Formatting a Research Paper: An Ultimate Guide

Research papers are an integral part of any educational program in a college or university. These are assigned to students to help them develop critical thinking, research, and academic writing skills. Any research paper is a formal piece of academic writing that requires students to follow strict format guidelines, standards, and methodology. They are expected to research, process, analyze relevant literature on the topic, interpret the findings, and provide arguments to reflect on their independent research. 

In the USA and other developed countries, the best educational institutions have strict requirements concerning formatting a research paper in English. These constitute a part of the final grade for this assignment. While these requirements may vary depending on an institution and rules on their official website, universal principles and guidelines can help students save time and care less about formatting. You can improve your knowledge of formatting a research paper by following this ultimate online guide. 

Step 1: Read the research paper instructions carefully 

Instructions for research papers may be personalized because of the instructor’s specific requirements or learning goals of your program. Though universal formatting standards are the same for all academic papers, specifications should be considered to avoid the loss of points in the final assessment. Therefore, you should pay attention to: 

  • Headings. Instructors may specify that headings should be formatted differently. For instance, each heading should reflect the primary goal of the section. Professors frequently ask for subheadings if the paper reports many complicated aspects of the topic and needs to be better organized. 
  • Highlights. Some primary arguments or parts of the research paper may need to be highlighted to help the instructor navigate the writing, identify central ideas, and analyze the reflection on literature research and critical thinking. These are often required in the abstract or conclusion to reflect on the results and findings. 
  • Sections. Instructions of a research paper may specify sections you should integrate into your research paper. While most instructors allow students to decide on the sections of their research, some professors are strict about optional sections such as “Acknowledgments” or “Declarations” sections. 
  • List of contents. It is a formal requirement that some instructors allow students to skip. You should check whether your professor makes it obligatory and remember to make a list accordingly. 
  • List of abbreviations. This list is another optional section of a research paper. Professors rarely make it obligatory for students. However, some topics and disciplines may be heavy with abbreviations. This list is necessary to help the instructor understand your arguments. Check whether it is necessary for your assignment instructions. 
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Step 2: Identify the formatting style required by your instructor

Formatting style is a standardized set of rules and guidelines to write an academic paper. It specifies the formatting options and helps universalize academic writings’ appearance and formats, assisting professors with their assessment. Each research paper has instructions with a specified formatting style. You should check them and identify the style to know what formatting rules you should apply. Each style has different citation rules for essays that may be reviewed in citation guidelines on the web. The top formatting styles are: 

  • APA (the American Psychological Association style). Academia uses this style to write an essay on social sciences topics. For instance, research papers in disciplines such as nursing, business studies, or sociology are likely written in APA. Each paper in this style should have a title page and be double spaced. The sources should be included on the last page under the ” References ” section. These should be alphabetized. In-text citations should mention the author and the year of publication. A running head with the title in all caps is a distinctive feature of this style. 
  • MLA (the Modern Language Association style). This style was developed for humanities-related disciplines. Primarily academic, professional writers use it for formatting papers on literature topics. The benefits of improved lengthy organization and readability resulted in its high popularity in academia. It does not require a title page. It also does not have a running head. In-text citations are made with the author’s name. Spacing is double. Sources are alphabetized and organized in the “Works Cited” section on the last page. 
  • CMS (the Chicago Manual of Style style). Also known as the Turabian style, it was developed to help academic people cite their sources and format writings. General formatting rules are similar to APA and MLA. Namely, these are double spacing, 12 pt Times New Roman font, 1-inch margins, and page numbers in the top right corner. This style requires a title page. Sources should be alphabetized and put in the “Bibliography” section on the last page. In-text citations are made in footnotes. 
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If you face challenges formatting written research papers, you may contact online academic assistance companies that provide quality and cheap academic papers from scratch. These follow all formatting requirements of a specified style. Professional paper writing service CustomWritings is an example of a company that has an experienced writer for each customer. Its services help students to buy original and custom papers. You can reach the expert from this service, order the custom research paper in a particular formatting style and learn how to format your research paper properly. 

Step 3: Review the relevant edition of the formatting style

Widely used formatting styles are regularly revised and changed. Students should carefully review the edition their professor asks to format the research paper. Each edition may add new features, change formatting rules, or simplify citation standards. The most recent editions are described below:

  • MLA 8th edition. This new edition has added URLs in citations and allowed omitting publisher and the city of publication for some sources. It also allowed using pseudonyms instead of author names. Another feature is “containers” that allow citing elements of videos and films. 
  • APA 7th edition. In this edition, academic people may not include the city of the source’s publisher. Another feature is the inclusion of “et al.” instead of mentioning all authors. Other changes are related to regulating the use of gender-neutral words, labeling groups of people, and specifying the age ranges. 

It is recommended to familiarize yourself with all changes in new editions in free reviews to tailor the research paper to specific instructions.

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Conclusion

Formatting may be an additional challenge for students writing research papers. It is time-consuming and frequently confusing. You may save your time and avoid formatting mistakes following three simple steps. Academic assistance services are an alternative solution to improve formatting skills and get professional support.

 

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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