You’ve hit the path in your career journey where you’re expected to leave writing styles like MLA behind and move into the complex formatting of APA papers. This can be a little intimidating because, as structured as MLA was, you had a lot of room for subjectivity and flexibility.
Conversely, APA provides the essential foundation of manuscript writing that lets you turn your ideas into clear communication. It does this by being extremely structured, taking out most of your opportunities for digressing into off-the-point but still relevant topics.
This style began nearly a century ago when a group of prestigious scholars in the American Psychological Association banded together to design a universal style guideline for scientific writing. In this guideline would be the procedures that writers were to follow to make their work easier to read and comprehend by others. While the details have varied since its inception in 1929, the overall tenets of APA continue to hold true. The changing needs of different fields, such as the social and behavioral sciences and natural sciences, cause each writer to tweak the format slightly. Still, in general, you can use the APA style for any scientific manuscript you write.
The Parts of the APA Structure and How to Implement Them in Your Paper
Because APA’s structure is sound, it holds true for every field of science. As a researcher, you’ll want to get exceedingly comfortable with this writing style, as you’ll be expected to read it, write it, and dissect it throughout your career.
The APA style requires specific sections in a set order, which makes it easier to write since you know what to expect, and easier for the reader since they know exactly where the section they’re looking for should be located.
This structure goes as follows:
● Title page
Amidst those sections, you will likely (and should) have tables and figures.
There are some formatting rules to keep in mind while you set your paper up for completion. To get started, remember that the title page, abstract, and reference sections should be on separate pages from the rest of the text. Any images, such as tables or figures, should also be separated.
APA-style papers are always written in 12-point font, double-spaced, with one-inch margins on the top and bottom and left and right. Write your paper in the past tense, regardless of what you’re talking about.
General Tips for Each Section
Every writer has their own preferred way of approaching a scientific paper. Some people prefer to start with the methodology first, then move into the intro and results, skipping the outline. Other writers swear the outline is the most important part of the writing process. No matter how you approach your paper, ensure you have these sections written correctly by using these tips.
● Title Page: Limited to 10-12 words that reflect the main goal of your paper. On this page, include the title, your name, and the school or journal’s name, double-spaced without extra spaces.
● Header: Create a page header with a flush left running head in all capital letters. This is a shortened version of your title, not exceeding 50 characters. Flush right on this line should be the page number.
● Abstract: This is labeled and centered but not bold and is limited to one paragraph of 120 words or less, block format (no indenting), and double-spaced. In your abstract, you’ll state the topic in one sentence, then provide a short overview of the method, results, and discussion.
● Introduction: There is no label for the intro section. Your paper segues from the abstract into a new page that begins your paper. The intro should hook the reader with a summary of the knowledge you’re presenting and a hint of what the study was and why you chose to conduct it. Start out broad and move into a narrow focus through the use of logical ideas that connect into the next idea.
● Method: This section is labeled, centered, and bold. It’s the “easiest” part to write because it simply relays what you did in your study. However, this is also the most important section because it must be written in such a way that other scholars can exactly replicate your study. Methods include the Participants, Materials (Apparatus), and Procedure sections, each labeled flush left and bold.
● Results: Also labeled, centered, and bolded, this section describes the data you collected, how you analyzed it, and what your findings included. You can break this section down into subsections if your data was particularly complex.
● Discussion: Now, you can take the data you analyzed and interpret and explain those results. Place them into a broader context that relates to literature in your field of study. Begin with the specific findings, then work them into the more general ideas.
● Conclusion: In your final paragraph, you’ll restate your introduction and end with a final concluding statement that reminds your reader why your paper was important and how it added more knowledge to the topic you studied.
● References: Last, you’ll include a new page for your references, labeled, centered, and bolded. Add an alphabetical listing of every reference you used, double-spaced, without extra spaces between each reference. Use a hanging indent on the second line of each reference to separate them from the next one.
This simple structure lends itself to short publications or lengthy manuscripts. Get comfortable with it, find your preferred method of approaching the paper, and you’ll be able to tackle any research topic you’re presented with in your career.