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Introduction to APA Format



Psyched for Research

Lesson 3:
Introduction to APA Format

Activity Description/Rationale                                                       

Before students can begin writing their papers, they should be introduced to APA format. Seeing as this is the format used by scientific professionals, and likely the format they will use throughout college, this is an important introduction. Additionally, having the students prepare their papers in the same format creates ease for the teacher/grader. Having a writing teacher collaborate with this aspect of your course is also an extremely helpful resource. For example, ask the writing teacher to pay special attention to APA format in their writing/English classes. One could even attempt to set up an after-school tutoring lesson that includes the English teacher. 

NYS Standards: Content Knowledge & Inquiry, Analysis, and Design

This lesson focuses on formatting; students will be introduced to basic writing concepts as it pertains to the formatting of their paper.

Common Core Learning Standards

Common Core reading and writing standards will be addressed, as students are expected to locate, read, analyze, break down, and understand scientific journal articles as they relate to their projects. They are expected to locate a number of articles that they can link together to form a coherent APA-formatted review of a scientific topic that can later be used to assist them in analyzing and writing results of their independent projects. Additionally, involving the English teacher in this lesson ensures that students will get a proper lesson in writing, while also having your scientific expertise. For example, many writing teachers focus on MLA-style “fluffy” writing, while science encourages concise writing. This is where you and the English teacher could work together to bring proper writing under the realm of science into the classroom. 

As always, Common Core speaking, listening, and language standards will be thoroughly tested throughout this lesson, as students will be required to partake in general class discussions, as well as present their individual background research, methods, and results of their aerodynamics/paper airplane project. Students will use feedback they receive from their peers and mentors to continuously improve their presentation and writing skills. This is a common theme throughout the entire course and applies to all lessons and activities.

Goals: Process Skills (Basic & Integrated) and Attitudes/ (Enduring Understandings & Essential Questions)

Students will learn APA format through seeing examples demonstrated by the teacher, and employing a class discussion. Students will also be taught how to format properly using Microsoft Word, so the teacher should be very familiar with both APA format and using Microsoft Word.

Universal Design for Learning/Differentiation

Students will be instructed to think about what kind of project they can design from the beginning of the course, knowing that at some point they will have to write a research proposal that will be critiqued and hopefully approved. Over the course of the ARM, students will hand in small portions of their final APA-formatted paper, such that they will continuously receive feedback on their progress. Students will also assist each other using peer review methods and constructive criticism. The general knowledge they gather over the course of this ARM will allow them to develop this independent project in any number of areas that may be of interest to them. If available, students will be paired with a mentor that is an expert in the field they have chosen. For instance, students may work with a college professor in their laboratory, conducting studies alongside graduate students.


Materials for this project are the use of a computer for Microsoft Word and screen projection, the APA Publication Manual, and any additional helpful resources such as the Purdue OWL website. If possible, this lesson should be conducted in a computer lab.

Estimated Length of Activity:

This activity should span approximately two 40-minute class periods.


Students should be familiar with Microsoft Word.

Activity Instructions:

This lesson is heavily based on discussion and demonstration with examples. We have found it to be helpful to choose a topic, and begin formatting a paper in front of the entire class on a projection screen. The following steps should be demonstrated: 

-       Open a Microsoft Word document

-       Create a title page

o   Make a “Running head” while explaining what it is, and why we use it.

o   Create the rest of the title page, and discuss the components included (expanded title of the paper, scientist’s name, and affiliation)

-       Emphasis the importance of an Abstract page, while informing the students that it is easier to do this part after the entire paper is written since the Abstract is merely a summary

-       Begin the body of the paper, including the following headings/subheadings, and discussing whether or not each section begins on its own page

o   Introduction

§  Must include a rationale/hypothesis

o   Methods

§  Participants

§  Materials

§  Procedure

o   Results

§  Emphasize that this section includes ONLY numbers, and not a discussion of the results

o   Discussion

o   References

o   Appendices/Figures/Tables



Students should be assigned reading from the APA Manual as the teacher sees fit. Additionally, it is helpful to create a “shortcut worksheet” that students could refer back to as they write their papers and have questions.

Assessment and Reflection

Student progress will be monitored over the course of the ARM, as they should be required to continue using APA format for all assignments from this point on. Their ability to create a cohesive paper later on will reflect their learning.

Instructor’s Notes:

Students must be familiar with the internet and Microsoft Word. Limited instruction on these topics will be available during class, and out-of-class tutoring should also be available. Students should also have access to computers in the school.

This lesson should be reviewed as "Lesson 7" as long as the teacher feels it is necessary.


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