Writing in Psychology

Writing in Psychology

APA 7th Edition “HOW TO” GUIDE

In Psychology, we use the formatting guidelines as set out in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA), 7th Edition. This is a starter guide to the APA formatting guidelines. This guide is not all-inclusive, but will help get you started for your first assignment. The main sections of the laboratory report are the title page, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion and references.

Title Page

For our purposes, your title page should also include a title, your name, student ID number, tutor’s name, tutorial time, and due date (see example below). The title should summarise the main idea of the paper simply and with style (recommended length 10 – 12 words).

Title Name: Student ID Number: Tutor: Tutorial: Due Date:


The abstract starts on a new page after the title page with the heading “Abstract”. The heading is a Level 1 heading (see Headings section in handout for APA style headings). It is easiest to write the abstract last as it is a summary of the report (approximately 100 to 120 words). The abstract should summarise: the problem under investigation (the aim); participant characteristics (including the number, age, gender and any other relevant information); the method (including materials and procedure); the findings (including statistical significance levels); and a concluding statement based upon the findings (this may also include implications of the research). Note that the abstract length does not count towards the word limit of the report.


The introduction starts on a new page. The title of the report will serve as a Header for the Introduction. In the introduction you will need to introduce the problem, develop the background and state the purpose or rationale of the current study.

When introducing the problem (approximately one paragraph) consider what the area of research is, what the purpose of study in this area is (consider more generally what the implications of research in

this area may be – the purpose of the specific study is considered later) and what the theoretical propositions are that are being tested. It is important to define the theoretical concepts being studied.

To develop the background the introduction should provide a summary of the literature in the field. This summary should not be exhaustive, instead write for a reader who has some knowledge in the field. The background summary should tell the reader what research has already been done in this area, what the theoretical implications of the current study are and how it relates to previous work in the field, and how the current work continues logically from previous work.

Finally, the introduction should state the purpose or the rationale of the current study in the closing paragraph. This should reflect the information already presented in the introduction and tie it to the current study. In this section the aim and the hypotheses should be clearly stated for the reader. At the end of the introduction the reader should have a very clear idea about why you conducted the study, and what you expected to happen.


The method follows on from the introduction (does not start on a new page) and is a 1st level heading “Method”. The method provides the reader with an account of how the experiment was conducted. The information in the method should be clear and detailed enough to allow other researchers to be able to replicate your experiment. The method consists of three sub-sections: participants, materials and procedure. Note that there should be no text between the method heading and the participant sub-heading.


The sub-heading “Participants” should follow immediately under the methods heading and is a 2nd level heading. In the participants section report the procedures for selecting and assigning participants and whether any benefits were offered for participation (i.e. receiving credit points). Report major demographic characteristics (gender and age) and any other characteristics which might be relevant to the study. Give the total number of participants and if applicable, the number assigned to each group. If any participants did not complete the experiment, report how many and why.


The materials starts with a 2nd level heading “Materials” and briefly describes the materials used to conduct the experiment. This includes any stimuli used, or any published survey materials.


The procedure starts with a 2nd level heading “Procedure” and summarises each step in the execution of the research. Make sure to include instructions to participants, formation of groups (if relevant) and a step by step recount of the specific experimental manipulation. When writing the method, it is important that all sections are expressed in sentences – do not use bullet points within a lab report.


The results follows on from the method section (does not start on a new page) with a 1st level heading “Results”. The results summarises the results found and statistical analyses done. It is important not to interpret the results in the results section – interpretation of the results is presented in the discussion.

Mention all relevant results, including those that are not consistent with the hypothesis reported in the introduction.


The discussion follows on from the results section (does not start on a new page) with a 1st level heading “Discussion”. The discussion should start with a clear statement of support or non-support for the original hypothesis. The discussion should then go on to integrate the findings (presented in the results) with the existing literature (presented in the introduction). There should be no new theoretical information (all relevant theory should have been presented in the introduction). The discussion should also include a brief critique of the limitations of the study and provide suggestions for the future directions of the research.


Use an APA 1st Level Heading with the heading “References” on a new page. APA reference lists should be presented double spaced, in 12 point Times New Roman font, have no spaces between references, with handing indentation (to crease a hanging indent in Word, highlight the text and press Ctrl

+ T), in alphabetical order (by leading author surname). Only include references that are actually cited in the report but make sure that you include all sources cited in the report. See the following page for how to reference different sources. For more information on referencing, please refer to the Referencing Guide on LearnJCU and the JCU LibGuides APA Referencing Guide

General Formatting Tips

When submitting your assignment make sure that your whole assignment is formatted in Times New Roman, 12 point font, double spaced (including the References) and include page numbers in the upper right corner. The following table includes a summary of the types of headings used in APA reports.

Level of HeadingFormat
1Centred, Boldface, Upper and Lowercase Heading
2Flush Left, Boldface, Upper and Lowercase Heading
3Indented, boldface, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period.
4Indented, boldface, italicised, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period.
5Indented, italicised, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period.
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