If your instructor has asked you to write an APA format essay, it might at first seem like a rather daunting task, especially if you are accustomed to using another style such as MLA or Chicago. Before you begin your essay, familiarize yourself with some of the basics.
The following tips offer some useful guidelines that will help you prepare your paper and ensure that it is formatted properly.
What Is APA Format?
Whether you’re taking an introductory or a graduate-level psychology class, chances are strong that you will have to write at least one paper during the course of the semester.
In almost every case, you will need to write your paper in APA format, the official publication style of the American Psychological Association.
APA format is used in a range of disciplines including psychology, education, and other social sciences. The format dictates presentation elements of your paper including spacing, margins, and how the content is structured.
While it might seem like something you can just gloss over, most instructors, as well as publication editors, have strict guidelines when it comes to how your format your writing. Not only does adhering to APA format allow readers to know what to expect from your paper, it also means that your work will not lose critical points over minor formatting errors.
While this guide offers some basic tips on how to present your APA format essay, you should always check with your teacher for more specific instructions.
Basics of an APA Format Essay
- There should be uniform margins of at least one-inch at the top, bottom, left, and right sides of your essay.
- Your paper should be double-spaced.
- Every page of your essay should include a running head at the top left. The running head is a shortened form of your title, often the first few words, and should be no more than 50 characters (including spaces).
- Every page should also include a page number in the top right corner.
- Your essay should also have a title page in APA format. This title page should include the title of your paper, your name and school affiliation. In some instances, your teacher might require additional information such as the course title, instructor name and the date.
- The title of your paper should be concise and clearly describe what your paper is about.
- Your title can extend to two lines but it should be no longer than 12 words.
- Your essay should also include a reference list. Located at the end of your paper, the reference section is a list of all the sources that were cited in your essay. References should be listed alphabetically by the last name of the author, and they should also be double-spaced.
- The first word of each paragraph in your paper should be indented one-half inch.
- The American Psychological Association recommends using Times New Roman size 12 font.
- While the formatting requirements for your paper might vary depending upon your instructor's directions, your essay will most likely need to include a title page, abstract, introduction, body, conclusion, and reference sections.
Tips for Writing an Essay in APA Format
In addition to ensuring that you cite your sources properly and present information according to the rules of APA style, there are a number of things you can do to make the writing process a little bit easier.
Start by choosing a good topic to write about. Ideally, you want to select a subject that is specific enough to let you fully research and explore the topic, but not so specific that you have a hard time finding sources of information. If you choose something too specific, you may find yourself with not enough to write about; if you choose something too general, you might find yourself overwhelmed with information.
Second, start doing research as early as possible. Begin by looking at some basic books and articles on your topic. Once you are more familiar with the subject, create a preliminary source list of potential books, articles, essays, and studies that you may end up using in your essay.
As you write your essay, be sure to keep careful track of the sources that you cite. Remember, any source used in your essay must be included in your reference section. Conversely, any source listed in your references must be cited somewhere in the body of your paper.
After you have prepared a rough draft of your essay, it is time to revise, review, and prepare your final draft. In addition to making sure that your writing is cohesive and supported by your sources, you should also watch carefully for typos, grammar errors and possible problems with APA format.
Writing your first APA format essay can be a little intimidating at first, but learning some of the basic rules of APA style can help. Always remember, however, to consult the directions provided by your instructor for each assignment.
American Psychological Association. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington DC: The American Psychological Association; 2010.
Lee, C. Running head format for APA style papers. APA Style Blog. 2010.
Sally Baggett holds a master’s in literature. She enjoys inspiring students, cooking with her family, and helping others achieve their dreams.
Just like there is more than one way to skin a cat (or so they say), there is more than one way to write an essay. One is not required to produce a perfectly formatted five-paragraph essay every time one composes a piece of writing. There is another type of essay you can write that may just be simpler than the traditional style: the three-paragraph essay. This type of essay might be beneficial for beginning writers as it offers the organizational structure of a longer essay without requiring the length. It also offers a challenge to more advanced writers to condense their points.
The Parts of the Essay and Its Benefits
As with most essays, the three-paragraph essay has three parts: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Yet with this type of essay–unlike its five-paragraph counterpart–each one of these sections has only one paragraph. The three-paragraph essay, therefore, might be ideal for young writers or those who are currently mastering the English language.
Another benefit to the three-paragraph essay could be that it requires you to condense your supporting points into just one, which can be a good exercise. If you had to choose only one point to convince a reader to agree with you, what would it be?
After performing some light prewriting, such as brainstorming or writing an outline, students can move right into composing the essay. While this process is similar across the board for writing academic papers, the three-paragraph essay is unique in that the body will take up less space in the finished product.
An outline for this essay might look like this:
- Introduction Paragraph
- Background Points
- Thesis Statement
- Body Paragraph
- Topic Sentence
- Supporting fact 1
- Supporting fact 2
- Transition Sentence
- Topic Sentence
- Conclusion Paragraph
- Re-statement of Thesis
- Summary of Main Point
- Challenge to the Reader
Paragraph One: Introduction
As with most formal essays, the three-paragraph essay begins with an introduction paragraph. Such paragraphs must, obviously, introduce the reader to your idea and, in most cases, convince the reader that this essay is worth reading. To craft a strong introduction, be sure to open with a solid hook. You want to draw in readers so they are compelled to engage with your writing.
A hook can be something compelling such as a question, a powerful quote, or an interesting fact. Introduction paragraphs also usually contain background information that assists the reader in understanding your topic, perhaps defining it or explaining an important part. Finally, you want to include a thesis statement. Even though your essay only has three paragraphs, there still needs to be a purpose to the writing.
You could structure your introduction paragraph according to this outline:
- Introduction Paragraph
- Hook: Is there no solution for dumping waste in the ocean?
- Background Points
- Explain why trash is dumped in the ocean
- Statistics about dumping trash in the ocean
- Thesis Statement: Dumping waste in the ocean is a problem because it spells disaster for the ecosystem, leading to problems on land.
This structure is not mandatory, though it might be useful in the long run for organizing your thoughts.
Paragraph Two: Body
The second paragraph, as we have discussed, is the one and only body paragraph. This paragraph bears the burden of communicating support for the thesis statement all on its own. As such, it may take more than one rough draft to get this paragraph to communicate everything you want it to.
Your body paragraph needs to underscore the thesis statement. Create a topic sentence for this body paragraph that communicates this and also transitions from the introduction into the body. For example, your body paragraph topic sentence based on the outline above could be:
One of those problems might play itself out as food scarcity where humans live.
This topic sentence reiterates the thesis and moves the reader into a body paragraph that contains a supporting point: that damage to the ocean’s ecosystem could lead to food scarcity. Within the body paragraph, you can quote different sources that support this point.
Again, this paragraph does not have room to contain everything that a full five-paragraph essay might. But that doesn’t mean you can’t fit in some strong evidence to convince your reader to see your perspective, such as is accomplished through quotes and analysis. Don’t forget to end with a strong transition sentence to move the reader seamlessly into the conclusion.
Paragraph Three: Conclusion
The final paragraph in an essay is usually the conclusion. The three-paragraph essay is no exception. In this essay, the conclusion can be just as long as the other two paragraphs, and it can drive home the point made in the thesis statement and body paragraph. As with most conclusion paragraphs, this paragraph ought to restate the thesis in different words. It should then summarize what was stated in the body paragraph before challenging the reader in some way, whether in thought or action.
Editing Before Turning It In
One thing to be sure of in this type of essay (as in any other) is to polish it. Make it flow well. In other words, revise it!
Before beginning the revision process, take a break from your writing so that you can look at it with fresh eyes. Once you start revising, hunt not only for grammar and punctuation errors but for ways to make the writing flow better. Take a look at the sentences at the beginning and end of each paragraph. Do these sentences contain transition words? Do these paragraphs link to each other? Transition words or phrases like “Likewise,” “In spite of,” or “In addition to” can ensure that your paragraphs are coherent. There are also other services that will automatically proofread you paper.
If you used any sources (i.e. websites, books, videos, etc.) to help support your points and write your paper, you need to cite them! Most teachers will ask you to create a bibliography in MLA format. Others may have you one in APA format, or create references in Chicago style. Ask your teacher for guidance on what citation style they prefer.
Don’t forget that you aren’t limited to using this type of essay for just persuasion. You can also use it to relate a narrative tale, using the three parts as the beginning, middle, and end of a story. You can use this to craft an informative essay. See if other types of essays–such as a process analysis or an evaluation–will fit inside the three-paragraph essay format.
In many ways, the three-paragraph essay is similar to the five-paragraph essay. They both make a solid point using an introduction, body, and conclusion. This simpler essay only requires that you condense your points into one body paragraph, perhaps only one supporting point, before reaching a conclusion. Again, this can make a good exercise for beginning English writers, but can also make a challenge for a more advanced writer to select their strongest supporting points.