Definition: APA results section
The American Psychological Association recommends the APA style for presenting results in a manuscript. A research manuscript’s APA results section describes the researcher’s findings following data analysis. It uses obtained data to test or refute the theory.
What’s included in the APA results section?
- Participants – The number of participants is reported at every study stage
- Missing data – Identifying the amount of data excluded from the final analysis.
- Adverse effects – Report any unforeseen events for clinical studies
- Descriptive statistics – Summarize the secondary and primary outcomes of a study
- Inferential statistics – Helps researchers draw conclusions and make predictions from the data.
- Confidence intervals and effect sizes – Confidence intervals are a range of possible values for the data set mean.
- Results of explanatory analysis– An exploratory research investigates data to test a hypothesis, check assumptions, and find anomalies.
APA results section: Introducing the data
Before you discuss your research findings, start by clearly describing the participants at each study stage. If any data was excluded from the eventual analysis, indicate that too.
Recruitment, participant flow, and attrition should be reported. Attrition bias affects external and internal validity and produces erroneous results.
A flow chart is often the best way to report the number of participants per group per stage and their reasons for attrition. Below is an example of how to report participant flow.
Missing data & adverse effects
In any study, missing data must be reported. Unexpected events, poor storage, and equipment failures can cause missing data. In any instance, clearly explain why you couldn’t use the data.
Data outliers can be excluded from the final study, but you must explain why. Include how you handled missing data. Standard procedures include mean-value imputation, interpolation, extrapolation, and substitution.1
APA results section: Summarizing the data
It is important to note that you should provide a summary of your study’s results. However, you can create a supplemental archive for other researchers to access raw data.2
Descriptive statistics are concise coefficients that summarize a specific data collection, such as a population sample or APA results section. APA results section can include descriptive statistics such as:
- Central tendency measures describe a data set by identifying the center of the data set. (mode, median, mean) 3
- Measures of variability describe the score dispersion within a data set. (standard deviation, range, variance, and interquartile range)
- Sample sizes
- Variables of interest, which are measured, changing quantities in experimental studies. Be sure to explain how you operationalized any variable of interest you use.
APA results section: Reporting the results
APA journal standards require all the appropriate hypothesis tests, confidence intervals, and effect size estimates to be reported in the APA results section.
Inferential statistics help researchers draw conclusions and make predictions based on the data.4
When you are reporting the inferential statistics in the APA results section, use the following:
- Degrees of freedom
- Test statistic (includes the z-score, t-value, and f-ratio)
- Error term (if needed, though it is not included in correlations and non-parametric tests.)
- The exact p-value (unless . 001)
Confidence intervals & effect sizes
A confidence interval can be described as a range of possible values for the mean derived from the sample data. It helps show the variability that is around point estimates. You should include confidence intervals any time you report estimates for population parameters.5
Effect size measures an experiment’s magnitude. It explains the research’s significance. Since effect size is an estimate, confidence intervals should be included.
Subgroup & exploratory analyses
Exploratory analysis tests a hypothesis, checks assumptions, and finds patterns and anomalies in data. If you find notable results, report them as exploratory, not confirming, to avoid overstating their value.
APA results section: Formatting numbers
Use figures, text, and tables to show numbers in APA results sections properly.
✓ For three or fewer numbers, use a sentence, a table for 4 and 20 numbers, and a figure for more than 20.
✓ Number and title the APA tables and figures, as well as relevant notes. If you have already presented the data in a table, do not repeat it in a figure and vice versa.
✓ Statistics in your APA results section must be abbreviated, capitalized, and italicized.
✓ Use APA norms for reporting statistics and writing numbers.
✓ Look up these guidelines if you are unsure how to present certain symbols.
APA results section: Don’t include these
Besides knowing what to include in an APA results section, it is just as important to know what not to have. Below is an outline of what you should exclude from an APA results section.
|Raw data||The APA results section should have results that are presented concisely.
|Interpretation of the results||Include it in the discussion section and only objectively report findings in the APA results section.|
|Explaining the workings of statistics||Assume the readers have professional knowledge of statistical inferences.|
|All the data||Only include data relevant to the research question in the APA results section.|
The APA results section should include details on the participants, descriptive statistics and inferential statistics, missing data, and the results of any exploratory analysis.
Write the APA results section in the past tense.
Include tables and figures if you will discuss them in the body text of the APA results section.
1 Badr, Will. “6 Different Ways to Compensate for Missing Values In a Dataset (Data Imputation with examples).” Towards Data Science. January 5, 2019. https://towardsdatascience.com/6-different-ways-to-compensate-for-missing-values-data-imputation-with-examples-6022d9ca0779.
2 Cherry, Kendra. “How to Write an APA Results Section.” Verywellmind. March 2, 2022. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-write-a-results-section-2795727.
3 Hayes, Adam. “Descriptive Statistics: Definition, Overview, Types, Example.” Investopedia. August 1, 2022. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/descriptive_statistics.asp.
4 Bryan, Burnham. “Reporting Statistics in APA Format.” Accessed November 30, 2022. http://www.bryanburnham.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Reporting-Statistics-in-APA-Format1.pdf.
5 Kalinowski Pav. “Understanding Confidence Intervals (CIs) and Effect Size Estimation.” Aps. April 1, 2010. https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/understanding-confidence-intervals-cis-and-effect-size-estimation.