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Research Paper in APA Format: Formatting Guidelines & Writing Tips

19 Sep 2021Research Paper Topics

When writing an academic research paper in APA format, you have to follow certain APA rules. They include formatting guidelines and recommendations for citing sources. Using research paper APA formatting will help you write a well-organized paper with a consistent flow and enable your readers to find the cited sources seamlessly.

This in-depth guide to writing a research paper in APA format will provide you with all the essential tips for APA formatting and citations. You’ll learn all about the APA style, its importance in the scientific community, and the key steps to consider when using it.

Let’s start with the basics.

What Is APA?

APA stands for the American Psychological Association, the largest scientific and professional organization of psychologists in the US. The organization publishes the APA Publication Manual, the most recent being the seventh edition.

The APA style is the standard format for structuring research papers and documenting sources to avoid plagiarism. Researchers, writers, educators, and students use it for research papers in education, social and behavioral sciences, natural sciences, business, communications, and other related fields.

Why is the APA-style research paper format important?

Formatting in particular style provides consistency and clarity. It helps you organize your ideas professionally, making your paper easier to read and understand. Thanks to a uniform APA research paper format, your readers can focus on what matters instead of jumping through hoops to get a better grasp of the topic.

Apart from helping you structure and format your research paper, the APA style helps you cite your sources appropriately to establish credibility and avoid plagiarism.

If you’re too busy with your studies to spend time following the APA guidelines, you can find APA papers for sale and let the professionals handle them. But even if you do, you should still get familiar with all the rules. They’ll simplify your research, as you’ll learn how to read all the necessary sources effortlessly.

APA Research Paper Format: Structure & Formatting Guidelines

Creating a proper APA style research paper format requires following certain general guidelines, including:

  • Setting all the margins at one inch
  • Using an accessible font (e.g., 12-point Times New Roman, 11-point Georgia, 11-point Arial, or 11-point Calibri
  • Using double line spacing throughout the text
  • Aligning the text to the left margin
  • Indenting every paragraph’s first line 0.5 inches from the left margin
  • Including page numbers in the page header
  • Using right-align for the page numbers

Apart from these general requirements, there are other strict rules to follow regarding the main elements of your APA format research paper.

Title page

When formatting the title page, which is your research paper’s first page, you must:

  • Use Heading 1 for the title - Center the title and put it in bold.
  • Keep the title between 10-12 words - Keep it concise and clear, avoiding passive verbs and complex noun-based phrases.
  • Include a double-spaced blank after the title - This is important for separating the title from the byline and all the subsequent lines.
  • Include the author’s name in the byline - The order should be: first name, middle name, last name. Don’t include titles like Dr. or Ph.D.
  • Include the college or university information - Beneath the byline, write the course number and name, the instructor’s name, and the due date, each on a separate line.


The abstract page is your APA format research paper’s second page, which can contain the introduction, your research summary, and the definitions of terms and abbreviations. Its formatting rules are as follows:

  • Use Heading 1 for the section label - Center the “Abstract” label (without the quotation marks) and put it in bold.
  • Keep the text between 150-250 words - Make sure it’s a one-paragraph overview of your research paper.
  • Don’t use paragraph indentation - This is the only paragraph where you shouldn’t indent the first line but instead write it in a block format.
  • Include relevant keywords - Below the abstract, write the italicized and indented “Keywords:” label (without the quotation marks), and list 3-5 relevant keywords on the same line. This will help researchers find your published paper in online databases.


When it comes to your research paper’s body, the APA recommends meeting the following research paper APA formatting rules for the headings (apart from the general requirements above):

  • Heading 1 - Use it for all the section labels, which you should center and put in bold.
  • Heading 2 - This is for all the main ideas, which you should left-align and put in bold.
  • Heading 3 - Use this for the main subheadings. Bold, italicize and left-align them.
  • Heading 4 - This heading is for secondary subheadings, which you should indent, put in bold, and end with a period. Start the text on the same line.
  • Heading 5 - Use this for secondary subheadings’ supporting points, ensuring you indent, bold, italicize, and end them with a period. Start the text on the same line.

How many heading levels will you use? Well, that depends on your paper’s complexity and length. You don’t have to use all of them.

Reference page

The reference page should follow the body and list all the sources you used for the research. Remember to use in-text citations as well, which should match all the sources in your reference list. Follow these APA style guidelines to give credit to the original authors:

  • Use indentation - Indent every reference 0.5 inches from the left margin.
  • Arrange the references alphabetically - List the references by the author’s last name, write it in full, including their first name’s initial afterward, and end with a period. Do the same for multiple authors, separating them with a comma.
  • Include the publication year - Write it in parentheses, right after the author’s name, and end it with a period.
  • Include the source’s title - End the title with a period as well, and don’t use the title case.
  • Include the origin - State where you’ve found the source (e.g., book publisher, website, journal article, newspaper, etc.), and put it in italics.
  • Indicate the work’s volume and/or page number - Put this information in parentheses.

Research paper examples in APA format 

If you’re looking for a research paper APA format example to get a better grasp of all the rules above, check out these sample papers by the APA. You can download them for free to explore their overall structure and formatting.

Here are a few research paper examples to help you cite sources on your reference page.

An example for citing a book:

Kashdan, T., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2014). The upside of your dark side. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press.

Here’s another one for citing a journal article:

Hammond, S. I., & Drummond, J. K. (2019). Rethinking emotions in the context of infants’ prosocial behavior: The role of interest and positive emotions. Developmental Psychology, 55(9), 1882-1888.

How to Write a Research Paper in APA Format

Writing a research paper in APA format requires more than just structuring your paper and citing the sources properly. Take a look at some of the key steps to consider during your APA research paper writing:

  • Write a research summary - Use the “Abstract” section as the overview of everything you’ll discuss. Write a one-sentence introduction to interest the readers in the topic and the main idea. Explain your methodology, and include the most relevant details of your study.
  • Focus on clarity, accuracy, and consistency - Pay attention to the grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice, and all the other relevant factors for improving your paper’s quality and readability.
  • Use grammar and spelling checkers - After proofreading your paper, use tools like Grammarly, Reverso, LanguageTool, and SpellCheckPlus to identify potential errors and ensure your writing is impeccable.
  • Ask for feedback - Two heads are better than one, right? Ask a classmate or your instructor for some constructive feedback on writing a top-notch APA-style paper. You can send the first draft to the instructor to make sure you’re on the right track.


Writing an academic research paper in APA format doesn’t seem so daunting now, does it? There may be plenty of rules, but they’re quite straightforward.

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At StudyClerk, we have an extensive team of brilliant writers who specialize in a wealth of fields and hold Ph.D. and Master’s degrees. They can help you with research, provide writing and formatting tips, and ensure your work has the right APA-style research paper format.

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