Basics. Academic Citation Guide – American Psychological Association (APA) Style Format for Research Paper and for Term Paper

You’ve written essays and other types of academic writing projects before. When a lector requires writing a research paper in APA format, however, you’re faced with a huge challenge. The research paper is more complex than a simple essay. And what is APA, anyway?

No worries! We’re here to give you the instructions you need to answer one of the trickiest questions: “how to write a research paper in APA format?”

First of all, let’s talk about the format itself. APA stands for American Psychological Association. It’s the standardized format for providing references in research projects. It’s usually implemented in papers from social sciences, such as history, psychology, sociology, political science, linguistics, and etc. The MLA citation style, on the other hand, is mostly used for citing papers within the liberal arts and humanities.

The best way to understand how APA citations looks like is to look at an example. We’ll take An acculturation scale for Mexican American normal and clinical populations as our example. When you access the article, it gives you a suggestion for citation that looks like this:

  • Cuellar, I., Harris, L.C., & Jasso, R. (1980). An acculturation scale for Mexican American normal and clinical populations. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 2(3), 199-217.

To someone who’s writing an APA style term paper for the first time, that doesn’t make much sense. To your professor and someone else who’s used to reading research projects, that citation means a lot. That’s exactly why you need this guide.

First Step. Mastering the APA format for term paper: Understanding the Basics

The APA format is not solely focused on the citations. It also gives you basic formatting recommendations for the structure of your paper. Here are the main things to keep in mind:

  • You should use standard-size paper for your paper (8.5′ x 11′). Type the content in Times New Roman font, 12 pt. Put 1′ margins on all sides, and make sure to use double for line spacing.
  • Each page should have a page header at the top. In the header, you’ll provide the title of your paper. If the paper’s title shouldn’t exceed 50 characters, if not – you’ll shorten it to fit within that limitation.
  • The format of the title page is also included in the APA requirements. It should contain the title of your paper, your name, and an institutional affiliation (the location where you conducted the research). The APA recommendations are pretty clear: your title shouldn’t be longer than 12 words, and it shouldn’t contain abbreviations.
  • The abstract is also a recommendation for research papers in APA format. It should be provided on a separate page, right after the title page. You’ll center the word Abstract at the top, with no quotation marks, underlining, bold, italics, coloring, or any other type of stylization. Then, you’ll use that page to provide a precise summary of the main points of your research. 150-250 words is the recommended length for an abstract.

In-Text Citations for a Paper Written in APA Format

When writing a research paper in APA format, you’ll need to provide in-text citations. This means that whenever you’re paraphrasing or quoting a book, journal, article, or any other source, you’ll make a clear reference to it.

The in-text citations are a shortened version of the complete citation. That’s because you don’t want to disrupt the reader’s focus. If they are interested in the full citation, they will find it in the reference list.

The good news is that once you’re aware of the APA in-text citation format, you’ll easily get used to it. This is the rule to follow:

  • Provide the name of the author, followed by the year of publication. The in-text citation should be provided in parenthesis.

Simple, right? This is how the in-text citation for the above-mentioned publication would look like:

(Kernis, Cornell, Sun, Berry, & Harlow, 1993)

As you noticed, we didn’t include the complete names of the authors. The surnames are enough. If there are six and more authors who worked on the study you reference, use only the name of the first author, followed by et al. Example:

(Kernis et al., 1993)

The References. List in APA Format: Few Basic Tips to Follow

In-text citations are not enough when you’re formatting a research paper. In APA citation style, the bibliography is called a Reference List. Every source you mentioned in in-text citations must appear here. There are strict standards to follow regarding this part of your paper:

  1. Place the label ‘References’ centered at the top of the page.
  2. You’ll list the entries in alphabetical order by the author’s last name.
  3. You’ll first provide the last name of the author, followed by initials.
  4. You’ll include the full title of the journal.
  5. APA imposes a rule on capitalization: you should capitalize all major words in the title of a journal you’re referencing. If you’re referencing articles, books, chapter, or web pages, you’ll capitalize only the first letter of the first word, the first word following a dash or a colon, and proper nouns.
  6. You’ll style the titles of longer works with Italic.

Learn the Rules. You will always Need Them!

As most other students, you’re probably frustrated by the strict guidelines of the APA format. However, you have to keep in mind that proper citations are necessary for research papers and all other important academic projects. If you intend to go to graduate school, you’ll definitely need to master the APA citation style.

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