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An Easy Overview of APA Style

by | Feb 18, 2021 | Academic Writing

Information is taken from the 7th edition Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, latest version, 2020. 

If you’ve taken any psychology classes, then chances are you’ve written a few APA style papers. But if not, this simple guide will explain all the basics that you need to know before you sit down to write your remarkable APA style essay!

There are two types of APA papers: literature reviews and research reports. Let’s break down each of them.

APA Style Literature Reviews

Literature reviews are prevalent in psychology classes because they summarize the research conducted on any specific topic. Professors will often ask students to write about research on a particular topic that they themselves want to do research on in the future, so it’s important to know what you need to include in your literature review.

Student literature reviews include, at minimum, a title page, page numbers, text, and a reference list. These papers don’t typically need an abstract, but your professor may require this. We’ll cover how to write an abstract later on in this guide.

Literature reviews typically need each of the following elements:

  • Introduction
  • Thesis Statement
  • Summary and Synthesis of Sources
  • List of References

APA Style Research Report

Research reports are a bit more complicated than literature reviews because they are based on research that you found yourself through experimentation. They are, like literature reviews, precise and require distinct sections throughout the paper.

Research reports typically need each of the following elements:

  • Title Page
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Method
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Experiment(s)
  • References
  • Appendices (if necessary)
  • Tables and Figures (if appropriate)

It looks like a lot to remember, right? An APA research report contains a lot of information, and you must pay attention to both formatting and organization, so readers can easily follow your research. Try to give yourself enough time to tackle this paper one section at a time, so that you can make each section an example of your best writing!

Let’s break this down a little more. When you’re summarizing your experiments and research into a report, try to answer the questions below. Use these to narrow your focus a bit and give yourself a clear plan of attack for your APA research report.

Here are some questions your research report should answer and where you’ll answer them:

  • Why is your topic important? (Introduction)
  • What is the problem you’re attempting to solve? (Introduction)
  • What did you do to try to solve the problem? (Method)
  • What did you find? (Results)
  • What do your findings mean? (Discussion)

APA Style Title Page

Title pages are required for all APA papers, unless your professor tells you otherwise, so it’s essential that your title page is formatted correctly. Think carefully about the title of your essay—it needs to give your reader a good idea of what they’re about to read, especially if you don’t have an abstract accompanying your paper.

The title page for your APA paper needs to include the following elements:

  • Title of the Paper
  • Author’s Name
  • University/Institution Affiliated with Each Author
  • Course Name and Number
  • Instructor’s Name
  • Assignment Due Date: Month, Date, Year
  • Page Number (Upper Right Corner)

APA Style Abstract

Writing an abstract in an APA paper isn’t too tricky, but there are some necessary steps. An abstract is just a summary—usually no more than 250 words—of your research that prepares readers for what’s ahead in your document.

Your abstract should start on a new page after your title page, and it should begin with the label “Abstract” centered above the rest of your text. Typically, an abstract will consist only of a single paragraph, and the first line will not be indented. It’s a good idea to give a brief description of your objective, research/experiment method(s), results, and conclusions.


When you’re first starting, APA papers can seem confusing and overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that taking things one step at a time is always the best plan for success. Just follow this guide and our other APA guides to help you write a fantastic essay!

Emmi Conner
By Emmi Conner

Emmi holds a BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She’s been published in Adelaide Literary Magazine, and Atlantis Magazine. Emmi has written multiple articles for Writer’s Hive in the academic section with topics about MLA, APA, and Chicago Style essay writing.


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