APA Research Paper Outline: Examples and Template
Table of contents
- 1 Why Is Research Paper Format Necessary?
- 2.1 Purpose of research paper outline
- 2.2 APA outline example
- 3.1 APA paper outline example
- 3.2 Introduction:
- 3.4 Conclusion:
- 4 The Basic APA Outline Format
- 5 APA Style Outline Template Breakdown
- 6.1 APA Research Paper Outline Example
- 6.2 APA Paper Outline Format Example
- 7.1 First Paragraph: Hook and Thesis
- 7.2 Main Body
- 7.3 Conclusion
- 7.4 Decimal APA outline format example
- 7.5 Decimal APA outline format layout
- 8.1 A definite goal
- 8.2 Division
- 8.3 Parallelism
- 8.4 Coordination
- 8.5 Subordination
- 8.6 Avoid Redundancy
- 8.7 Wrap it up in a good way
- 8.8 Conclusion
Formatting your paper in APA can be daunting if this is your first time. The American Psychological Association (APA) offers a guide or rules to follow when conducting projects in the social sciences or writing papers. The standard APA fromat a research paper outline includes a proper layout from the title page to the final reference pages. There are formatting samples to create outlines before writing a paper. Amongst other strategies, creating an outline is the easiest way to APA format outline template.
Why Is Research Paper Format Necessary?
Consistency in the sequence, structure, and format when writing a research paper encourages readers to concentrate on the substance of a paper rather than how it is presented. The requirements for paper format apply to student assignments and papers submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed publication. APA paper outline template style may be used to create a website, conference poster, or PowerPoint presentation . If you plan to use the style for other types of work like a website, conference poster, or even PowerPoint presentation, you must format your work accordingly to adjust to requirements. For example, you may need different line spacing and font sizes. Follow the formatting rules provided by your institution or publication to ensure its formatting standards are followed as closely as possible. However, to logically structure your document, you need a research paper outline in APA format. You may ask: why is it necessary to create an outline for an APA research paper?
Concept & Purposes of Research Paper Outline
A path, direction, or action plan! Writing short essays without a layout may seem easy, but not for 10,000 or more words. Yet, confusing a table of contents with an outline is a major issue. The table of contents is an orderly list of all the chapters’ front matter, primary, and back matter. It includes sections and, often, figures in your work, labeled by page number. On the other hand, a research APA-style paper outline is a proper structure to follow.
Purpose of research paper outline
An outline is a formalized essay in which you give your own argument to support your point of view. And when you write your apa outline template, you expand on what you already know about the topic. Academic writing papers examine an area of expertise to get the latest and most accurate information to work on that topic. It serves various purposes, including:
- APA paper outline discusses the study’s core concepts.
- The research paper outlines to define the link between your ideas and the thesis.
- It provides you with manageable portions that you can handle.
- The research paper’s APA outline enables the detection of structural faults or gaps.
- As shown in the example, it must clearly comprehend the subject at hand.
APA outline example
This research paper outline example will guide you in formatting the layout for a clear direction to work on. It eliminates the inconsistency along with lacking proper substance in the paper.
Understanding the APA Outline Format
It would not be wrong to say there is no standard outline format. The official publishing handbook does not give precise guidelines for preparing an outline. But, it requires certain basic guidelines to follow regarding typeface, font size, structure, margins, etc.
APA paper outline example
Moreover, the final shape of your work relies on your instructor’s specifications and your particular preferences for APA citation format. Though, it would be better to follow some standards for formatting your outline, for instance:
Times New Roman is a widely accessible standard typeface for an APA essay format in 12-point font. However, serif and sans serif fonts like Arial and Georgia are acceptable in font size 11pt.
The text of your paper format should be double-spaced.
The primary headlines use Roman and Arabic numerals to write an outline.
Headings & Subheadings
While writing an APA essay, there are particular standards for utilizing headings in your outline: I – Main headings are numbered by Roman numerals like I, II, III, IV A – Subheadings are numbered with Capital letters (A, B, C, D) 1 – The APA outline uses Arabic numerals (1-9 type numbers) within those subheadings. a – Below Arabic number subheadings, lower-case letters are used (a, b, a).  – Headings below those subheadings use Arabic numbers enclosed in parenthesis.
APA format offers a standard layout for each paper, such as
- 1-inch margins on the top, bottom, left, and right.
- The page number on the upper right corner.
The structure of writing an outline consists of three major sections:
This section highlights crucial background information.
Explain the primary points that support your ideas.
- Summarize your key arguments.
- Explain how these concepts support your ultimate stance, as shown in APA outline example below.
An outline in APA has three common formats that vary in the numeric sequence of all. To make it easier for you, we have compiled all three templates. You can format your document using these examples for added coherence and structure.
The Basic APA Outline Format
APA Style Outline Template Breakdown
Numbering the APA style format follows five levels of headings that use different alphabets and numbers. For instance, I – Headings use Roman numerals like I, II, and III. A – CAPITAL ALPHABETS”, such as A, B, C, etc. 1 – Headings and subheadings use Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3). a – If there are further headings (the fourth level), use lower-case alphabets.  – Headings below that (the fifth level) use Arabic numerals enclosed in parentheses, such as , , .
Full Sentence Outline Format
As the name specifies, the full-sentence style outline format requires every line to be a proper sentence. Full-sentence APA style outline is best recommended for essays and speeches. It gives your writing process an idea or a logical path to follow.
APA Research Paper Outline Example
If you are looking for how to write a research paper outline APA in Full Sentence Format, here is an example:
Full Sentence APA format heading utilizes Roman numerals I, II, and III. Every heading must be a full sentence. Here is an APA style paper outline template for the full-sentence format that will clear all your confusion on how to write an outline in full-sentence format.
APA Paper Outline Format Example
Decimal Outline Format
The decimal outline format for APA research papers differs from other formats. The decimal APA style is simple and uses paragraphs for structure. It contains three main paragraphs, introduction, main body, and conclusion.
First Paragraph: Hook and Thesis
- The first paragraph is a sentence or two that introduces the central concept of your article.
- Introduce your topic or subject of study where your research is applicable as a context for further research.
- Explain why the mentioned issue is essential or relevant to the audience.
- A thesis statement is a claim that you make throughout your whole essay.
- The topic phrase is the first point in any writing to support a thesis statement.
- Give an explanation or provide evidence to support your point.
- Provide verifiable facts, figures, and/or citations from credible sources in your writing. It helps in the substantiating assertion.
- Include as many supporting statements and related evidence in your decimal outline.
Finally, when you write an outline, provide a concluding remark to support your claims.
Decimal APA outline format example
1.0 The main heading 1.1 Subheading under the main heading 1.2 Second digit is represented by subheadings under the main headings 1.2.1 Further division adds another digit in decimal format 1.2.2 You can number them as per the number of paragraphs or points, or lines An easy way to write in decimal APA outline format is to remember the structure, i.e.; 1.1.1 = Heading.Paragraph.Sentence/point under paragraph.”
Decimal APA outline format layout
1.0 Main heading 1.1 First paragraph for first heading. 1.2 Second paragraph for first heading. 1.2.1 First point or sentence for the second paragraph. 2.0 Second heading 2.1 Second heading, first paragraph. 2.2 Second heading, second paragraph. 2.2.1 Second, heading, second paragraph, first sentence, or point. 3.0 Decimal working 3.1 You must remember that each digit represents a segment. 3.2 It is easier to remember the placement of numbers. 3.2.1 First digit represents the heading 3.2.2 Second digit represents the paragraph under the main heading <3.2.3 The third digit represents any point or sentence under the paragraph.
Tips for Writing an Outline: Organize Your Ideas
You may feel it is easier to write without outlines, but once you start writing, organizing your ideas or thoughts becomes hard. Even if you have some fantastic ideas, producing an engaging story is practically hard. If you are not first creating an outline or conceptual guides while writing a research paper, you may lose track. A well-written outline is essential in completing your paper and maintaining quality. Establishing your point in paper writing is easy if you create an outline first. You can find an APA research paper outline template that best suits your requirement. Moreover, these tips can help you polish your writing. These tips and sample papers can help you write outstanding outlines without making any hassle.
A definite goal
For better expression, make a list of primary objectives on a title page in a single phrase or less. Your goal should be specific and measurable. If it is too broad or imprecise, you will not achieve anything. If you are working on a large paper format that covers a variety of themes or topics, you may have a more general purpose in mind. But, if you plan to write an essay, the aim should be as specific and clear as possible to be effective.
Breaking things up rather than allowing them to become verbose is known as the division rule. Make sure that each subsection in the document corresponds to its parent heading. If it doesn’t compare to the section, removing it or moving it to another location is better.
It is mainly related to the consistency and structure of the document. It keeps your paper’s layout tidy and also ensures relevancy. For instance, if you begin one heading with a verb, make sure all other headings and subheadings also start with a verb.
Having headings aligned is critical to creating a well-organized outline. This rule also applies to subheadings, which is a good thing. If one title is less important than another, consider changing your layout by incorporating it into a subsection instead.
Subordination deals with maintaining a connection between your paper’s headings and subheadings. It helps in the proper sequencing of headings and subheadings. Headings should be broad at the outset. At the same time, the subheadings become more particular as they go further into the document.
While writing a paper outline, look through it many times and cross out any items that aren’t necessary or have no significance. While outlining, make sure to be specific and concise. It will prevent you from adding information that does not supporting your final essay. Remove all the extra information and points while c that weighs you down while you write.
Wrap it up in a good way
Creating an outline does not only help in writing a coherent term paper, but it also helps in ending with precise understanding. Be considerate of your audience’s time and effort when you write an outline in APA, and ensure it serves its purpose. If you still have any doubts about formatting your paper outline, you can use this APA-style research paper outline template to write your document. We have provided Outline Format Example for every style.
People find it hard to write an outline in APA, but if you are aware of the requirements and structure, it’s no breeze. Sometimes, your instructor may alter your paper format by introducing or removing existing sections. As a result, if you come across any templates for an outline in APA, pay close attention to them. If you are looking for a quick answer to how to outline an APA paper, here’s a standard logical sequence of typical parts to include when writing an outline in APA:
- Thesis statement
- Techniques employed
- Body of paper
- Conclusions section
- List of references
A well-written outline is an excellent tool for presenting an outstanding paper. Including the key components while writing an outline for a research paper is necessary.
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How to Write an Outline in APA Format
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."
Amanda Tust is a fact-checker, researcher, and writer with a Master of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.
- Before Starting Your Outline
- How to Create an Outline
Writing a psychology paper can feel like an overwhelming task. From picking a topic to finding sources to cite, each step in the process comes with its own challenges. Luckily, there are strategies to make writing your paper easier—one of which is creating an outline using APA format .
Here we share what APA format entails and the basics of this writing style. Then we get into how to create a research paper outline using APA guidelines, giving you a strong foundation to start crafting your content.
At a Glance
APA format is the standard writing style used for psychology research papers. Creating an outline using APA format can help you develop and organize your paper's structure, also keeping you on task as you sit down to write the content.
APA Format Basics
Formatting dictates how papers are styled, which includes their organizational structure, page layout, and how information is presented. APA format is the official style of the American Psychological Association (APA).
Learning the basics of APA format is necessary for writing effective psychology papers, whether for your school courses or if you're working in the field and want your research published in a professional journal. Here are some general APA rules to keep in mind when creating both your outline and the paper itself.
Font and Spacing
According to APA style, research papers are to be written in a legible and widely available font. Traditionally, Times New Roman is used with a 12-point font size. However, other serif and sans serif fonts like Arial or Georgia in 11-point font sizes are also acceptable.
APA format also dictates that the research paper be double-spaced. Each page has 1-inch margins on all sides (top, bottom, left, and right), and the page number is to be placed in the upper right corner of each page.
Both your psychology research paper and outline should include three key sections:
- Introduction : Highlights the main points and presents your hypothesis
- Body : Details the ideas and research that support your hypothesis
- Conclusion : Briefly reiterates your main points and clarifies support for your position
Headings and Subheadings
APA format provides specific guidelines for using headings and subheadings. They are:
- Main headings : Use Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV)
- Subheadings: Use capital letters (A, B, C, D)
If you need further subheadings within the initial subheadings, start with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3), then lowercase letters (a, b, c), then Arabic numerals inside parentheses [(1), (2), (3)]
Before Starting Your APA Format Outline
While APA format does not provide specific rules for creating an outline, you can still develop a strong roadmap for your paper using general APA style guidance. Prior to drafting your psychology research paper outline using APA writing style, taking a few important steps can help set you up for greater success.
Review Your Instructor's Requirements
Look over the instructions for your research paper. Your instructor may have provided some type of guidance or stated what they want. They may have even provided specific requirements for what to include in your outline or how it needs to be structured and formatted.
Some instructors require research paper outlines to use decimal format. This structure uses Arabic decimals instead of Roman numerals or letters. In this case, the main headings in an outline would be 1.0, 1.2, and 1.3, while the subheadings would be 1.2.1, 1.2.2, 1.2.3, and so on.
Consider Your Preferences
After reviewing your instructor's requirements, consider your own preferences for organizing your outline. Think about what makes the most sense for you, as well as what type of outline would be most helpful when you begin writing your research paper.
For example, you could choose to format your headings and subheadings as full sentences, or you might decide that you prefer shorter headings that summarize the content. You can also use different approaches to organizing the lettering and numbering in your outline's subheadings.
Whether you are creating your outline according to your instructor's guidelines or following your own organizational preferences, the most important thing is that you are consistent.
When getting ready to start your research paper outline using APA format, it's also helpful to consider how you will format it. Here are a few tips to help:
- Your outline should begin on a new page.
- Before you start writing the outline, check that your word processor does not automatically insert unwanted text or notations (such as letters, numbers, or bullet points) as you type. If it does, turn off auto-formatting.
- If your instructor requires you to specify your hypothesis in your outline, review your assignment instructions to find out where this should be placed. They may want it presented at the top of your outline, for example, or included as a subheading.
How to Create a Research Paper Outline Using APA
Understanding APA format basics can make writing psychology research papers much easier. While APA format does not provide specific rules for creating an outline, you can still develop a strong roadmap for your paper using general APA style guidance, your instructor's requirements, and your own personal organizational preferences.
Typically you won't need to turn your outline in with your final paper. But that doesn't mean you should skip creating one. A strong paper starts with a solid outline. Developing this outline can help you organize your writing and ensure that you effectively communicate your paper's main points and arguments. Here's how to create a research outline using APA format.
Start Your Research
While it may seem like you should create an outline before starting your research, the opposite is actually true. The information you find when researching your psychology research topic will start to reveal the information you'll want to include in your paper—and in your outline.
As you research, consider the main arguments you intend to make in your paper. Look for facts that support your hypothesis, keeping track of where you find these facts so you can cite them when writing your paper. The more organized you are when creating your outline, the easier it becomes to draft the paper itself.
If you are required to turn in your outline before you begin working on your paper, keep in mind that you may need to include a list of references that you plan to use.
Draft Your Outline Using APA Format
Once you have your initial research complete, you have enough information to create an outline. Start with the main headings (which are noted using Roman numerals I, II, III, etc.). Here's an example of the main headings you may use if you were writing an APA format outline for a research paper in support of using cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety :
- What CBT Is
- How CBT Helps Ease Anxiety
- Research Supporting CBT for Anxiety
- Potential Drawbacks of CBT for Anxiety and How to Overcome Them
Under each main heading, list your main points or key ideas using subheadings (as noted with A, B, C, etc.). Sticking with the same example, subheadings under "What CBT Is" may include:
- Basic CBT Principles
- How CBT Works
- Conditions CBT Has Been Found to Help Treat
You may also decide to include additional subheadings under your initial subheadings to add more information or clarify important points relevant to your hypothesis. Examples of additional subheadings (which are noted with 1, 2, 3, etc.) that could be included under "Basic CBT Principles" include:
- Is Goal-Oriented
- Focuses on Problem-Solving
- Includes Self-Monitoring
Begin Writing Your Research Paper
The reason this step is included when drafting your research paper outline using APA format is that you'll often find that your outline changes as you begin to dive deeper into your proposed topic. New ideas may emerge or you may decide to narrow your topic further, even sometimes changing your hypothesis altogether.
All of these factors can impact what you write about, ultimately changing your outline. When writing your paper, there are a few important points to keep in mind:
- Follow the structure that your instructor specifies.
- Present your strongest points first.
- Support your arguments with research and examples.
- Organize your ideas logically and in order of strength.
- Keep track of your sources.
- Present and debate possible counterarguments, and provide evidence that counters opposing arguments.
Update Your Final Outline
The final version of your outline should reflect your completed draft. Not only does updating your outline at this point help ensure that you've covered the topics you want in your paper, but it also gives you another opportunity to verify that your paper follows a logical sequence.
When reading through your APA-formatted outline, consider whether it flows naturally from one topic to the next. You wouldn't talk about how CBT works before discussing what CBT is, for example. Taking this final step can give you a more solid outline, and a more solid research paper.
American Psychological Association. About APA Style .
Purdue University Online Writing Lab. Types of outlines and samples .
Mississippi College. Writing Center: Outlines .
American Psychological Association. APA style: Style and Grammar Guidelines .
By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."
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Writing Center Outlines: Outlines
In this section, you'll find resources on creating Outlines. Because outlines are not published works, they do not ordinarily require APA formatting. However, assignment instructions can include APA as a grading criteria for your work, and in those instances, you should use APA standards for formatting (Title page) and use of sources (References).
Creating an Outline
An outline is a drafting tool to help you plan your paper. An outline provides structure for the sections and/or paragraphs of your paper, depending on the scope of your project. Please note that APA style does not require any specific formatting for outlines because APA style is intended for published texts and academic essays.
An outline should illustrate the progression of your thesis statement. Since each paragraph should have a main idea supported by evidence, you can use support from your research to outline your paper, paragraph by paragraph
- A thesis statement is a short statement that introduces the argument of your paper as a whole.
- Every paragraph in your paper should begin with a claim/main idea , which will be a debatable assertion or position that requires support. Claims build off one another in order to develop an argument over the course of an essay.
- Every claim should be supported by evidence or support , the proof that validates your claim. Evidence and support usually come from other sources, like peer-reviewed journal articles. This can include facts, data, statistics, anecdotes, and more.
Keep the following tips in mind when creating an outline:
- Remember, outlines should be helpful for you when writing your paper. You should be able to look at your outline and write major sections or paragraphs using the information and ideas in your outline.
- Level 1 bullet points should outline the major topics and ideas of your paper.
- Level 2 bullet points should plan out sub-topics, supporting ideas, and organizational aspects of your essay.
- Level 3 bullet points illustrate an extra level of thought and detail in your outline that you might not need. However, if you have done a lot of research on your topic already, you can use Level 3 bullet points to plan out your analysis for each piece of evidence or where to address specific counterarguments.
- It is not always required, but it can be a good idea to include a references page after your outline. This way, your sources are already organized when you begin drafting your essay.
Full sentence outlines are often accompanied with an APA reference list on a separate page. Quotes within the outline must also utilize APA in-text citations.
Sample Alphanumeric Outline
This downloadable sample alphanumeric outline will help you understand what a completed outline could look like.
Alphanumeric Outline Template
You can use this downloadable alphanumeric outline template to help get you started with your assignment.
This downloadable sample outline will help you understand what a completed outline could look like.
You can use this downloadable outline template to help you get started with your assignment.
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APA Outline Format Examples and Guide
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The guidelines from the American Psychological Association (APA) are used for writing papers and doing assignments in the social sciences. The standard APA format provides guidelines for research papers from the initial title page to the final works cited page . The APA even provides format examples for outlines to be prepared before the paper is written.
Understanding the APA Outline Format
When you look at the basic APA outline format example below, you will see that:
- Roman numerals are used for the main headings in your outline.
- Capital letters are used for the first level of subheadings.
- Arab numerals (1-9 type numbers) are used inside those subheadings.
- Lower-case letters are used below Arab numeral subheadings.
- Arab numerals in parentheses are used below those subheadings.
The full sentence outline follows exactly the same format. The only difference is that you will write a full sentence, rather than a sentence fragment, at each level of the outline.
The APA decimal outline is a rarer format, but by no means unknown. It's the simplest of the bunch. Just break your headings into paragraphs and number them using Arab numerals. The first number indicates the heading, the second number indicates the paragraph, and the third number indicates the point being made.
- The first heading is numbered 1.0.
- The first paragraph in the first heading is 1.1.
- The first point or sentence of your first paragraph is 1.1.1.
- The second sentence is 1.1.2.
- The second sentence of your second paragraph is 1.2.2.
- As you move on to the second heading, you progress to 2.0.
- The first sentence in the first paragraph under your second heading is indicated as 2.1.1.
Your professor should tell you which format they want you to use. If you don't know, ask!
Three Ways to Outline
The best way to gain an understanding of the three distinct forms of the APA outline format is to look at examples. We've provided one example of each:
- APA basic outline
- Full sentence format
- Decimal outline format
Note that the first example is a full-scale outline pattern for you to follow. The other two demonstrate the differences between the APA basic format and the full sentence and decimal outline formats. Always ask your instructor which format they prefer.
APA Basic Outline: College Application Process
The following outline on the college application process illustrates the APA basic outline format. We've also created a downloadable PDF of all three approaches to APA outlines available at the end of this section. Just download and use it as a template, starting at the first Roman numeral.
I. Choose Desired Colleges A. Visit and evaluate college websites Identify tour dates and interesting on-campus events. Student/faculty ratio Retention rate Note important statistics Schedule time with heads of interesting departments B. Visit and evaluate college campuses Take tour Meet with heads of departments On- and off-campus housing Recreation (restaurants, sports, and music venues) Explore area around campus II. Prepare Application A. Write a personal statement Choose an interesting topic Describe an influential person in your life Favorite high school teacher Grandparent 2. Include important personal details Volunteer work Participation in varsity sports B. Revise personal statement III. Compile resume A. List relevant coursework B. List work experience C. List volunteer experience Tutor at foreign language summer camp Volunteer at suicide prevention hotline
APA Full Sentence Format: Greenhouse Gas Essay
As noted above, the only difference between APA basic and a full-sentence outline is that the headings are in full sentences. Again, just start at the first Roman numeral for an APA-compliant full-sentence essay outline.
I. Man-made pollution is the primary cause of global warming. A. Greenhouse gas emissions are widely identified by the scientific community to be harmful. 1. The burning of coal and fossil fuels are the primary releasers of hazardous greenhouse gases. 2. Harmful greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.
Decimal Outline Format: College Selection
Decimal outlines differ from other APA-compliant formats only in their numbering system. Follow that and you're set. Start at 1.0.
1.0 Choose Desired College 1.1 Visit and evaluate college campuses 1.2 Visit and evaluate college websites 1.2.1 Look for interesting classes 1.2.2 Note important statistics
Apa basic outline 4
More tips on creating an outline.
A well-written outline is a valuable tool in crafting the best possible research paper. By building an outline, you establish a structure for what you will say and how you say it. Here are a few tips on creating a great outline:
- Coordination : Coordinating your headings is vital to a well-organized outline. Coordination means that each of your headings has the same amount of significance. That rule also applies to subheadings. If you find one of your headings is of less importance than another, try to incorporate it into a subheading instead.
- Division : Division is the simple rule of keeping your outline sections specific and splitting things up rather than letting them grow verbose. Make sure every subheading serves its heading. If it doesn't, put it elsewhere or delete it.
- Parallelism : Parallelism refers to keeping a consistent structure between headings and subheadings. Use parallelism to keep your outline organized and your writing on topic. If you start each heading with a verb, for example, then all your headings and subheadings should start with a verb.
- Subordination : Subordination is the relationship between the headings and subheadings. Use subordination to keep your headings and subheadings in the right order. Headings should start out general, with subheadings growing more and more specific the deeper they go.
Outlines Are Here to Help
After laying out all these specific guidelines, it may seem like the outline for a paper will be as much work as the paper itself. Not so. By using this structure, you establish a backbone for your paper. From there, all you need to do is build out. It makes the writing process much easier and produces a better result. Bibliography.com offers further guidelines on basic APA citation format .
For more help with formatting, particularly in other disciplines or contexts, take a look at our examples of MLA format and University of Chicago format . Be sure to stick with the style guide your instructor prefers.
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- Research Paper Format | APA, MLA, & Chicago Templates
Research Paper Format | APA, MLA, & Chicago Templates
Published on November 19, 2022 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on January 20, 2023.
The formatting of a research paper is different depending on which style guide you’re following. In addition to citations , APA, MLA, and Chicago provide format guidelines for things like font choices, page layout, format of headings and the format of the reference page.
Scribbr offers free Microsoft Word templates for the most common formats. Simply download and get started on your paper.
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Table of contents
Formatting an apa paper, formatting an mla paper, formatting a chicago paper, frequently asked questions about research paper formatting.
The main guidelines for formatting a paper in APA Style are as follows:
- Use a standard font like 12 pt Times New Roman or 11 pt Arial.
- Set 1 inch page margins.
- Apply double line spacing.
- If submitting for publication, insert a APA running head on every page.
- Indent every new paragraph ½ inch.
Watch the video below for a quick guide to setting up the format in Google Docs.
The image below shows how to format an APA Style title page for a student paper.
If you are submitting a paper for publication, APA requires you to include a running head on each page. The image below shows you how this should be formatted.
For student papers, no running head is required unless you have been instructed to include one.
APA provides guidelines for formatting up to five levels of heading within your paper. Level 1 headings are the most general, level 5 the most specific.
APA Style citation requires (author-date) APA in-text citations throughout the text and an APA Style reference page at the end. The image below shows how the reference page should be formatted.
Note that the format of reference entries is different depending on the source type. You can easily create your citations and reference list using the free APA Citation Generator.
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The main guidelines for writing an MLA style paper are as follows:
- Use an easily readable font like 12 pt Times New Roman.
- Use title case capitalization for headings .
Check out the video below to see how to set up the format in Google Docs.
On the first page of an MLA paper, a heading appears above your title, featuring some key information:
- Your full name
- Your instructor’s or supervisor’s name
- The course name or number
- The due date of the assignment
A header appears at the top of each page in your paper, including your surname and the page number.
Works Cited page
MLA in-text citations appear wherever you refer to a source in your text. The MLA Works Cited page appears at the end of your text, listing all the sources used. It is formatted as shown below.
You can easily create your MLA citations and save your Works Cited list with the free MLA Citation Generator.
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The main guidelines for writing a paper in Chicago style (also known as Turabian style) are:
- Use a standard font like 12 pt Times New Roman.
- Use 1 inch margins or larger.
- Place page numbers in the top right or bottom center.
Chicago doesn’t require a title page , but if you want to include one, Turabian (based on Chicago) presents some guidelines. Lay out the title page as shown below.
Bibliography or reference list
Chicago offers two citation styles : author-date citations plus a reference list, or footnote citations plus a bibliography. Choose one style or the other and use it consistently.
The reference list or bibliography appears at the end of the paper. Both styles present this page similarly in terms of formatting, as shown below.
To format a paper in APA Style , follow these guidelines:
- Use a standard font like 12 pt Times New Roman or 11 pt Arial
- Set 1 inch page margins
- Apply double line spacing
- Include a title page
- If submitting for publication, insert a running head on every page
- Indent every new paragraph ½ inch
- Apply APA heading styles
- Cite your sources with APA in-text citations
- List all sources cited on a reference page at the end
The main guidelines for formatting a paper in MLA style are as follows:
- Use an easily readable font like 12 pt Times New Roman
- Include a four-line MLA heading on the first page
- Center the paper’s title
- Use title case capitalization for headings
- Cite your sources with MLA in-text citations
- List all sources cited on a Works Cited page at the end
The main guidelines for formatting a paper in Chicago style are to:
- Use a standard font like 12 pt Times New Roman
- Use 1 inch margins or larger
- Place page numbers in the top right or bottom center
- Cite your sources with author-date citations or Chicago footnotes
- Include a bibliography or reference list
To automatically generate accurate Chicago references, you can use Scribbr’s free Chicago reference generator .
Cite this Scribbr article
If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.
Caulfield, J. (2023, January 20). Research Paper Format | APA, MLA, & Chicago Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved February 26, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/research-paper/research-paper-format/
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10+ APA Research Paper Examples [Download Now]
You take the last sip from your fourth cup of coffee. Caffeine no longer works for you, but it just tastes like you have been productive. Every tired tap of the keyboard breaks the silence of the night. You reread the last line you typed. Backspace, backspace. Your eyes dart to your phone—Thirty minutes until your paper is due and 11 Twitter notifications. You string profanities with every breath. Must writing research papers always be this tedious?
We don’t graduate from school without having our encounters with research papers . This has become an unofficial rite of passage that most schools share, to the despair of the students. We have been told that research papers are an integral part of higher learning. It helps boost our critical thinking and writing skills. But these definitions seem removed and distant from us. It may be why we treat writing our papers as simply a requirement that we have to comply with to pass the course. Although we are acquainted with various formats in writing, students are most familiar with APA style in research papers. As we chase deadlines, a part of us wonders why we are forced to write these papers when not all of us will head down the research path.
Longest-running chat box
Unlike what we’d like to believe, research is not just a transcription of facts paraphrased from another transcript. It boomed soon after progress in communication. In its basic form, it is a means of correspondence from one inquisitive mind to the next. Think of it as a chat box with a more academic and formal interface. You state something, and the other members in the chat either support or refute the first idea. Only you couple each reply with ten or a hundred pages of explanation. Following this perspective, we have been replying to dead people, and babies who haven’t been born will soon be responding to us. Therefore, when you’re writing a research paper about relativity, you’re also talking to Einstein!
Oligopoly of writing styles
When you are relaying information, you can do so in multiple styles. Think of it as a maze with dozens of pathways that open to one exit. Because your paper followed a familiar path, your reader would have no trouble going through the information maze. When people adhere to the same writing style for their discipline, the transfer of information becomes more effortless. In academic writing, you are generally required to write in a specific writing style. Among MLA, APA, Chicago, and CSE styles, APA style creates a comprehensible flow of ideas for the content. The writing and citation style is direct and easy to understand. It is also easy for readers to use the reference page when they want to verify the content. The consistency of style in a specific discipline allows for smoother transfer of information.
Anatomy of a research paper
The price of simplifying complex concepts is the liberty to structure your paper in any way you want. However, this restriction proved to be an asset for the APA writing style. Because people in the same discipline use the same style, people can follow the flow of ideas smoothly. One of the tricks you can use in writing your research paper is preparing an outline . Outlines let you arrange your ideas logically later on. You can start by dissecting the parts of a paper into headers.
You indicate on this page the name of the study, the authors, and their associated institution. There are multiple derivatives to the format, but the content is similar throughout the different studies.
Your abstract contains an overview of your entire study. Liken this section to a 90-minute film condensed into 5 minutes. You will write your research’s synopsis in a few sentences, usually in 150 words.
This is the meat and blood of your research paper. It contains the backstory of your study. You will describe how you performed the study. Your results and discussion paint a picture of what happened and why it happened.
The reference page is a list of studies that helped you in your research. It is like a thank-you list for the researchers that contributed to the writing of your paper.
9+ APA Research Paper Examples
After you have prepared the things you would need to write, you can start expounding on your ideas using the following guides in writing your APA research paper.
1. APA Research Paper Template
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- Apple Pages
Size: 166 KB
2. Sample APA Research Paper
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Chatting in APA
Even in day-to-day conversations, there can be times when we can’t say what we mean and mean what we say. This is a no-no in research where you have to relay an overwhelming amount of information. Since the info cannot be effectively contained in short replies or emails, researchers talk via research papers. Since we are bound to participate in the academic conversation, how do we improve our communication skill?
1. Proper Introductions
Imagine that there is a Netflix for research papers, and people would just scroll past yours because your title is bland. Unlike movie posters, you don’t have bright colors to attract your readers. A catchy title is even more necessary. Your challenge is making it attractive, informative, and interesting with just a few words. You can develop several titles from a list of keywords from your research paper. Select the few ones that sound good to you, or ask your friends to choose which they like best.
2. Our RRL Ordeal
No one hates literature reviews more than students. You have to read a lot of articles and synthesize their content. A literature review contains the studies about your subject that will help answer your research question. You also have to explain what makes that research significant for your paper. As your review gets longer, you might stray from your research question. One way to keep yourself on track is to make a physical note your research objectives . Having a reminder around while writing your Review of Related Literature will help you tie together all your points in the review.
3. Paint Me a Picture
Suppose you drew something beautiful. Now you are instructing another person over the phone to replicate your drawing down to the smallest detail. This is what writing research methodology should be like. For the art to be replicated, the instructions you’ll give must be clear. The methods should help answer the research questions. It is encouraged that you use the established approach that has been tried in related research. However, you can also propose a method for the study, as long as you justify why there is a need for such.
4. Do NOT Cram
This tip is all over blogs about writing a research paper and about school. However, procrastination remains the main reason why you are still revising at 11:50 PM, 10 minutes before the deadline. Arduous tasks are even more stressful when you keep looking for excuses not to do them. Remember, you cannot rush quality. Instead, work smarter by distributing your workload across several days. The earlier you start writing your APA research paper, the more time you’ll have to relax with Netflix and pizza and do other projects.
At least twice in your life, you will pour long hours on a research paper. Since they are inevitable, you can make those hours a more rewarding experience instead. Writing doesn’t have to be so difficult a task when you understand what you’re doing. The next time you have a research paper assignment, incorporate these guides and tips! And who knows, you might actually come to love research.
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Types of Outlines and Samples
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This is the most common type of outline and usually instantly recognizable to most people. The formatting follows these characters, in this order:
- Roman Numerals
- Capitalized Letters
- Arabic Numerals
- Lowercase Letters
If the outline needs to subdivide beyond these divisions, use Arabic numerals inside parentheses and then lowercase letters inside parentheses. Select the "Sample Outlines" PDF in the Media Box above to download the sample of this outline.
The sample PDF in the Media Box above is an example of an outline that a student might create before writing an essay. In order to organize her thoughts and make sure that she has not forgotten any key points that she wants to address, she creates the outline as a framework for her essay.
What is the assignment?
Your instructor asks the class to write an expository (explanatory) essay on the typical steps a high school student would follow in order to apply to college.
What is the purpose of this essay?
To explain the process for applying to college
Who is the intended audience for this essay?
High school students intending to apply to college and their parents
What is the essay's thesis statement?
When applying to college, a student follows a certain process which includes choosing the right schools and preparing the application materials.
Full Sentence Outlines
The full sentence outline format is essentially the same as the Alphanumeric outline. The main difference (as the title suggests) is that full sentences are required at each level of the outline. This outline is most often used when preparing a traditional essay. Select the "Sample Outlines" PDF in the Media Box above to download the sample of this outline.
The decimal outline is similar in format to the alphanumeric outline. The added benefit is a system of decimal notation that clearly shows how every level of the outline relates to the larger whole. Select the "Sample Outlines" PDF in the Media Box above to download the sample of this outline.