APA: Empirical Research Papers



APA: Reporting Statistics

Because papers using APA style often report experimental data, you must be able to discuss statistics in your paper.

Learning Objectives

Identify correctly formatted statistics according to APA style

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Since experimental papers in the social sciences are usually written in APA style, you will need to know how to properly talk about statistics in the text of your paper.
  • Never never report a statistic in the text of your paper that is already evident in a table or figure, or report a statistic in a table which is reported in your text.
  • Always italicize statistical variables.
  • Summarize important statistical relationships in clear, plain English.

Key Terms

  • statistic: A numerical figure from experimental data.

Since experimental papers in the social sciences are usually written in APA style, you will need to know how to properly talk about statistics in the text of your paper.

General Rules

You should never mention a statistic in the text of your paper that is already evident in a table or figure, and vice versa.

Be sure to italicize statistical variables (e.g., p-value; t-test, F-test).

Clarity

To place the focus on the meaning of your statistical tests and their relevance to your overall argument, you should summarize each statistical relationship in clear, plain English. Also, include the important values in parentheses, and the test information and significance at the end of the sentence. For example, rather than writing this:

  • The mean anxiety score for women was 43.5, and the mean anxiety score for men was 47.9. This difference was significant; a t-test found a t-score of 2.34, and the p-value was 0.01.

You should write this:

  • In terms of their scores on the Anxiety Scale, women [latex](\text{M}=3.68\text{, }\text{SD}=.70)[/latex] were found to be significantly more anxious than men [latex](\text{M}=3.28\text{, }\text{SD}=.68)[/latex], [latex]\text{t}(61) = 2.34\text{, }\text{p} <.05.[/latex]

([latex]\text{M}[/latex] stands for “mean”—meaning average—and [latex]\text{SD}[/latex] stands for “standard deviation.”)

image

Reporting statistics: This figure shows the proper way to report statistics in an APA-style paper.

APA: Tables and Figures

APA style has specific rules for formatting tables and figures.

Learning Objectives

Arrange tables and figures in APA style

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • APA specifies two methods for presenting information visually: tables and figures.
  • A table is a chart that presents numerical information in a grid format.
  • A figure, by the APA definition, is generally a graph or visual representation of a process; in rare cases it can also be a photograph.
  • Using a table or a figure as a visual aid can help you strengthen a claim you’re making.

When you need to summarize quantitative data, words can only go so far. Sometimes, using a chart, graph, or other visual representation can be useful in proving your point. However, it’s important to make sure you incorporate this extra information in a way that is easy to understand and in line with the conventions of APA style.

APA specifies two methods for representing information visually: tables and figures.

Tables

A table is a chart that presents numerical information in a grid format. APA style recommends that a table be used only for particularly complex data or large data sets; if your table has only one or two columns, you should summarize the information within the text of a paragraph instead.

In APA style, you must include each table on its own separate page at the very end of your paper, after the References section. (Note that these pages should still include the running head and page number.) Because tables are in a separate section, you must refer to each one in the text of your paper by its number (e.g., “Table 1”) so the reader knows where it is relevant.

Formatting

Format your tables as simply as possible. Do not use bold or italicized text (unless you are talking about a variable or statistical test that requires such formatting).

APA style has strict rules about how to format the borders, or the lines, of your table. Generally, for simpler tables, you should have only three horizontal lines: one immediately above and one immediately below the column headings, and one at the bottom of the table.

image

Simple table: This table is properly formatted in APA style, using only three horizontal borders.

If you have a more complex table—e.g., one that has multiple layers of column headers or sections of data—you may sparingly use additional horizontal lines as visual separators.

image

Complicated table: This more complicated table is properly formatted in APA style; it uses more than three horizontal borders to clearly separate the different sections.

Title and Source

Every table should appear flush with the left margin. Immediately above the table, provide its number (e.g., “Table 1”), and then on the next line provide a short but descriptive title in italicized title case.

If your table includes any abbreviations that need defining, or statistics whose significance levels need noting, immediately below the table, write the word “Note” in italics, followed by a colon, and then provide the needed explanation.

If your table comes from another source, you need to add that source to your References section. Using the same formatting, you should also place that information immediately below your table, following the word “Source” in italics.

Figures

In APA style, you must also include each figure on its own separate page at the end of your paper; this section of figures should appear after the section of tables. (Note that these pages should also still include the running head and page number.)

Because figures appear separate from the body of your paper, you must refer to each one in the text of your paper by its number (e.g., “Figure 1”) so the reader knows where it is relevant.

Formatting

APA style has strict rules about how to create and format your figures.

  • Any text in a figure (e.g., axis labels, legend labels) should be in a sans-serif font, between 8pt and 14pt in size.
  • One-column figures (e.g., a graph with a single panel) should be between 2 and 3.25 inches in width.
  • Two-column figures (e.g., a graph with two panels) should be between 4.25 and 6.875 inches in width.
image

Single-panel figure: This is a single-panel figure properly formatted in APA style.

Title and Caption

Every figure should appear flush with the left margin. Immediately below the figure, provide its number (e.g., “Figure 1”) in italics, followed by a period, followed by a brief but descriptive title (called a “figure caption”) in sentence case. For example:

  • Figure 1. Average self-reported anxiety of 18- to 24-year-old women in response to perceived social slight.

If your figure includes any abbreviations that need defining, or statistics whose significance levels need noting, include this information in the figure caption. For example:

  • Figure 1. Average self-reported anxiety of 18- to 24-year-old women in response to perceived social slight. [latex]^*\text{p} <.01.[/latex]

The title of the figure should not appear in the figure itself—it should appear only in the caption beneath the figure.

image

Three-panel figure: This is a three-panel figure properly formatted in APA style.