Posted: December 29th, 2022

How to write an APA research paper outline

Writing research or an essay paper is a normal assignment for students. Research writing or other theoretical assignments could be cumbersome to some students, especially newbies. Writing these papers is time-consuming and mentally exhausting. It could be even harder when you have not settled on a topic.

Depending on the institution or the instructor, writing formats could vary. There are a number of formats, i.e., Chicago style format, MLA format, and APA format, among others. Students find this overwhelming, especially when they don’t know the approved format. Let us delve further into how to write an APA research paper outline.

How to start writing an APA research paper outline

The first question that comes to mind is what the APA format in research is. This is a format of noting sources by the American Psychological Association. This format of citing sources is mostly used in social science papers and is mostly approved format for research paper citation, among others. The APA research paper outline has a specific outline that distinguishes it from the other formats.

The APA format outline contains three major parts: the introduction, body, and conclusion. Let us see the major parts of the APA in detail. So what are the three elements of APA?

Three elements of APA

Below are the 3 major parts:

  1. The title page

This is the introductory part of the paper that contains the details such as name, name of the institution, and the date of publication

  1. The body

This is the major content of the assignment. The body should contain all the details supporting the thesis statement.

  1. The conclusion

This part should generally support the thesis statement using the finding.

After the three major elements, the APA research paper has four major parts. The question is, what are the 4 major sections of an APA paper? The difference is in the details. The four major parts apply to a research paper, while the three elements are the general overview of the Apa outline in essays.

The four major sections of an APA paper

  1. The title page

Part one contains the required background information. The title page contains the name of the author, the research or dissertation title, and the institution’s name. Below is the format of a title page:

  • The rule of double spacing must be considered
  • Times New Roman font 12’’ is the standard font
  • The content must be centrally placed
  • The title must be in title case
  • The title must be in bold
  • A 1-inch margin must be considered

The following is the content on the title page for both the professional and student formats.

  • The title page must contain a running head
  • The name of the author
  • Name of the institution
  • For students, the course code should be indicated, and the administration number
  • The page number and the project date must be indicated
  • The instructor’s name must be indicated

2.      The abstract

This is the summary of the entire content of the research topic. This is like a compass direction to the reader. It should contain the summary of the topic in question, methods used in the research, data collection, analysis done, and the conclusion of the research. The clearer the abstract, the more attractive it can become to the reader.  It should not be longer than 250 words. Avoid fluff words on the abstract. Below is the layout of the abstract:

  • The word abstract must be centered with no bold, no italics, or punctuation marks
  • When beginning a sentence, write a key point to catch the attention of the reader
  • No indenting while writing an abstract
  • It should be one single paragraph
  • Remember the rule of double pacing
  • 12’ inch font size
  • The recommended font type is Times New Roman

3.      The body

The main content of the research topic. The body should contain all the information in the introduction, the main content of the research, and the conclusion drawn from the main body. Let us now start digging deeper into the subsections of the body as below;

  • The introduction

A good research/ dissertation paper must have a statement. In the introduction, you must introduce the thesis statement. In the introduction, express your views and why you chose the statement. What do you wish to agree or disagree with in your research?

Ensure to underline your thesis statement because it is the most critical part of the paper that seeks answers for validation or disapproval.

  • The main body

After the introduction of the body, the body contains the main content of your research. The methods of data collection, analysis, and interpretation should appear here. Articulate each paragraph with points that are redirection to the thesis statement.

Use as much sample of evidence as you can to prove your thesis statement.

  • The conclusion

As you conclude the body, draw all your previous details into short, precise sentences to back your findings. Bring all your summary finding into a clearer version for the reader. In conclusion, you must ensure that your thesis statement is approved.  You could go further by suggesting any further research that could be done on the statement.

Below is the proper outline of the content in the body section of a research paper:

  1. The rule of double spacing must be considered
  2. The font size must be 12’ points
  3. The inch margin be at 1
  4. The thesis statement must be underlined
  5. All elements must be on their separate lines

4.      The references

These are source documents that support your research content. They give your work authenticity by showing where the contents originated. It also shows the reader how well-placed your knowledge is concerning the research statement.

Referencing can be both primary and secondary. The reference list should contain the author’s name, the date the article was published, the title of the article, and any other details peculiar to the article. The list must be:

  • Written on the new page
  • The citation should follow the center order
  • Authors’ names must be in alphabetical order
  • In the case of multiple authors in one article with the same year of publication, the rule of alphabetical order of the author’s name be followed.

In-Text referencing in APA format

An in-text citation must be included when an author’s work is quoted within the content writing. This is to authenticate the source of the content.

Referencing of In-text can be paraphrased or directly quoted within the body of the research. The in-text references should be the same as the reference in the final list. The references in the text should contain the author’s surname and the date the article was published.

Example of an in-text citation: Dorothy (2023) states… Or (Dorothy, 2023). The arrangement is dependent if it is quoted directly or paraphrased.

There could be more than one author. In this case, there is a slight difference in the arrangement of the author’s name as below:

In the case of two authors:

The author’s surname is written conjoined by the article ‘and.’ An ampersand sign could also be used instead of the article ‘and.’

For example:

Rollo and Corey (2023) say that…/(Omolloh & Corey 2023).

More than three authors

If there are more than three authors, the list of all the authors should be listed before the publication date and separated by a ‘coma.’


Corey, Dorothy, Chrystal, and Hepburn (2023) state that/ (Corey, Dorothy, Chrystal & Hepburn 2023) In case of more, the author’s name can be shortened followed by the notation et al.:

Example: Dorothy et al. (2023)

In summary

American Psychological Association format is majorly used in scientific research. Although there are other writing formats, students or researchers tend to choose from the three to use. Writing an APA research paper outline requires the below general rules

  • The rule of double spacing must be adhered to
  • 1 in margin consideration
  • Recommended 12-point font size
  • Times New Roman as the recommended fort type or Aerial 11
  • The page numbering must be at the top right corner of the paper

With the nuggets on how to write your research paper using APA format, you can now write your research paper. However, it is understandable if you are still in limbo.

In APA format, there are standard and irreducible outline that has to be considered. Below is an overall format for all APA articles for students and professional researchers. Depending on the type of writing, there is a slight difference in newspapers, journals, audiovisuals, and books.

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