How to use the APA format for research papers

Research papers require specific formatting which obeys guidelines set out by certain academic bodies. These include the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychology Association (APA). At first glance APA rules may seem confusing or arbitrarily assigned and if you find yourself unsure of how to use them, try any of the tips below.

Check the APA website and official materials for instructions

Like most scholarly groups, the APA has a functioning website which you can look for to get a list of the precise rules that make up the format. They also sell booklets which go into more detail about the style. If you can’t afford to purchase one, check your local library for a copy or any other relevant books that deal with the APA format in a way that you understand.

Refer to papers that have been created in the style

Just as you now have to find out how to use the format, many many scholars before you have had to tailor their work to its style rules. Look for very well formatted papers that you can scan through carefully to get a feel for how APA writing looks and what you need to do to bring your own work up to standard.

Find an online template

This may be one of the best methods to start off with as a beginner. The templates, many of which are free, come preformatted so that you can input your information and the font, margins, page numbers etc will automatically be correct. This is great to start out with but can become a crutch if you begin to rely on it too heavily. It also cannot correct a tendency to miss out citations or include only pieces of them.

Practice regularly

APA format becomes extremely simple with repeated use. If you have the time, start writing simple papers just to get yourself accustomed to the style. You will gain skills at a rate that will astound your professors and your peers and may even begin to start liking academic writing.

As a scholar, attention to detail will be your greatest ally and this is especially so when it comes to writing. Mistakes can make your work less appealing and formatting is one of the easiest places to make a mistake because its value is so often overlooked. Learn formatting and you will have mastered a valuable skill.

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