APA Essay Format for Graduate Papers

As a graduate student, you will write many research papers. Unless you are studying language arts, you will most likely use the APA format for your graduate-level research papers. If you have to use that style, it is a good idea to purchase an APA formatting book or to invest in an app or e-book to ensure that you are using the formatting properly.

Knowledge is Power

Many students get frustrated because they do not understand the ideas behind styles and formatting. Styles like APA and MLA were designed so that researchers and readers could readily identify a type of source and have consistent standards for all writers. Without a standard formatting style like APA, research papers would not have consistency and readers would need explanations as to what types of sources are used.


Most high school students use the MLA style for research papers because they write most of their papers in the English Language Arts courses. Most undergraduate students also use MLA because they write research papers in language arts courses. For many graduate students, APA is a new style and after using MLA for many years, they might have difficulty adjusting to the different requirements. However, after the first paper, graduate students find that APA is not much different from MLA and most of them agree that APA is much easier to use.

First Person Essays

One of the best things about APA is that the style encourages first-person writing. APA also encourages an active voice, so students can write sentences like, “I discovered…” or “My research found…” This is the biggest adjustment from MLA, where students are encouraged to write in the third person.

Precise and Concise

The APA style also encourages writers to be concise and very specific. Where the MLA style encourages creativity, APA encourages clarity over flowery language. Students realize that they like this style because they do not have to be creative, they simply tell what they did, what they discovered, and what the implications of their discovery happen to be. Simplicity is the name of the game with APA style.

Follow the Formats

Just like the other styles, APA has requirements for the title page, page headers, in-text documentation, appendices, and other pages. Most graduate school professors will check for precision when using APA and many of them deduct points if you do not follow the formats perfectly. Fortunately, there are many websites, like that will actually create the citations so you simply cut and paste it perfectly into your essay.