5. Writing The Paper
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APA does not require student papers to have an abstract. Should an abstract be required by your course or a journal/conference that you are submitting to, these are some tips you can follow.
- The abstract should be on its own page after the title page. It should have a Level 1 heading and the text should be left-justified with no indent.
- An abstract is typically between 150-250 words but this can vary based on the journal or conference that you are submitting to. Always make sure to check!
- A good abstract includes all of the essential information regarding the paper or study. You should address the problem being discussed along with necessary information, describe the participants, the experimental methods, findings, and final conclusions.
The introduction is the official beginning of your paper. The goal of this section is to introduce the problem which you intend to answer. This section should not have a heading and should follow the basic paragraph formatting. When writing the introduction, address the following questions:
- Why is the problem important? Why study it?
- How does this study relate to previous research?
- What are the theoretical implications of the study? How will your results extend what we already know?
- What is your hypothesis?
When citing information in your introduction, you should only reference works that are pertinent to the specific issue; the works cited in the introduction should not be tangential or of general significance. When discussing the previous works, avoid talking about non-essentials. You should emphasize findings, relevant methodological issues, and major conclusions, not things like the researchers' hypotheses or the number of participants.
How do I know a source is useful?
When trying to find useful sources, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it from a peer-reviewed journal? If not, don't use it.
- Is it the primary source for the information you're pulling? If not, find the primary source from which the information originates, if possible.
- Is it focused on your research topic? Don't use papers that are too broad or off-track from the topic of your paper.
- Was it recently published (within the last 7 years)? If not, is it cited frequently in literature?
- If you find really strong substantial resources that are older, you can still use them! This is just something to be conscious of so that you do not cite out-of-date information.
The closing paragraph(s) of the introduction should explain your approach to solving the problem. This includes what variables you manipulated and what results you expected and why. The logic behind your expectations should be clear. Then, finish the introduction with an explicit statement of the hypothesis.
When writing the methods section, there are generally three main sections: participants, materials/measures, and procedure. The overall method section should begin with a Level 1 heading.
This section should immediately follow the Level 1 heading "Method" and begin with a Level 2 heading, "Participants". You should report the following information:
- Who your participants were (demographic information) and how many you had (including those dropped from analysis and why).
- How you selected your participants and how they were assigned to groups (i.e. experimental vs control; if there are multiple experimental groups).
- If your participants received anything for being in your study and if so, what.
- If your sample is not general for some reason, explain why.
This section should begin with a Level 2 heading, "Materials/Measures". For each material, you need to describe it in enough detail that the reader is able to replicate your study if they wanted to. You need to cover every material used in the study and can include an appendix at the end of the paper for long questionnaires. For each material, use a Level 3 heading to introduce the material and explain it in its own paragraph. Your description of your materials should also include the measures of reliability reported in the previous studies of any measures, including any counterbalancing.
This section should begin with a Level 2 heading, "Procedure", and should summarize 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. Instructions should be paraphrased unless they are part of your experimental manipulation, in which case they should be written verbatim to what was told to the participants.
If you're stuck, look at the articles that you are referencing. How do they describe their method? How did they set up their sections?
This section should begin with a Level 2 heading, "Results". For this section, go through the analysis you ran on your data and report all findings, regardless of significance. This section should not include explanations of the results or conclusions, only the strict reporting of findings.
writing numbers in text
In general, use words for numbers under 10 and numerals for numbers 10 and above. There are some exceptions to this rule:
Always use words for
- numbers at the beginning of sentences, titles, or headings
- simple fractions (one-half)
- "universally accepted uses" for proper nouns (i.e the Twelve Apostles)
Always use numbers for
- units 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.
When writing the results section, follow the guidelines you learned in your statistics course for reporting findings.
This section should begin with a Level 2 heading, "Discussion". The first paragraph should review your findings and clearly state if they fit the original hypotheses. This is where you describe the results from the previous section. The remaining paragraphs should address the following questions:
- What questions are answerable by your results?
- What are the implications of your results?
- Relate your current findings to previous research, how do your results compare/contrast to previous research?
- Do your results raise any questions about previous research?
- What about your method could have been improved? Why?
- What new questions have been raised for you?
This section should begin with a Level 2 heading, "References". It should include an alphabetized list of all the works cited in your paper. Each reference should have a hanging indent of 0.5 inches and follow this format.