possible, or replace them with nouns, such as “individual”, “person”, “child”, “author”, “researcher” and such.

When it comes to writing about the “disabled”, it is recommended to use corresponding definitive adjectives in order to avoid biased labeling. This way, you are going to give a description of a participant by the criteria that you used to categorize them. For instance, you should avoid such pejorative terms such as “illegitimate children”, “AIDS victims”, “cancer sufferers”, “the elderly”. Instead, you should use the expressions, which describe the participants by these criteria. Consider the following: “out-of-wedlock children”, “people diagnosed with AIDS”, “people who developed cancer”, “the elderly people”, etc. If you are not sure what terms would be appropriate, check the current literature terminology or consult with your teacher. Only by paying due attention to the essential details, you will manage to make your writing appear genuinely professional.

The most important thing to know about the formatting styles, including APA, is that they have been evolving over the years, primarily to make the scientific papers more accessible for people who do not belong to scientific community. Therefore, you always have to follow the developments in formatting and learn new editions once they are released. However, sometimes it may cause difficulties, as older professors or teachers may prefer and stick to previous editions of the rules. For instance, some professors may still ask you to use passive voice constructions, although active voice structures are currently preferred in modern writing. For this very reason, we would recommend you to listen to your professor and stick to the APA style guide template that he or she will provide you with.

In any case, regardless of the manual or formatting style you will have to follow, your main goal is to make the writing consistent and clear, with smooth transitions between the sections, so that a reader can easily perceive your thoughts and ideas.

APA guidelines for different parts of the text

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Basically, the major parts of any paper in any format are the identical, thus APA style outline template can look like the following:

  • the title page
  • the abstract
  • the main body (indispensable parts of which are the introduction, the main part of the text and the conclusion)
  • the reference list.

APA guide for headings

Particular attention should be devoted to the Running head of the APA title page. Running head, also known as Page header, appears on every page of the document. The only difference is that the words “Running head:” should be put before the title of the document on the cover page only. Usually, it is a shortened version of the original title of the paper, as the running head is limited to 50 characters only, including spacing and punctuation. The Page header should contain the shortened title of the paper (or full, if it is feasible due to the title length) in all capital letters to the left and the page number to the right of it. It is also worth noting that the header is placed within the paper’s top margin.

Headings of different levels are highly important to any academic papers, as they help organizing the structure of the whole work. Headers indicate what type of content is represented in each paragraph or part of the text. Technically, there are five levels of headings, however, only two, three or four levels are used in the majority of works.

There are several important things to know about levels of headings:

  • The number of required headings for each work is different depending on its complexity. Naturally, the parts that are equally important should have the same level of heading.
  • The introduction part should not be labeled with heading “Introduction” as it is anticipated that the beginning of the text is actually the introduction.
  • For the major sections, which are Abstract, Title of the paper (both on the cover page and at the beginning of the text), References, Appendices, a common formatting font is used, and there is no need to make it boldface or italics.

How to make a title page APA?

According to the general guidelines, the paper, as well as the cover page, should be double spaced with 1 inch margins. Speaking of margins, it must also be noted that they should equal exactly 1 inch (2.54 cm) on all sides: on the top, left, right and the bottom.

The font of the text should be easy-to-read. Generally, the preferable and commonly used font is Times New Roman, point 12.

The text should be left-aligned with the right margin left non-aligned. Also make sure to leave two spaces at the end of each sentence. Moreover, keep in mind that unlike the Chicago style, APA always requires the page number on the cover sheet.

As to the APA title pages order, make sure to keep the following sequence:

  • the title or topic of the paper
  • Put the title of the paper in the upper half of the cover page. It should be typed in both upper and lowercase letters. In addition, it is not recommended to use abbreviations as well as put more than 12 words in a line. If the name of your project is too lengthy, it is better to put it in two lines.

  • the name of the author
  • For the author’s name, type the first name, the middle initial and then the last name. Do not indicate any titles or degrees, like Dr. or Ms. or PhD., with the author’s name.

  • the institutional affiliation

Lastly, the name of the educational institution where the research was held is among the obligatory components of the cover page.

Among the optional components are the date and the author’s note. The author note basically includes grant or funding information. In some instances, it may also include the correspondence address. It is also worth noting that the components are not always limited to those mentioned above. Sometimes an instructor may request to indicate some other information along with the topic of the work, the author’s name and institutional affiliation. Yet, in this case, the instructor should provide the students with the sample APA cover page to ensure they follow the right formatting.

One more section that can be included in the work is the Table of Contents. Nevertheless, in most cases, the Table of Contents is not required (for example, the Table of Contents is rarely used for literature reviews) and may be added to the text only upon the request of the instructor.

Basically, it shows what topics and themes you have investigated in your work as well as the text’s structure. Therefore, each part of the writing should be reflected in the Table of Contents and accompanied with the page number where this part begins. The headlines in the table usually coincide exactly with the headlines of the paper parts. However, if the type of work is a report, it is recommended to use whole sentences, not brief bullets, for headlines. This way, a reader can easily find the necessary information. If you were requested to add it to the paper, make sure to:

  • Put the words “Table of Contents” (boldface) centered at the top of the page.
  • Left align and double-space all the points in the table.
  • Indent all sub-points 5 spaces.
  • Use capital letters for each point and sub-points, same as for the titles of the sections.

How to format the Abstract page?

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Certainly, the Abstract should start at a new page. There should be a page header with the title of the work in the upper left corner. Then, on the very first line center the word Abstract; make sure it is not underlined or put into quotation marks. No need to make it boldface or italics either.

On the next line, start your abstract (without indent). It is a brief summary of the paper, which covers the main key points of the research, that is, the topic of investigation, the research questions, the methods applied, obtained data and findings. Some researchers also mention the possible implications of the fulfilled project on the Abstract. The Abstract is usually written in one paragraph only, there should 150-250 words depending on the volume of the whole work.

One more section, which can sometimes be added to the Abstract, is the list of key words. To create such a list, make a separate paragraph starting with the word Keywords: (always italicized). After that, list the key words of your research(not italicized). The list of keywords will enable other researchers to find your paper in the database faster and more effectively.


How to format the APA style introduction?

First of all, this part is not labeled with word “Introduction”, as the beginning of the text is considered to be an introduction as it is. Therefore, further indication that it is an introduction would be redundant. Moreover, at the top of the page there always should be the title of the work. Each new paragraph of the introduction should be indented 5 to 7 spaces (1/2 inch).

The purpose of the introduction part is to represent the field problems or the research gap that the author is trying to bridge. This part also requires covering the strategies that the author has used to attain the set objectives. The introduction part should be concise and consistent; it gives a more detailed statement of the problem in question as compared to the abstract. Traditionally, it begins with the statement of what exactly was investigated and why the particular research problem was chosen. The author should also mention strategies and approaches that were applied to solve the stated problem. Finally, it is also necessary to assert the hypothesis, which is going to be verified in the further writing. Sometimes, the researcher might need to indicate the compared variables and the expected results.


APA citation format guide

There are numerous reasons that make people cite works of other authors in their own pieces of writing. One of the most important reasons is to avert plagiarism and acknowledge the share and impact that the other authors have made for the investigated topic.

Therefore, make sure that you have carefully familiarized yourself with the general APA rules for references, as the failing to reference the paper properly may have some severe consequences, from rejection to check the submitted work to serious investigations, which, in the most audacious cases, can result in expulsion.

Citations and references in APA format consist of two basic components: a brief in-text citation, and a detailed reference in a list of references, which is placed after the conclusive part of the text and before the appendices part, if it is required for the document. The APA in paper citation format is also known as Author-Date citation style. Such appellation is quite accurate because the in-text reference should contain the author’s last name and the year of the publication.

There are some general requirements on how to cite in APA format:

  • use hanging indentation to create the reference list: all the lines, except for the first one of each entry, should be indented for half an inch from the left margin.
  • when you are writing the author’s name, the surname should be mentioned first, followed only by initials, not full names.
  • if you are referring to more than two works of the same author, place the references in chronological order, from the oldest to the most recent.
  • if you are citing a journal article, write the full title of the journal, keeping the punctuation and capitalization. If there is no specific capitalization in the title of a journal, all the main words in the title should be capitalized.
  • when you are referring to books, articles, web resources, capitalize only the first letter of the first word in a title. In other cases, use capitalization only when it is grammatically appropriate.
  • the titles of books and journals should be italicized, whereas the titles smaller works, such as articles or essays should not be brought out in any manner.
  • Add the publication number after the title for all the editions except for the first one.

It is also important to note that each in-text citation should have its respective entry in the reference list, and vice versa, each entry on the reference list should be supported by a corresponding in-text citation. The order of citations in APA style should be alphabetized according to last names of the cited authors. If the cited work has two or more authors, consider the last name of the first author.

How to cite APA style within the text?

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There are two ways of implementing ideas by another author into your writing: paraphrasing the original text and providing an exact quote. APA style citation in text of the work depends on the way you are presenting the thoughts, and the number of times you have already referred to a particular work. APA style citation guide has no strict rules regarding providing page numbers for the paraphrased parts of the text, however such information would help the reader find the corresponding paragraph in an original source.

Examples of citation in APA format in text:

Quotes:

  • “The grass is green” (Smith, 2015, p. 12).
    Smith (2015) found that “The grass is green” (p. 12).
    In 2015, Smith found that “The grass is green” (p. 12).

Exact quotation requires mentioning the author, year and particular page number. If the quote is less than 40 words, it should be embodied into the text and put into quotation marks. If the quote consists of more than 40 words, it should start from a new line without the quotation marks. In both cases, you should cite the source immediately after the quote. If the authors were mentioned in the text, their surnames are not required to be registered in the parentheses after the quote.

Paraphrase:

  • The grass has a green color (Smith, 2015).
    Smith (2015) discovered that the grass has a green color.
    In 2015, Smith discovered that the grass has a green color (p. 12).

If the document that you are quoting has no page numbers, you can point out the paragraph number instead. However, if paragraph numbers are not mentioned either, do not count them yourself. If you have paraphrased several sources at once, the authors’ surnames in parentheses should be mentioned in alphabetical order.

When you are referring to a source that has no author, the title should be mentioned instead. Double quotation marks are required for the titles of book chapters, articles, and web pages; book, periodical, report and brochure titles should be italicized.

  • The book (“Neuromarketing and cognitive science,” 2016)
    Recent researches found (“The way our brain works,” 2017)

If you need to cite a work with two or more authors, you should use the word ‘and’ to refer to their surnames in text, and the & symbol if the reference is in parentheses:

  • Smith and Johnson (2003) discovered…
    …as further researches are planned. (Smith & Johnson, 2003)

If you need to cite a source that has three to five authors, you should list all the surnames for the first time when such citation is used. When you need to cite the same work for the second time, mention only the first surname accompanied by ‘et al’. If you need to cite the same source again, there is no need to mention the year of publication. Therefore, APA in text citation example should look as the following:

  • 1st: Smith, Johnson and Davis (2011) found…
    2nd: Smith et al. (2011) researched…
    3rd: Smith et al argued…

If you need to cite a text that has six or more authors, mention only the first surname, followed by ‘et all’ at all times:

  • (Smith et al., 2007)

When you are referring to a publication, presented by an organization, you should provide a full name of the institution for the first reference, and write the abbreviation for all the following citations:

  • 1st: People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (2004) discovered…
    2nd: PETA (2004) researched…

How to create an APA style citation page?

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Books are the most commonly cited resources in any academic writing. APA style book citation is easier than it might seem at first:

  • Author, A.A. (Year of publication). Title of work. Location: Publisher.

“Location” is where you need to name the city and state, using the common postal abbreviation. This, however, applies only to publishers from the USA and Canada. In other cases, you should name the country of the publisher.

If there are two or more authors, the same pattern applies:

  • Author, A.A., & Author B.B. (Year of publication). Book title (Edition). City, State: Publisher.

If the book that you need to cite mentions only editors on its title page, write the editor’s name accompanied by (Ed), or (Eds.) if there are more than one editor. Thus, APA citation with no author should look like this:

  • Editor, A. A., & Editor, B.B. (Eds). (Year of publication). Book title. Location: Publisher.

When the author and editor are not mentioned, agencies, government departments, organizations and associations are considered as authors. If the same institution is mentioned as an author and the publisher, the word Author should be placed instead of the publisher name:

  • Organization. (Year of publication). Book title. Location: Author.

When you are citing a book that was translated, you should include the name and initials of the translator, accompanied by the remark ‘Trans.’ and the date of the original publication into the reference:

  • Author, A. (Year of publication). Book title (T. Translator, Trans.). City: Publisher. (Original work published Year).

Sometimes, you need to cite a chapter from a book, in this case the example of APA style citation should look the following way:

  • Author, A. A., & Author, B.B. (Year of publication). Title of the chapter. In A. Editor, B. Editor, & C. Editor (Eds.). Book title (pp. ##-##). Location: Publisher.

If you need to cite an article from an encyclopedia or a dictionary, use the following pattern:

  • Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Year of publication). Title of the entry. A. A. Editor, & B. B. Editor (Eds.), Title of encyclopedia or dictionary (pp. ##-###). Location: Publisher.

APA article citation pattern is similar to book citation; you have to mention the publication date of the article in a journal or a magazine:

  • Author, A. A. (Date of publication). Title of the article. Title of the Magazine, Volume, pp-pp.

However, printed books and journals are not the only valid sources of information, and it is important to know how to do APA citation for something that you have learned from the internet, e-books, or articles, researches, etc.

The rules for citing an electronic book are quite similar to those of citing a printed copy; you should mention the DOI or URL instead of location and publisher information. The DOI (digital object identifier) is a sequence of digits, separated by a slash, which is used for creating strong links between the objects and their location on the internet. DOI is preferred over URL, as it provides a steadier and more precise way of finding the necessary file. Thus, such reference will follow this pattern:

  • Author, A. A. (Year of publication). Book title. Retrieved from http://website.com
    Author, A. A. (Year of publication). Book title. DOI: XX. XXXX/XXX-X-XXXX-XXXX-X

A similar pattern applies when you need to cite an e-book:

  • Author, A. A. (Year of publication). Book title [E-Reader Version]. Retrieved from http://website.com

One of the most common questions is “how to cite a website in APA format?” APA website citation format infers a number of simple rules and recommendations:

  • First of all, it is necessary to make sure that the website that you are referring to does not fall into another category, such as Online Dictionary or Encyclopedia, or online research Report, as in these cases the citation format is different.
  • If there is no author mentioned, the reference entry should start with a title of the article.
  • If the article that you are referring to is placed on more than just one webpage, it is necessary to provide the URL of the homepage or the page where the document starts.
  • If you are citing a webpage where the contents is likely to change with time (for example, an article that is placed on a homepage), it is crucial to mention the retrieval date.

Therefore, in accordance with these guidelines, the APA style citation for a website should comply with the following pattern:

  • Author, A. A. (Date published). Title of webpage. Retrieved from http://www.url.com

Example of APA website citation:

  • Colman, D. (2017). This is your brain on exercise: why physical exercise (not mental games) might be the best way to keep your brain sharp. Retrieved from http://openculture.com/

There are also several specific rules about capitalization and italicization of the titles:

  • When the webpage is a part of a bigger website, the title should not be italicized.
  • When the source that you are referring to, stands alone, the title should be italicized.
  • When it is unclear, to which category the referred website falls into, it is better not to italicize the title.

APA thesis citation is same as dissertation citation, and should adhere to the following pattern:

  • Author, A. (Year). Dissertation or thesis title (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Name of database. (Accession or Order Number)

This applies when the cited material was acquired from a commercial database. If the document was collected from an institutional database, the pattern is slightly different:

  • Author, A. A. (Year). Dissertation or thesis title (Doctoral dissertation/ Master’s thesis). Retrieved from http://url.com

How to use APA format for different types of papers?

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A huge variety of academic papers, from ordinary college essays up to most complicated dissertation proposals and research papers, is often required to be edited in accordance with American Psychological Association style. Therefore, being assigned a particular type of work, you will have to look through the respective guide before getting down to work. For example, you have to check with an APA guide for case study for appropriate case study assignment performance.


APA style step by step guide for literature reviews

Literature review is one of the most common types of papers, which is often assigned to students. It is a general misconception that literature review is basically a summary of literature on the topic. In fact, it is neither a summary of sources nor a criticism of selected materials. Sometimes, you may actually be required only to give an overview of studies on the problem in question, however, for the most part, this type of paper serves as an introduction to more complicated works, such as research papers and dissertations. This way a literature review provides background information on the topic, which the researcher gathers and analyzes in order to give some depth to the subject and assist the reader in identifying major topics and problems of the research as well as explaining the connections between the different concepts, paradigms and studies. Thus, it both helps the readers or audience to expand their knowledge on the reviewed topic, and the researchers to provide the foreword information and, in turn, make the point of their own research.

Before you start writing, you should know that there is no need to mention every study related to the topic that you have stumbled upon while doing your search. Mention only those that can help you deliver your thoughts and ideas. In addition, you do not have to devote much space of your work to describe the procedures that were used in those studies. Instead, you should concentrate on the main findings and conclusions of those researches, as well as coinciding methodological issues.

The literature review may vary greatly in length and the number of references, however you may see from any APA style guide literature review that its structure remains the same. The literature review consists of the following sections:

  1. The title page
  2. The introduction
    Define the investigated topic and justify the reasons why you have chosen this particular subject. In this section, you should also mention the common trends and gaps in the field of research.
  3. The body
    Discuss the sources you have gathered and analyzed. The review of the sources can be organized thematically (which is a preferred way), chronologically or methodologically.
  4. The conclusion
    Give a summary to the major contributions, contradictions and gaps of the research studies. Here you may also point out the areas for further investigations.
  5. The references

Sometimes, you may need to include an abstract page on your literature review also. In order to determine whether you have to add an abstract to your work or not, check the sample literature review outline APA given by a tutor, the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association style or consult your professor on the matter.

Once you introduced the topic, represented the relevant literature, summarized everything in conclusion and made a list of references, your literature review is complete.

It is important to underscore that literature review and annotated bibliography are not the same things. Unlike a literature review, the annotated bibliography is a list of sources you have selected and used for your work, it provides a brief summary and evaluation of each. The structure of an annotated bibliography differs from the typical structure of any other type of work, as the references are not listed at the end of the work. Instead, the structure of and annotated bibliography is split into two parts: the bibliography, which includes such information as author’s name, title of the work, publisher and date, and the annotation itself.

APA student guide for formatting essays

Probably, the most popular and therefore frequently assigned type of work in schools and universities is an essay. To come up with a good essay, you need to learn what differs essays from other types of academic and creative writing and what are the differences between various types of essays, before learning how to write an essay in APA format for college.

We write essays to prove our own understanding of things, which are inherently subjected to interpretations. As opposed to essays, scientific reports are focused on describing the things that have already happened, such as recording the details of the conducted experiment. Hence, any reports should be as precise as possible, and at times even indisputable. In other words, while reports aim to be undeniable, the essays, though trying to provide a convincing interpretation on a matter, are certainly rebuttable.

Some may also confuse essays with short stories. Yet, they are quite different in their content and aims. The narrative essays describe the sequence of events and the way they unfold for the characters. This type of writing aims to make readers feel a certain way and experience some emotions. On the contrary, essays are something akin to scientific writing as they tend to explicitly interpret certain things, and thus make a reader think. To sum it up, it can be said that essays are somewhere in between these opposite types of writing. In a word, an essay is designated for communicating the author’s opinion on a particular subject in order to convince the readers take his or her stance.

One of the common misconceptions about essays is that they are among the most flexible types of writing. However, in fact, each type of essay has its own features and structure. For example, if you look at an example of essay in APA format and evaluate the way it is organized, you will clearly see that it has some essential points. The generally accepted structure of an argumentative essay can be represented like this:

Introduction – generally it provides the base for your main argument. It involves inclusion of:

  • The hook (the first sentence, which catches the readers’ attention).
  • background information (the information, which covers such questions as: Why the matter is significant? Why the problem emerged? Why is should be discussed? etc.).
  • thesis (the writer’s main claim, or stance he has taken, which is stated the last sentence of the intro paragraph).

Your arguments – this is the main portion of your essay, which includes the claims and supporting arguments. The number of claims and supporting arguments is not of a great importance, though it is usually preferred to have three claims and respectively three supporting proofs. Naturally, the more proofs you have to back up your assertion, the better. The main thing is that they have to be strong and convincing enough to make an assertion sound credible.

  • The claims (a claim is simply an assertion or a declare that a writer makes in order to support his stance).
  • The arguments (an argument is a factual proof or evidence for the respective claim from the reliable sources).

Opponents’ arguments – this section is devoted for reviewing and denying the opponents’ views by probing your counter arguments.

Conclusion – in this part, you basically have to:

  • Restate your thesis to stress the importance of the discussed topic once again.
  • Urge people to think of the possible consequences of your arguments.

The example of APA style essay structure above is commonly used for any argumentative essay in APA style. It can surely be more or less elaborate, depending on the requirements set by your tutor. However, if you were not provided with any specific APA format essay template to adhere to, you may certainly check on available online templates as they are rather similar.

Contrary to argumentative essays, narrative ones have an absolutely different structure. It is primarily because the narrative essays are much alike to short stories. However, unlike short stories, which are mostly fictional, narrative essays are non-fictional and deal with personal experiences of a writer. Though these essays are rather creative, it worth noting that they still have some obligatory components. The aim of the entire essay is to support the thesis, stated in the introduction part.

Now let’s review the example of a narrative essay in APA format, particularly its structure, in order to get a better understanding of what parts it should entail.

Intro - this section of an essay is pretty much the same for any essay type as it encompasses the following components:

  • The hook (you may start off with some topical quote or saying, or tell an interesting fact which relates to the matter at hand. It is up to you which means to choose. You may come up with your own ideas how to grab a reader’s attention. The main thing is that it should entertain and induce the audience to continue reading).
  • The significance of the topic (as it was already mentioned above, narrative essay is by far not a simple storytelling, which purely tents to evoke some feelings. Instead, it aims to communicate certain idea or emphasize the need to look more thoroughly into the matter).
  • The thesis statement (the thesis strives to prove some point, as you tell the story for a reason. It shows a particular direction that the author is going to take and maintain throughout the whole writing piece).

Body paragraphs – this part describes the event from its beginning to an end. The number of paragraphs may vary greatly, depending on the number of details you are going to provide on the matter.

  • The setting or background information about the event (this part introduces the audience with the subject, particularly by providing the background knowledge and relevant details. Try to be as precise as possible in details, as this is the best way to lure the readers into reading the story).
  • Characters (while introducing the characters, make sure that you describe only those of their traits, which are relevant to the thesis or narrative. There is no point in mentioning those character features, which do not contribute to your main goal – supporting the thesis).
  • Onset of the event.
  • Climax (this is the breaking point of your narrative. The climax has to be accurate. Do not try to exaggerate and make up things which actually didn’t take place just to impress and sound interesting. However, it is recommend to use powerful words and expressions in order to convey the emotional tension you have experienced).
  • Ending or resolution (this is where you tell how your story ended or how the situation resolved).

Conclusion –

  • Moral of the story (this is the distinctive feature of narrative essays to provide moral of the story, describe what you have learned from the event and how it affected your life, etc.).
  • Importance of the problem in question (just like in other types of essays, the structure of narrative ones requires restating the thesis of the writing).
  • Call for action (in some instances, it is appropriate to put the call for action in the end, to enhance the readers’ awareness on the matter).

However, having reviewed various sample essay structures you might have noticed that they may be further simplified. For instance, an example of APA essay paper may look the following way:

  1. Plot
  2. Character
  3. Setting
  4. Climax
  5. Ending

One more type of an essay, which we are going to give consideration to is a reflective essay. The peculiarity of this type of writing is that it reflects the personality of the writer, as well as tells about places one has visited, people one has met, and describes the experiences that affected one’s life. So, naturally, if you are assigned a reflective essay, you will not have to do a research in order to find some supporting information, as generally you will have to draw it from your personal experiences. Consequently, the structure and style of the essay may be somehow volatile.

Yet there are some common patterns of what should be a typical structure and format of reflective essays. If you take a closer look at the APA reflective essay structure, you will notice a following pattern:

Intro – this section is hardly different from the same section of other types of essays, and likewise it entails such components as:

  • The hook (if you are telling an interesting story from your life, you may give a brief review of the most exciting part of the story, so that a reader will definitely want to continue reading).
  • The thesis statement (the thesis statement needs to cover the following things: what you are going to tell your reader, what topic you will focus on, why is it important to analyze this topic and, of course, how the place, person, event or experience, that you are writing about, have influenced you).

Body –

  • Description of the event or experience (firstly, you need to describe the whole event step-by-step. The chronological approach is a preferred way to tell the story, as this way you can be confident that you will not confuse yourself and the audience).
  • Evaluation of the event or experience (the essential part of a reflective essay is an assessment of the situation; in this part you should also give an evaluation to the thesis, reveal its connections with the described personal experience).
  • Analysis of the event or experience.

Conclusion – this section should contain a brief revision and inference of the mentioned points, and a general significance of the reflection.


Guide to writing APA style paper outline

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A well-crafted outline is a rather essential thing for completing any type of paper, should that be a research paper, thesis or an essay. Outline is actually the first thing that a student should come up with before starting to write an academic work. Having developed a well-structured outline with a complex heading and sub-heading structure, one can find that even the most complicated projects are not that complex and daunting as they may seem at first. Most importantly, an outline helps organizing the information in a logical and hierarchical manner. If you are working on large and complex projects, such as reports, research papers or dissertations, the detailed outline example APA will help you break the project down into appropriate constituent parts and keep track of the huge amounts of information. Preparing an outline for creative writing assignment will also be helpful in organizing plot threads or characterizing and comparing various characters. Furthermore, outlines are necessary for speeches and presentations, as they can help the speaker express one’s thoughts in front of a crowd more effectively and eloquently. Generally, the outlines are used for the purposes of:

  • Organizing thoughts and ideas
  • Presenting the information in a logical and consistent manner
  • Showing the connections between the presented ideas
  • Creating a structured and detailed overview of the writing
  • Adding and editing information in the process of writing

To create an effective outline, you will first have to identify the purpose of the project, its intended audience, and develop a thesis for the paper. After that, prepare a list of the ideas that you would like to include into your writing piece, organize these ideas into theme-based groups, arrange them coherently, from general to more specific ones (or from more abstract to more concrete ones), and finally think out the relevant heading and subheadings.

Depending on the type of project and its volume, the outline will naturally vary in a number of headings and subheadings.

For example, a simple typical literature review outline example in APA should look the following way:

  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Conclusion
  • References

As it was mentioned above, the introduction part contains much more than just general coverage of the topic and why it is important to investigate it. In fact, the introduction part should:

  • Introduce and present the research question(s).
  • Address why you have chosen the topic and why you find it to be interesting and worth of attention. This usually merges with mentioning the research gap, which has to be bridged.
  • State the specific lines of research that you will be discussing.

As to the body section, its regular structure is the following:

  • Description of each article that you have examined, or each line of research if the articles can be grouped depending on their topics.
  • Comparison of the selected studies. This, in turn, implies determining which aspects of the studies are relevant, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each study and comparing their implications, findings, relevance and/or significance, research assumptions, tested research theories, stated hypothesis, research design used, selected dependent and independent variables, obtained results and their interpretation, assumptions about future studies.
  • Evaluation of the work done in the research area.

Below you can also review the elaborated example of a research paper outline APA format:

  1. Introduction
    • 1.1. Problem statement
    • 1.2. Definition of terms
    • 1.3. Theoretical framework
    • 1.4. Hypothesis
    • 1.5. Methodology
    • 1.6. Literature review
    • 1.7. Significance of the study
  2. Body
    • 2.1. Background of the study
    • 2.2. Presentation and analysis of data
    • 2.3. Type of Research
    • 2.4. Participants
    • 2.5. Questionnaires
  3. Conclusion
    • 3.1. Summary
    • 3.2. Reworded thesis
    • 3.3. Recommendations

As you can see from the APA format outline template above, some outlines can be rather vast and include many points while others can just designate the basic parts that the paper will be split into. For instance, you may have a brief and concise layout just like the one above. Such layout will be helpful if you know what information you are going to include in the paper and simply need a firm structure to stick to.

To sum up, regardless of the type of paper that you are going to write, APA style requires a thorough compliance to its rules and instructions. These rules are designed to make the mass of scientific information more organized and ease the search of a specific academic work.