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PY3102: Social Psychology Guide: APA Research Paper Outline

Research report outline in APA style

Note this outline is based on APA 6th edition. For information about layout for APA 7th edition please refer to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th edition.


An abstract should be:

  • Accurate
  • Non-evaluative (i.e., the abstract reports rather than evaluates results)
  • Coherent and readable
  • Concise.

Report abstracts should:

  • State the problem being investigated
  • Give information on participants (including any characteristics of participants relevant to the study, e.g., age, sex or occupation)
  • Outline the methodology used in the study
  • Give the basic findings out of study
  • Briefly outline any conclusions, implications or applications of the study
  • Range between 150-250 words, although this varies between journals
  • How to write an abstract in APA.


The introduction starts on a new page. It does not have the heading “Introduction”, instead the title of the report is used. This title is in upper and lower case letters and centered on the page (see APA style sample papers). The introduction section has three main components:

  • An outline of the problem/issue being investigated – State what is being researched and why.
  • A description of the previous research into the problem/issue – Outline research that has previously been conducted on the topic and link that research to the current study. Demonstrate that the current study is a logical extension of the previous research into the topic.
  • A section outlining the hypotheses of the study – State what questions your study is asking and how you will answer those questions. You should be providing a rationale for each hypothesis
  • How to write an introduction.


The method section should provide enough detail to allow others to assess the appropriateness of your methodology and/or replicate your study. The method section will be divided into subheadings and those subheadings will differ depending on what kind of study is being reported. Useful subheadings may include:

  • Participants – Describe the sample in adequate detail. Including details of the sample is important because those details may have consequences in terms of the generalisability of results. While details to include will depend on the study, number of participants, age and gender make up of participants is almost always reported. Report means and standard deviations where appropriate. Also include information about your sampling procedure. If the sampling procedure is quite complicated it may warrant its own subheading.
  • Dependent Measures and Covariates – Describe the dependent measures used in the study (and if applicable, any covariate measures used). If your survey consists of several pre-existing scales give details of each scale. For example you may want to include details such as item response type, number of items, and reported psychometric properties (such as Cronbach’s alpha).
  • Procedure – Again this section will depend on what type of study is being conducted. For a survey you will want to give the details of how your survey was administered. You may want to include details such as (but not limited to): instructions given to participants, where and under what conditions participants completed surveys, how long surveys took to complete.
  • How to write a method section.


In the results section you report your findings you should:

  • Report your findings in a logical order, e.g., moving from descriptive statistics to t-tests.
  • Avoid interpreting your results and discussing their implications in the results sections (save something for the discussion section!). However, you will want to state whether the results supported your hypotheses.
  • Using tables is a useful way to summarise data (especially if you have many variables). However, using tables is not an alternative to reporting results in the text, i.e., if you put it in a table you should also be discussing it in the text.
  • Ensure you are aware of the specific rules in terms of presenting tables, figures and statistics in APA format so make sure to check out the relevant sections of the PY3102 Tips for writing in APA style Library Guide subtab.
  • How to write a results section.

Discussion Section

In the discussion section you must clearly explain your results. The APA recommends starting a discussion section by clearly stating whether the study supports you hypotheses. If the study supports some hypotheses but not others, give reasons as to why these particular hypotheses were not supported.

Some other questions you can think about when writing your results section are:

  • Are your results consistent or inconsistent with previous findings?
  • If they are inconsistent, why might this be?
  • Are there any alternative explanations of your results?

You may want to also include subheadings such as:

  • Limitations of the Study – Here you can discuss problems with the study such as limited generalizability of results, problems with internal validity and problems with the scales used to measure the dependant variables.
  • Future Research – Here you can discuss how researchers in the future can further expand on this study and/or the rest of the literature on the topic to clarify disparities in theory and reduce the limitations of future studies.
  • Implications – Here you would discuss the real world implications of your study. Discuss the “theoretical, clinical, or practical significance” of the study (APA, 2010, p. 36). You might also want to think about how the knowledge garnered from this study be used to improve society?
  • Writing a research report APA style: Discussion section.


As always, you will be required to provide a reference list in APA 6th edition format.

American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Washington, D.C: American Psychological Association.

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