Writing your paper: apa style

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Writing Your Paper: APA Style


Brigham Young University-Idaho


The abstract is one paragraph of less than 250 words (without indentation). This should summarize the paper, but be brief. Use nouns and 3rd person pronouns (the author, he, or she). For example the author here takes you through how to format a paper in APA style. It also points out the importance of not plagiarizing and how to avoid that. The author concluded with some examples of possible references.

Writing Your Paper: APA Style

You’ve got your topic. You’ve done your research. You’ve written your paper. Now, we need to talk about the details—details that will help you look like you know what you’re doing. Writing a paper in APA style will not only make you look good, but it makes your paper easier to read and reference. The more familiar you are with APA, the better you will know how to do it.

Notice the formatting; we’ll talk about that a little bit today. Page numbers are found in the top right corner, preceded by Running head: TITLE UP TO 50 CHARACTERS IN CAPS on the first page, and just the TITLE UP TO 50 CHARACTERS IN CAPS on the other pages, the title is in the middle, and everything is even and double-spaced. You can set this as your default. There is no extra line between the title and the first paragraph. Also, note that the title, abstract, and reference heading is not bolded, italicized, or underlined although subheadings will be bolded. Just use the same font as the rest of the text which should be Times New Roman, so set your defaults from Calibri 11 pt to Times New Roman 12pt if you haven’t already.

The header should be ½ inch from the top of the paper. Double click on the header area on the first page and write “Running head:” Then you will write your title in all capital letters and tab over to the end where you will insert a page number (look for # symbol). Make sure you also check the “Different First Page” option. Your header on the following pages should be your title on the left (in capitals letter) and the page number on the right. To do this, you can double click the area in the upper portion of the page. The following pages are the same, but you leave off “Running head.” Do you have questions about the formatting the title page? Sometimes students don’t know which information to include. You will include three lines of information, which include your title, name, and university. It is centered and almost in the middle of the page or about two inches down. Don’t make it a different size.

Let’s talk about citing sources in your paper. It is easy to plagiarize without knowing it. Many students believe that if they cite a source’s author somewhere in their paper, they have not plagiarized. However, this is not always the case; they may have plagiarized anyway. How on Earth does that happen?

First, let’s talk about direct quotations in your paper. If you use a direct quote, make sure you put quotation marks around it and use past or present perfect tense as signal verbs. The following is an example of how you might do this. According to Miyasaki (2007), an English 0990 instructor has explained, “It is easy to plagiarize without knowing it. Students believe that if they cite a source’s author somewhere in their paper, they have not plagiarized” (p.2). Avoid simply plopping a quote in the middle of a paper without introducing it. For example: “Students believe that if they cite a source’s author somewhere in their paper, they have not plagiarized” (Miyasaki, 2007, p.2). In this example, Miyasaki has not been introduced, nor has the necessity of the quotation been explained. Make sure that you introduce the context of a quotation and the reason you are using it. If your reader cannot connect the dots you have given them, they will be lost when they come to quotations in your paper.

If a professor allows you to use direct quotes, a good rule of thumb is limit the number of direct quotes to only one per page; everything else should be paraphrased or your own writing, but still cited. Also, only use quotes that are so eloquent and well-written or unique that you must quote it directly. Avoid quoting something like this: According to Doe (2000) “300,000,000 people live in the United States of America” (p.323). You can provide the same information in your own words and cite Doe. Since nothing about his statement is particularly unique, you can relate the same information in your own words.

Second, any idea that you get from an article must be cited, even if you are not quoting a source word for word. You might say to yourself, Hey, self! I know that the ozone layer is being destroyed at a particular rate every year. I’ve known this for a long time because I’ve heard about it everywhere. If you use this information in your paper, you must cite a source. You can get away with the lack of citation only if you made up the terms or ideas yourself! If you address a term or idea you did not create yourself, find a source to cite. If all else fails, go search through some textbooks as a resource.

You need to cite any information in your paper that you learned from a book or article. You might complain, “If I did that, I would cite every single line!” Sometimes, that is exactly what you need to do. If you cite ideas from several different people, you need to make sure that you accurately cite each one, even if you paraphrase all of them.

Paraphrasing is an important skill to use while writing a research paper. Use your own words to state what the author says. Sometimes the best way to do this is to read the information you want to include, then look away from the text and write what you read in your own words. Do not merely take the author’s words and simply exchange a few of them. A thesaurus was never meant to be a tool of plagiarism. For example, suppose you read the following in Barker (1998): “In today’s changing world, we must be aware of the extreme attitudes of many about the environment, and base our beliefs on a tempered middle ground” (p.23). Do not do the following: In today’s society, we need to be mindful of the fanatical beliefs many hold towards the environment and found our opinions on a moderate medium (Barker, 1998, p. 23).

Even though you have included a citation at the end you would still be plagiarizing here. You have altered a few words, but most of the words are still Barker’s. You still use the same sentence structure and have merely thesaurusized the rest of the statement. It is your job to tell the reader what Barker’s ideas are, but do so in your own words. You could do it this way: Citizens should construct their own reasonable opinions on environmental issues in the midst of a variety of perspectives (Barker, 1998, p.23). Paraphrasing can be a useful tool when you need to talk for a length of time about a particular person’s ideas and you do not want to use a large, block quote.

When citing one author for an extended period of time in your paper, you can “frame” the information. You do this by citing the source in the first sentence and following it up at the end. Let’s look at an example:

In his book, How to Save the Earth, Frank (2007) is concerned that recycling may not have a significant positive effect on the environment unless coupled with social responsibility of mass corporations. According to his research, businesses that practice social responsibility contribute greatly to the advances in conserving the environment. Furthermore, individual efforts or corporate efforts alone are not sufficient; they must work together in order to prove effective (p.13).

Do you see how the paragraph is framed? I start out by telling the reader where the information came from and then I cite from the same fictional article at the end of the information I paraphrased. The reader then assumes that everything between those citations is from that article (and you don’t have to distract your reader every sentence with parentheses and page numbers).

Also, include a Reference page with full citations. You can keep it from moving by going to “Insert” and pick “Page Break” near the left. It should include References as the title centered. The citations should be alphabetical, doubles spaced, indent the lines after the first line of each entry, and follow similar form to the examples here. Check the different sources and citation machines to make sure you do it accurately.

Good luck writing your paper. While APA formatting and citation may take some time to get used to, it will ultimately help you and your reader out by staying organized and consistent all the way through the interesting research you want to present.


Last, Initials. (Year). Title of the book. Publication city, ST: Publisher.

Last, Initials. (Year). Title of article. Journal Title Volume (issue), page numbers.

Last, Initials, & Last, Initials. (Date). Article title. Periodical Name Volume (Issue),

Pages. Doi or retrieved from database or url

Last, Initials. (Date). Title of page. Retrieved from (include date if from Wiki)


Barker, S. K. (1998). Citizens involved in the environment. New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

Doe, J. (2000). Population statistics. An Important Journal, 5(4), 321-29.


Frank, E. (2007). How to save the earth. New York, NY: Important Book.

Martin, S. (2005). Recycling can reduce pollution. In Laura K. Egendorf (Ed.), The Environment. (pp. 100-107). Detroit, MI: Thomson Gale,

Miyasaki, M. (2007). Writing your paper: APA style. Another Important Journal 36(2), 1-

5. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

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