Basic Tips and Guides for Formatting a Research Paper


When it comes to writing a research work there is always one requirement that cannot be neglected. It is the research paper format. It has a lot of underlying potential problems that make formatting the paper a tough skill to master. But once you master it, you will be able to concentrate on the research itself, and will not be distracted by the trivia it presupposes.

As soon as a research paper appears in the course outline, you are sure to get the instructions on what the common used format is. The most prevalent academic formats are:

  • MLA (Modern Language Association)
  • APA (American Psychological Association)

They guide the research writer through the requirements to both format and structure.

The basic guidelines they suggest are mostly similar, so the differences are barely noticeable. For instance, while MLA gives the researcher the freedom to choose the type of font, provided that it is easily readable, APA restricts it to Times New Roman and Courier. The font sizes in both standards coincide.

In order to comply with the format standards, customize your word processor in the following way.

  • Make page margins 1" on all sides (top, bottom, left, right).
  • Use 12-pt. Times Roman or Courier font.
  • Make double spaces between lines.
  • Align the text left.
  • Identify paragraphs with 5-7 spaces.
  • Leave one space after a period in the end of the sentence.
  • Put page numbers on every page in the upper right margin 1/2" from the top.
  • Use upper and lower case for level headings. Center them on the page (APA).
  • Place tables and illustrations close to the text they refer to (MLA), or in the end of the work (APA).
  • Begin each table on a separate page (APA).

To comply with the structure standards construct the elements of your research paper in the following way.

  • Use such elements of title page as your name, paper title, teacher's name, course name, your school, and date.
  • Use such structural elements as title page, abstract, body, references, appendices, footnotes, tables, figure captions, figures (APA).

The appendices like tables, figure captions, and figures are optional, and depend on the research area you choose. For example, figure captions and figures are crucial for exact sciences, and allow somebody interested in your results to check them more carefully.

After the research work draft is complete it is advisable to ask another person to do peer proofreading. It will help to find the most noticeable format, grammar and spelling mistakes.

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