How Do You Format Your Paper? - Common Formatting Styles Used In College


When you are in college, your essays will need to be properly formatted. That is just a professional term for the physical layout of your work. The format is how your paper is laid out, where the page numbers are (if there are any), and where you place things like your title.

There are a few common formatting styles used in college. Your teacher will likely tell you which one is required for your upcoming essay, and if they do not, you should not hesitate to ask.

For those in the world of English literature, and for many generic and general education courses, the most common formatting style you will use is MLA. MLA is the most common formatting style required in college. It consists of the following components:

  • Your name, course name, university, and date in the upper left hand side
  • Pages numbered in the upper right hand side with your last name preceding the number
  • Your title centered on the line beneath the aforementioned name/course name/university/date
  • The introduction to your text immediately following, with each paragraph indented

With MLA, your text should all be size 12 font, with one inch margins around the perimeter, double spaced, and often in Times New Roman or Arial typeface.

If you are writing a paper for a course in the field of social science, behavioral science, or psychology, you will likely use APA. APA was created by the American Psychology Association. It was created as a unifying means to formatting papers. It also allows for improved citations and cataloging in a database. This makes it exponentially easier for academics and professionals alike to find content related to their studies. For APA style you will need the following sections:

  • Cover Page
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Body (which may include a literature review, methodology, results, and discussion if you conducted an experiment for the paper)
  • Conclusion
  • References

APA requires you to number the pages in the upper right hand corner as well, but in lieu of your last name, you should put the first few words of your title preceding the numbers. Another citation style is Chicago. This requires footnotes in the text, rather than a citation. It requires a cover page but without the running head. As with MLA and APA, your text should all be size 12 font, with one inch margins around the perimeter, double spaced, and often in Times New Roman or Arial typeface

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