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How to Write References in APA Format

The American Psychological Association (APA) format is a “reference style” that was originally designed for use when writing academic articles. While the APA format is most associated with articles published in academic journals, it is also suitable for use in other forms of writing, including books, book chapters, and posters.

To apply the APA format to your own work, you will need to familiarize yourself with a few key terms and concepts. If you’re curious, you can find a glossary of these terms on the APA website here:

Terms and Concepts

When writing an academic article, the APA format requires the use of a range of terms and concepts that are specific to psychology and the social sciences. To ensure that your article is written in a way that will be understandable to others, it is essential that you familiarize yourself with the common definitions and pronunciations of these terms. It is also a good idea to consult an expert or two in your field, just to make sure that your article is accurate.


The abstract is a short summary of the entire article, typically no more than three to four sentences. As the name suggests, the abstract will only briefly introduce the topic of the article. To create an abstract that will make your article stand out, you should include only the most relevant information, in a way that will be interesting and concise.


Once you have an abstract, you can move on to the next step which is to brainstorm a list of keywords related to your topic. Think of a few keywords that you would use to search for information on your topic. Once you have a list, you can use a free acronym tool to generate words and phrases that are shorter and simpler to remember. You can then use these words and phrases as you write your paper, to help you find your information more effortlessly.


The introduction is a section of your paper that will serve as a concise summary of the problem you are going to solve, as well as the theory/concepts that will be used to support your arguments. This section should be no longer than three to four sentences, and you should try to keep it as brief as possible.

You should use the introduction to briefly explain the topic, problem, or question you are solving. Be sure to include any relevant definitions, statistical information, historical context, or literature cited in support of your arguments. Remember: your reader does not know you or your topic, so try to keep the introduction as simple and accessible as possible.


The methods section of a research paper will provide the reader with the tools or mechanisms you used to conduct your research. When writing this section, you have to decide whether you will write from first- or third-person perspectives. The first-person perspective will be the most common choice for a narrative account of the research process, while the third-person perspective will be used for experimental design, surveys, and case studies.

The paper should include a detailed description of each step in the research process, including the problem you encountered, and the solutions you came up with. To demonstrate your understanding of the subject matter, you should include some sample data (if relevant) so that your reader can follow your line of reasoning. In addition to this, you should include a discussion of the limitations of your research, and suggestions for future research. As with all the other sections of your paper, this section should be comprehensive and free of any spelling errors or grammar mistakes.


The results section of a research paper will report on the findings of your study. When writing this section, you have to decide whether you will present your findings in a summary or a detailed way. For detailed results, you should present tables and/or figures containing the data you have used to support your arguments. For example, if you were testing the hypothesis that people with mental illness are more prone to violence than those who are not, you would present the data that supports this statement, as well as any data that would dispute it.

Do not simply report the results of your study, but instead, describe them in detail. Think of a few different ways in which you can present these results to the reader. You can start by simply listing them in the order that they appear in your article. You can also choose to present your findings in the form of a table or a graph. Regardless of the format you choose, be sure to include any caveats or limitations of your study in this section.


The discussion section of a research paper will provide the reader with your perspective on the topic you are solving, or the question you are exploring. This section of your paper should be longer than the introduction and methods sections combined, and should be split into at least three parts:

  • A short introductory paragraph;
  • The part of the argument or theory that you are challenging;
  • Your rebuttal, or counterargument.

Your discussion section should begin with a short introductory paragraph that briefly explains the topic of your paper. After this, you can move on to the first part of your discussion, which is to challenge or rebut an aspect of the argument you have presented.

You should then present your opinion on the matter, followed by a summary of the counterargument presented by the other party. Just remember: this is an opinion section, and as such, the opinions expressed by you are your own. For example, if you were arguing that children with autism should be taught using the visual aids and demonstration techniques of mainstream education, you would begin your discussion by first presenting your opinion, then your evidence, and finally your conclusion. When writing this section of your paper, you should avoid using the first-person singular point of view, because academic papers should be written in a way that is accessible to a reader who is not familiar with your specific field of study.


The conclusion of your paper will summarize the key points you made in your discussion section. To create a conclusion that will keep your reader interested, you should write in a way that is both succinct and compelling. Think of a few keywords that will help your reader find your work more easily, and make sure that these keywords are scattered throughout your paper, at the beginning, middle, and end. In addition to this, you should include a reference list at the end of your paper, with all the sources you used in the course of your study. This list should be a comprehensive one, and should include all relevant literature as well as any websites or online forums that you used in the course of your research.

APA format is a widely-used guidelines for academic papers, and it is likely that if you are reading this, you are either already familiar with it, or will become so soon.