Guide to Organizing APA Research Paper: Order of Sections

APA format is the most common writing style for colleges and academic research journals. There are rules guiding writing an academic paper in APA format; we will look at them in this article.

An APA-style research paper typically consists of the title page, abstract, introduction, methodology, results, discussion, references, and appendices where applicable. Keep reading to learn how to organize an APA research paper, including the significant and other sections.

What are the major components of an APA paper?

An APA-style academic paper has four major components: the title page, abstract, main body, and reference page. Below is an overview of an APA research paper order:

The Introduction section

The introduction part is the first significant component of an APA research paper; it documents what the topic is about and its importance. The introduction explains why studying the paper is worth it and identifies the research gap the paper will address. It will identify unresolved issues in the related field of the research topic and its overview to be discussed in detail later.

The Methods section

The APA format methods section covers information on what you did in the research and how. It features a description of the subjects used in the study, the study design, procedure, and materials used. If you conducted more than one experiment, you’d need to create a separate methods section for each. However, there should be enough detail to make replicating your research work possible.

The Results section

The results section of a research paper APA style will describe the data you collected during the research. It will also contain the results of every statistical test you performed in the study. You may preface this section with a description of the analysis procedure you used. As in the methods section, you’ll need to create different results sections if you conducted multiple experiments.

The Discussion section

The discussion section of a research paper APA structure will discuss the significance of your results and findings. It features a summary of the results obtained in the study and how they address the research topic. It will discuss the limitations and directions for future research and may expand upon the implications of the findings.

Variations in academic paper APA structure

The sections we listed are the major parts of an APA paper, but there are variations in the pattern. They include:

  • Multi-Experiment articles: the APA paper structure may be different if there were multiple experiments conducted. In this case, the structure may be like this: Introduction – experiment 1 with methods, results, and discussion – experiment 2 in the same structure. The experiments list will continue until all the experiments conducted have been covered. Then, the discussion section will follow, where all the experiments will be discussed generally, with references and appendices (optional).
  • Literature reviews: authors may omit the Methods and Results section if they review prior published research articles. The structure above has to do with new empirical research papers. The review article structure will include an introduction, different sections for the various research body aspects, and then maybe a discussion.

Example of APA outline for research paper: general APA formatting rules

APA-style research papers follow strict rules to ensure they stay professional and publishable. Below is an outline of a typical APA-style research paper, along with the general rules.

  • Title Page: it should contain ten to twelve words and reflect the paper content, title, name, and double spacing with no extra spaces.
  • Abstract: the abstract should be labeled, not bold, and centered; it should be only one paragraph, with no indent, double-spaced, and no more than 120 words.
  • Introduction: the introduction is often the hardest to write because it has strict rules. For example, don’t label it as “Introduction,” put the paper title at the top of the page, not bold. It starts out broad, though not too broad, and gets more focused at the end.
  • Methods: this section should be labeled, centered, and bold; Methods section writing is straightforward but requires precision.
  • Materials: the Materials section should be labeled, flush left, and bolded; describe questionnaires used in detail where applicable.
  • Results: describe the data analysis method and your findings; you can break complex data into labeled subsections.
  • Discussion: interpret your findings in broader contexts, starting with the specifics and ending with the general.
  • References: an alphabetical listing of the articles and previous papers used in the study, double-spaced with no extra paces.


Structuring a research paper requires some measure of skill and attention to detail, which often makes it appear not very easy. However, if you follow these steps closely (you can read more for more information), you’ll find it easier. You can also check online for samples of APA-style papers for a practical guide on APA paper structuring.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *