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A Guide to Psychology Research Paper: APA Format

There is something about psychology that resonates with you which is why you chose to study it in the first place. However, things may get a little complicated and threaten to dampen your passion when you are faced with a task and not sure what to do. This is meant to address one of those problems that you may have in getting your research paper done using the correct style format.

What is APA?

APA stands for American Psychological Association and is a style guide that has been associated with the faculty of Social Sciences. The APA manual is revised from time to time and it is crucial to ensure that when writing a paper, the descriptions in the current manual is being used. It gives a standard that is to be followed when conducting research in this discipline with regards to the formatting, referencing and citations. For in depth information, you can consult the APA manual.

What is the Difference With MLA?

In your quest to find out about APA you might have encountered the MLA format and be wondering why is it that you can’t simply use this instead or what difference does it make to use a combination of the two? Your research paper requires consistency which it will not get if you are using both styles. Additionally, MLA stands for Modern Language Association and as the name suggests is associated with the Humanities department. The difference in both styles is rooted in the differences in both faculties and should not be confused as interchangeable.

Sectioning the APA Research Paper

When you begin to write, bear in mind that there is a specific way to section your work according to the APA guide. There have been situations where professors also mark down your grade if you don’t conform to the acceptable standard. This is a kind approach given that many professors won’t even read your research paper if they skip through it and don’t see the proper format of the paper. In this case, if they are so generous to give you the chance to do it over, that’s time consuming and you may end up still losing marks for handing in the paper late.

There’s no need to pull your hair out thought because here is a list of the different sections you will have to include along with a brief description of what each should entail:

  1. Title page
    • Include the title of your paper (maximum of 12 words)
    • The name of the writer (that’s you) and anyone else who may have helped on this project (such as group members)
    • The formal name of your institution
    • Should be typed using both uppercase and lowercase
    • Information should be typed in the top half area of the blank page and centered.
  2. Abstract
    • Summarize your main points
    • Mention key elements such as your topic, questions used as a guide, any form of instrument you may have used to gather data etc.
    • Do not indent
    • Do not include figures
    • A minimum of 150 words and a maximum of 250
  3. Body
    • Introductory paragraph about what you will be arguing or discussing
    • Strongly developed paragraphs, each with a main idea and evidence used to support your claims.
    • To avoid being biased you may want to include a few opposing points to your arguments. (DO NOT make them more powerful than your claims and should generally be less than your main arguments
    • An effective conclusion that reiterates and adds a polished finish.
  4. Reference
    • Paper is incomplete without a reference page, listing ALL sources that you have used.
    • Keep a copy of the APA handbook close by when you are doing the reference page to ensure that you follow all the rules. It can be very tricky and the format changes in certain events such as no author’s name, no publishing date etc.

Other General Tips

  • You must use a page header which should be the same on all your pages. The header should have the title of your page on the left and the number of the page on the right.
  • Use of a legible font which should be 12 pt. Times Romans is generally preferred.

Writing a psychology research paper may seem like the bulk of the task until you get to organizing your paper and putting it together using the APA style. You don’t have the luxury of choosing how best you feel you should format it. Think of it this way, after the first time using the APA style, it becomes easier!

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