APA Style Research Report Sections

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Sarah JaymesAPA Writing Consultant
APA Dissertation Editor

When I taught college composition courses, I asked my students to use APA style report divisions (i.e., Literature Review, Method, Results, Discussion, and Conclusions sections) to organize their research reports. Few students in the composition courses were majoring in the social or behavioral sciences or were entering careers in which they would perform scientific experiments, and I knew they might never use the APA style report format again. But I also knew that APA style report divisions are useful ways of organizing thought concerning research no matter what the research is about, and I knew my students would appreciate the way in which those divisions helped them organize their material.

APA style report divisions also helped students learn what they needed to learn. Since they had to include a Methods section even if the research they did was limited to reading and considering various sources of information and opinion, they were forced to think about how they performed their research and thus to become aware of flaws in their research process (e.g., whether they were lazy in looking for sources or failed to consider the authority or bias of the sources they selected).

Including a Results section before a Discussion section helped them organize the different exploratory and analytical aspects of their research. Even those who do non-experimental research can impartially report about evidence or a controversy they have uncovered while doing research and, in a later section, discuss what they have concluded about that evidence or controversy or what the implications of the evidence or controversy are. This kind of division is reader-friendly: readers are less likely to become confused about the different positions the researcher has researched and the researcher’s own position.

All researchers can also benefit from thinking about, if not including, other APA style report requirements, such as the requirement to discuss the limitations of the research and to suggest possible next steps or related areas that would benefit from additional research.

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