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Writing in APA

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    When writing in APA, you will likely be using headings. There are five level headings:

    A typical paper has between one and three heading levels, though there are instances in which all five are used.

    * For additional resources and a sample paper showing the formatting, see bottom of page.

    • The Abstract
      • Use a Level 1 heading, however do not bold.
      • Should be written in paragraph form, however it is not indented.
      • Typically between 150-250 words. This may vary depending on the journal or conference you are submitting to, or depending on course requirements. Make sure to check!
      • The Abstract should contain all essential information regarding the paper or study. You should address the problem and give necessary information, describe participants, the experimental methods, findings, and final conclusions.
    • The Introduction
      • The goal of the introduction section is to introduce the problem. The body of the paper opens with an introduction that presents the specific problem under study.
      • Main Focuses:
        • Why is the problem important? Why study it?
        • How does you study relate to previous research?
        • What are the theoretical implication of your study? How will your results extend on what we already know?
        • Clear statement of hypothesis
      • Things to think about:
        • when citing, reference only works that are pertinent to the specific issue and no works that are tangential or of general significance.
        • avoid talking about non-essential details of previous works. Emphasize findings, relevant methodological issues, and major conclusions.
        • Focus on the results and implications of previous research, not the hypothesis.
        • Do not include information about the number of participants.
      • Your closing paragraph(s) should explain your approach to solving the problem.
        • Questions to focus on:
          • what variables did I manipulate?
          • what results did I expect and why? The logic behind your expectation should be clear.
        • Your introduction should close with an explicit statement of the hypothesis.
    • The Method
      • There are generally three main sections
        • Participants
          • You should report:
            • Who your participants were (demographic information) and how many (including those dropped from analysis and why).
            • How you selected your participants and how they were assigned to groups (i.e. experimental v. control; if there are multiple experimental groups). Also include if participants received anything for participation and if so, what.
            • If your sample is not general for some reason, explain why.
        • Materials/Measures
          • You need to describe each material in enough detail that a reader is able to replicate your study if they wanted to. You need to cover any material used in your studied and may include an Appendix at the end of your paper to list long questionnaires.
            • Your description should include measures of reliability reported in previous studies of any surveys. Any counterbalancing should be indicated in this section.
        • Procedure
          • The procedure section summarizes each step in the execution of the research. You need to include a description of the instructions given to the participants and the specific experimental manipulation.
          • Summarize or paraphrase your instructions unless they are part of your experimental manipulation, in which case you should present them verbatim in the text.
      • This section typically uses three level headings. The section title: Method (Level 1), Participants (Level 2), Materials/measures (Level 2), titles of materials (Level 3) followed by a description, and Procedure (Level 2.)
    • Results
      • Go through the analyzes you ran and report your findings, regardless of significance.
    • Discussion
      • First Paragraph
        • Review your findings. Clearly state whether the results fit the original hypothesis.
          • This is were you describe what was in your results section.
      • Remaining Pargraphs:
        • Do the results fit the hypothesis?
        • What questions are answered by your results?
        • What are the implications?
          • Relate current findings with previous research: how do your results relate to previous research? Compare/Contrast.
          • Do your results raise any questions about previous research?
        • Critical analysis of your method. What could have been improved? Why?
        • What new questions have been raised for you?
    • References
    • Attachments:
      • Attachments should be after the references and ordered as: Figures, table, Appendix.
        • Each item attached should be on it's own page.
        • Figures and Tables are numbered (i.e. Figure 1, Table 1, etc), Appendix items are lettered (Appendix A).

    Little Quick Tips:

    • Look at the articles you are referencing. How did they describe there method? How did they set up their sections?
    • Numbers in text:
      • Generally: use words for numbers below 10 and numerals for numbers 10 and above.
      • Exceptions:
        • Always use words for
          • numbers that begin a sentence, title, or heading
          • simple fractions (one half)
          • "Universally accepted usage" for proper nouns (i.e. Twelve Apostles)
        • Always use numbers for
          • unit of measurement (3 cm)
          • statistical or mathematical functions
          • scores, points on a scale
          • numbers indicating a specific point in a numbered series
          • each number in a list of four or more numbers
    • What makes a source useful?
      • Professional not popular! Look for peer reviewed sources!
      • Primary sources
      • Is it focused on your research topic? Don't go to broad and get off track.
      • Recently published (within the last 7 years), is not is it cited frequently in literature?
        • If you find really strong, substantial sources that are older, you can still use them! This is just something to be conscious of so you aren't citing out-of-date information.

    Additional Resources:

    Purdue OWL APA Guide

    UWM Writing Center

    Writing in APA is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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