How to Write an APA Paper: Psychology

APA Psychology Papers

The APA style is a formal writing style that is approved by the American Psychological Association (American Psychological Association). It has numerous rules (for example, within parenthetical citations, include an ampersand (&), but outside parentheticals, use the word “and” between the authors’ names). And it has implications for the entirety of a paper. Begin with the title page and ending with the final concluding sentence. In addition to everything in between. And there’s a lot more after that.

I recall thinking that the APA style was arbitrary when I was a student. Who bothers if I omitted the publication year from the in-text citation? What difference does it make if the references are not double-spaced? Why is the difference if the term “Abstract” is not centered at the beginning of the abstract? Huh!!!

Years later, I’ve had a change of heart on APA style. Having said that, I believe that knowing APA style is critical.

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Why is APA Style Necessary?

At its heart, APA style is a set of rules for publications in scientific psychology that are submitted for publication consideration to journal editors. In other words, this is the structure in which a paper should be written if you want an academic journal to publish it as an article. Academic journals are similar to scholarly magazines in that they need peer review before accepting materials for publication as articles. Numerous editors of journals receive more manuscript submissions than they can publish. Only a small percentage of articles submitted will be accepted for publication in an academic journal.

A manuscript (i.e., a paper) undergoes a rigorous review procedure prior to acceptance (if the author is so lucky!). The editor distributes the manuscript to a few specialists in the subject. These experts read it and provide critical (sometimes VERY critical) input to the editor, who then decides whether the work should be published as an article in the journal.

The majority of publications in psychology and related subjects need submissions in APA style. Thus, as a scholar in the behavioral sciences, you must grasp APA format; else, your articles will almost certainly be rejected, even if your ideas are fantastic.

Consider a journal editor who receives 200 articles each year to review. However, that same editor’s journal can only publish 40 pieces per year. Some rather rigorous screening is required. The first screen demonstrates basic APA formatting. If your paper does not adhere to APA formatting standards, good luck getting it published in a psychological academic journal. Editors of journals are far too busy to deal with publications that do not adhere to fundamental APA guidelines.

Thus, it is vital for teachers to mentor students in the process of APA writing when educating them in the field of scientific psychology. This style of writing is deemed necessary for field specialists.

What is the American Psychological Association (APA) Style?

The APA Style is a style of writing that is used to summarize a collection of scientific concepts. Typically, we think of it as a style that summarizes the findings of a scientific study or series of investigations by including both raw data and a summary of the findings. A paper written in the APA style might also outline a proposed study (or series of investigations) or synthesize some theoretical, conceptual thoughts about a subject. However, a report on actual research serves as a model for an APA-style work.

Imagine you were doing research on a number of different psychological factors. Perhaps you assessed people’s extraversion (extroversion) in a sample of 100 adults. Additionally, you may have asked each participant in your study to complete a risk-taking questionnaire. And then suppose your main finding is that extraversion and risk-taking has a positive and significant association. In short, you discovered evidence suggesting extroverts report being riskier than introverts.

  1. Therefore, how would you write that up in such a way that your findings and their consequences might be communicated to the scientific community? If you examine the overall structure of APA formatting closely, you will notice that it is all about ensuring that your research is presented in a logical and well-organized manner.

To begin, you’ll need a title page. Here, you’re creating a headline and informing the public about your identity and origins. You may call your paper “Extroverts Are Riskier Than Introverts Are: A Correlational Study.” The title effectively summarizes the investigation.

Following that, you will create an abstract using the APA writing style. I like to imagine the abstract as a condensed version of your paper for really busy individuals. What would you say if you had to summarize your entire research in 150 words or less? Which data would be necessary? What information could be omitted in order to present it in greater depth later? Writing a compelling as well as clear abstract is a knowledgeable ability that, in my opinion, is nearly unmatched. It is that critical.

Following that, you’ll have your introduction. Do not be duped. While some refer to this portion as a “literature review,” it is not the best way to think about it. Without a doubt, you will be examining prior books along the route. However, the primary purpose of this section is to inform the reader about the research subject at hand and how it has been studied previously. And why it is critical. Finally, your introduction should be highly structured. Each phrase should lead into the next, with this part concluding in a way that clearly establishes your research question’s importance and readiness for study. The concluding sentence of your introduction for this example maybe something like “For these reasons, it is critical that we gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between extraversion and risk-taking.”

Following your introduction, you’ll have a section on Methods. This part should be written as if you were dictating a cookie recipe to someone on the other side of the planet. Your objective is to have that person bake the cookies exactly like you and your mother do!

The Method section discusses how you gathered your data. Who took part? What variables did you collect data on? How did you determine their size? etc.

After describing your data gathering methods, you must describe what you discovered. This is the area for your Results. You describe how you studied your data in this section. You may state that you determined the correlation coefficient between the two primary variables (in this example, extraversion and risk-taking). You might state the magnitude of the effect and if it was in the predicted direction. Additionally, you can comment on the “statistical significance” of the finding, i.e., if it was greater than what would be predicted by chance.

Your study may have a large number of variables and may even include experimental interventions. You may have a lot to say about your results! Having said that, always keep in mind that your audience is a person with limited time and presumably cares far less about your study than you do. As is always the case, be sparing in your Results section writing. That is, ensure that your writing is succinct and direct.

Following that, you’ll compose the Discussion section. Here, you take a step back and discuss your findings in a broader context. What implications do your findings have? Were your guesses correct? Are your findings consistent with previous research on this subject? Are your data revealing something fresh to the world? Were there any difficulties or limits encountered during the data collection process? What is your ultimate conclusion—why is your research significant?

That is not all! Following that, you must include a References section in APA format. You offer the necessary information about the scholarly sources that you consulted during your research in this section. I use the term “scholarly” to refer to academic writings. It hurts me to say this, but Psychology Today is often not included! You will cite peer-reviewed and published scholarly journal articles in this section. Additionally, you may credit academic texts, book chapters, and other comparable sources. By and large, you should avoid citing websites. Additionally, you should ABSOLUTELY NOT cite Wikipedia. For further information on what constitutes a scholarly source, contact your university’s library. The library should be brimming with such resources!

Additionally, here is a hint for your References section: The most obvious indication of poor APA style is found in your References section. The formatting guidelines are extremely precise and explicit. Do not include the writers’ initials. After the first line of each reference, indent. Italicize journal titles, and so forth. Acquiring these details is not difficult. Simply follow the instructions in the APA style guide or an equivalent style guide. Personally, I like to peruse the specifics contained in the APA sample paper located here. Simply follow it! Italicize it if it is italicized elsewhere. If the example article lists the page numbers after the volume number of the journal, then do so. If the first words of a journal are capitalized in a reference, capitalize them as well. The simplest way to come across as an amateur in this field is to mishandle your APA-style references. Allow it not to be you!

Bottom Line

APA style may appear to be capricious and merciless. However, the standards governing APA style have been fine-tuned over time to aid in the presentation of scientific findings in a logical and relevant manner. In reality, mastering APA is a necessary component of psychological education. If you want individuals in the area of specialization to take your thoughts seriously, you must ensure that your APA skills are razor-sharp.

 

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