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Writing: Essay Questions and APA Style


Some courses may require you to write application papers that respond to prompts, similar to a question and answer format.  In these cases, use the following formatting rules unless otherwise specified by your instructor:

To format questions and answers in APA format:

  • Begin the question on a new line and type number 1 followed by a period. 
  • Type the discussion question in an approved font and size.  Use the correct punctuation at the end -- a question mark if the prompt is a question; a period if it is a statement.   
  • Use double spacing and one inch margins.
  • Separate the answer from the question by beginning the answer on a new line.
  • Always answer in complete sentences.  If your answer is lengthy, it is okay to start a new paragraph.
  • Incorporate in-text citations as needed, with a references page at the end.
  • Continue to use the same format for fonts and spacing for the whole document.
  • Continue the list of questions on a new line and align the number 2 under the 1.

If the Instructor has specific instructions about bold type, follow their preference, but APA does not require it.

Use an academic tone; avoid "I" statements such as "I think" or "I believe" or "My opinion is..."

These types of papers are typically not essays that require an introduction and conclusion.  However, you will still need to retain the usual APA components:  proper formatting, a title page, a references page, and in-text citations.

When in doubt, ask your instructor!

Example of Formatting


1.   Discuss the approaches psychologists have taken to understand human perception.

      Psychologists have taken three main approaches in their efforts to understand human perception. First, is the computational approach. These psychologists try to determine the computations that a machine would have to perform to solve perceptual problems in an effort to help explain how complex computations within the human nervous system might turn raw sensory stimulation into a representation of the world. The computational approach owes much to two earlier approaches .... (and so on and so forth).

Writing Strategy

Imagine that you've been asked to respond to the following question:

The fifteenth and sixteenth century voyages of exploration produced lasting changes in the political and social structure of Western Europe. Would you say that these voyages tended to hasten or to delay the growth of national states? Explain.



A solid writing strategy for responding to essay questions is the following:

Answer the Question + At Least One Reason + Closing Statement


Keep your responses focused, structured, and prove your points with evidence.


Here's how to do it.  

1)  Begin with a direct answer to the question.  The easiest way to do this is to restate the question in a way that incorporates your answer.   If you will give more than one reason or address more than one topic in your response, pre-outline the topics/reasons you will discuss in order.

     The exploration of the 15th and 16th centuries hastened the growth of national states. The reasons have to do with war, wealth, trade, and nationalism.


2)  Address your reason(s) in order.

     One of the prime ingredients for the beginning of national states was a common danger from outside. Because countries went to war over the right to control certain colonies and trade routes, each country had to unite within in order to fight off any aggressor.


A.  Use transitions  to move smoothly between reasons.

     Other forms of competition between countries contributed to the growth of national states. Competition for land and wealth was fierce. The resources of the new lands, such as coffee, spices, minerals, were considered valuable. Each country was eager to gain land because the products of the land could be turned into more wealth, as when Cortez conquered the Aztecs and exploited their gold and silver. A united country could best succeed in this form of competition.


B.  Incorporate examples to amplify your reasoning.

These resources, brought about by new discoveries, increased the power of mercantilism. Mercantilism is a system in which the mother country takes from its colonies raw materials and sells them back in the form of finished products. This allows the mother country to keep economic control over the colonies. With the opening of new trade routes, the Northern and Western European states were able to break the Venetian-Arab trade monopoly with the Indies. The colonization led to a system involving a state-controlled market between the colony and the mother country. This permitted the nations of Europe to become economically separate units with no common market existing between them—a condition which fostered nationalism. It is interesting to note that Italy, which did little exploration, took longer to become a united nation than did the other countries of Europe.


C.  Use signal phrases and in-text citations to identify your sources. 

Another feature in producing national states was the national pride these voyages tended to produce.  According to Taylor, the voyages were financed by a national government (2020). Any new discovery was seen as reflecting the prestige of the sponsoring government and its people, and this added pride contributed to the spirit of nationalism (Martin, 2012).


3.  End with a closing statement that wraps up your response and reminds the reader of your position on the question.

The changes produced by exploration were key contributors to national growth.




Thanks to Texas State University for the example here.

Questions within Questions

Sometimes an instructor will prepare a prompt that is more than one question, and may require a response that tackles more than one topic.  Here's an example:

What is the role of of a Board of Directors in making decisions about new programs? How can government structures, such as board of directors, incorporate attention to ethics in their work? 


This is actually two related questions -- a main question and then a subset of that main question.

Adjust your strategy as follows:

1)  Prepare a direct response that focuses on the general main topic or question.  

The role of the Board of Directors is to ethically advise decision-makers on vitae purus faucibus ornare suspendisse sed nisi lacus.


2)  Respond to each question in the prompt as a separate paragraph under the restatement of the question. Use a transitional sentence to move smoothly from the first paragraph of response to the second.

 1.  What is the role of of a Board of Directors in making decisions about new programs? How can government structures, such as board of directors, incorporate attention to ethics in their work? 
     The role of the Board of Directors is to ethically advise decision-makers on vitae purus faucibus ornare suspendisse sed nisi lacus.  A Board's primary task is to  lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Of secondary importance is the responsibility to ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.  Finally, Floyd in 2020 recommends a third area of responsbility -- to duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur.
     Implicit in these responsibilities is the need to act ethically.  Within the role of lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, a Board can act ethically by excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.


3)  Wrap it up with a concluding sentence at the end of the final paragraph.

Note:  Latin "Lorem ipsum" text is used in lieu of real responses, as you may encounter this question in one of your courses!