How to Write an APA Research Paper in 7 Easy Steps

Writing an APA research paper can be challenging, especially if you’re new to this kind of task. However, there are specific steps you can follow in order to make the entire process easier and more efficient.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the most important steps involved in writing an APA research paper as well as offer some helpful tips to keep in mind while working on your paper.

By the end of this article, you’ll have all the information you need to start writing your own APA research paper right away!

Collect Background Information

The first step you should take when writing an APA research paper is collecting background information.

You may be wondering what exactly background information means and whether or not it includes everything you need for your paper.

The short answer is yes!

By background information, we mean that you should gather as much data as possible regarding your topic before you begin writing.

For example, if you’re writing a paper about gender discrimination in the workplace, then it would be wise to collect statistics related to how many women were denied a promotion because of their gender.

That way, when you actually sit down to write your research paper, you won’t have any questions about how prevalent the issue is or how many people experience it each year.

Sources of background information include journal articles, books, newspaper articles, census reports, government documents, and videos.

These sources help give the reader context and make them feel like they know more about the topic being discussed than just what is written in your paper.

Background information helps support points made in your paper with outside sources that provide evidence or examples of those points so readers will understand why you are presenting them to them.

Gathering background information will also allow you to easily find studies, facts, figures, and other data that can back up what you’re saying.

Once again, it’s crucial to remember that gathering background information involves looking at as many different sources as possible (both print and online).

To give yourself a better idea of where to look for relevant material, think about the following:

  • What are my five main points? What do I want my audience to take away from my paper?
  • Which theories am I using?
  • Where did these theories come from ?
  • What primary and secondary resources are available for me to use in my paper?
  • Who is my target audience and what does he/she care about?

Create a Thesis Statement for your APA Research Paper

Creating a good APA thesis statement for a research paper is the best way to ensure that you stay focused on your topic and avoid going off track.

A strong thesis statement tells your reader what your research paper is about without giving too much detail or making broad generalizations.

It could be argued that the strongest thesis statements are one sentence long but this isn’t always necessary.

A paper about the effects of social media might have the following thesis statement:

Social media has become a source of information, education, and entertainment for billions of people worldwide. As such, it has the potential to shape the lives of individuals both positively and negatively.

This thesis statement does a great job of telling the reader what the paper is about and its argument (i.e., it has a positive and negative effect on its users). It also uses specific language that helps keep you focused on your topic (i.e., social media, and its users).

Signs that your thesis statement isn’t strong enough

  • First, you’ll probably find yourself thinking of several different ways to start your paper if you can’t narrow down what exactly you want to say.
  • Second, you’ll notice that your paper doesn’t seem to go anywhere and that it doesn’t have a clear direction.
  • Third, you’ll notice that you’re repeating the same information over and over again in various sections of your paper.
  • Lastly, your audience will likely find themselves confused about what your point is since it seems like there are multiple arguments being presented in the paper.

Creating a strong thesis statement for an APA research paper

  • Decide which major questions you would like to answer with your research
  • Read books, journals, articles, and other sources related to your question
  • Jot down notes as you read so that they don’t escape your memory
  • Review all of the sources listed below and organize them into three categories: must-read, helpful, and optional.
  • Select key passages from each resource that contain important ideas related to your major question.
  • Draft your thesis statement based on the information gathered from your readings.

Write a strong APA research paper introduction

The introduction of your research paper plays a key role in grabbing your reader’s attention and holding it until they reach the end of your paper.

After all, you only have their attention for a few seconds before they decide whether or not they are going to keep reading so you want that time to be spent as effectively as possible.

Research paper introductions should include an engaging hook (i.e., attention grabber), background information about the field of study, a brief overview of why your paper matters, and finally how you plan to approach it.

For example, a paper that addresses the popularity of soccer in the United States might open by describing the sport’s global popularity and then explain that interest in soccer among Americans has grown considerably since 1990.

Next, the paper may state that while many fans enjoy watching games, others are unaware of how the game is played.

Finally, it may conclude by stating that the purpose of this paper is to provide a better understanding of soccer rules and gameplay.

Here are tips to help you compose a strong introduction for your APA research paper:

  • Start your introduction with a strong opening sentence that captures the reader’s attention and draws them in. A successful opening usually consists of a catchy phrase, startling statement, intriguing fact, or humorous observation.
  • Once you’ve hooked your reader, continue with a paragraph of context. The context paragraph should introduce your topic and outline the main points that you will cover in the paper without giving away too much detail.
  • Provide a basic rationale for why your chosen topic is worth exploring at length. For instance, this could mean explaining that although baseball was once America’s national pastime, more kids now play soccer than any other sport.
  • State your thesis and the paper’s objectives in the conclusion of your introduction.

Develop evidence and arguments to support your thesis statement

Now that you’ve written a strong introduction, it’s time to back up your thesis statement with evidence and arguments.

This section is called body paragraphs and they are the longest paragraphs in your paper.

Each body paragraph is organized around a subtopic and begins with a topic sentence that describes the subject matter of the paragraph.

The best way to write a good body paragraph is to think of it as a mini-essay that’s written within the framework of your paper.

To develop an effective argument, you’ll need to present facts, make comparisons, offer evidence, use reasoning, and tell stories when appropriate.

Some types of evidence you might choose to present in your paper include:

  • Statistics
  • Experiments
  •  Quotes from experts
  • Personal experience
  • Examples and case studies
  • Mathematical calculations and formulas
  • Graphs, charts, and illustrations
  • Historical records, news reports, and other primary documents such as transcripts of speeches or interviews with experts in the field.

Add Citations, Quotes, Graphs, and Charts

The standard APA research paper format requires the use of citations to give credit to the sources you are quoting or referring to.

Citing your sources is also a way of showing your reader that you have thoroughly researched your topic and taken note of the information that supports your position. The most common type of citation in APA research papers is a parenthetical citation.

Here is an example : (Bield, 2020). In direct quotations, include the page number as well, for example: (Bield, 2020, p. 14).

Note that in APA 7 different types of sources are allowed. For scientific papers, there are three types of citations: a footnote, an inline citation, and a reference list at the end of the paper.

These three variations should be used according to what fits your needs.

If you use a reference list at the end of your paper then all references must be cited inline throughout the text by providing both author name(s) and year publication date(s).

As discussed before all these citations should be placed after any sentence or phrase quoted by someone else.

Examples of references in APA format

Journal article

An APA 7th reference list entry for a journal article must include:

  • Author or authors. The surname is followed by the first initials.
  • Year of publication of the article (in round brackets).
  • Article title.
  • Journal title (in italics).
  • The volume of the journal (in italics).
  • Issue of the journal (no italics).
  • Page range of the article.
  • DOI (presented as a hyperlink, for example, The first line of each citation is left adjusted. Every subsequent line is indented 5-7 spaces.


Buxton, C. (2016). Tea: Hydration and other health benefits. Primary Health Caregivers, 26(8), 34-42.


A basic reference list entry for a book from a library database in APA must include:

  • Author or authors. The surname is followed by the first initials.
  • Year of publication of the book (in round brackets).
  • Book title (in italics).
  • Edition (in round brackets), if other than the first edition.
  • DOI (where a book has a DOI this must be included, even if you are referring to a print book).
    The first line of each citation is left adjusted. Every subsequent line is indented 5-7 spaces.

Example: Arnott, G. D. (2017). The disability support worker (2nd ed.). Cengage Learning.

 Conclude your APA Research Paper

Like any other academic writing project, an APA research paper is designed to answer specific questions.

A good concluding paragraph will not only recap the main arguments of the paper but will also lay out a plan for further work.

It is essential to leave readers with a sense of where they can go next.

  • What are the implications of your study?
  • What are the next steps in your research?
  • How could your findings be applied to policy and practice?

Sometimes, the significance of a paper can be summarized in one or two sentences. In others, you may need to go into more detail.

Keep in mind that you want to tell your readers why your findings matter.

  • Why did you do this study?
  • Why is it important now, and in the future?

For example, if your results show that 20% of college students experience depression, then they might be at higher risk for dropping out before graduation.

Or maybe your results show a correlation between high-stress levels and low GPAs; this might suggest a need for mental health interventions on campus.

You’ll have to think critically about the importance of your research, considering its implications on public health, policy, education, social justice, and many other areas.

Formatting properly and proofreading

Although it’s tempting to skip over proofreading and editing because you already put a lot of work into your paper, it’s crucial that you spend at least an hour going through each section with a fine-toothed comb.

APA research papers are meant to be clear and concise, so it is important to edit your paper for the same qualities.

Be sure to check your grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Also, be sure to read each sentence aloud in order to catch awkward phrasing or confusing syntax.

Review your citations to make sure that you have properly formatted them. And be sure to double-check all of your calculations and figures. After finishing the paper, set it aside for a day or two.

Then, come back and review it again to spot any errors you may have missed the first time around.

A good tip is to take a break for a few hours, go for a walk, or watch your favorite TV show.

This will help refresh your brain and allow you to see the paper with fresh eyes.

Review APA style guidelines to learn the rules of formatting your paper and counter-check your citations.

Finally, consider using tools like Grammarly and Turnitin to check for plagiarism and grammatical mistakes.

This will save you the trouble of checking your paper yourself and you can be confident that your paper is free of errors.

Author: Brawnywriter

My goal is to help students achieve their full potential by crafting well-written, well-researched, and original papers that will set them apart from their peers.

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