The Basics Of College Research Paper Formatting

There are several basic elements of research paper formatting that commonly pose a challenge for students. Sometimes you may not have a clear understanding of what is expected when there are different ways to format a research paper. You should follow guidelines carefully to properly format your content, but if your guidelines don’t provide such details, there are a few things you can do to help your paper look its best.

  • Start organizing early based on the type of paper you are going to write. Take time to read guidelines carefully and understand the purpose of your assignment. These elements will at least give an idea overall how you should present your findings.
  • Have an outline that includes basic components of your research paper. This may include introduction, body, and conclusion. What are important points each section should explain? Do you need to include subheadings and visual content such as a graph or chart? Your outline will help you focus on what information you should collect during research and where it should appear.
  • Take note of resources you use and how they should be cited or referenced. As you conduct research write down sources you use, but keep in mind what details you may need to get proper credit for your work such as the author, publication or article title, volume number if reference book, etc.
  • Review your proposed format to cite and reference sources. This may either be MLA or APA. They seem similar but each has different requirements. For instance, with APA formatting you may have a reference page to mention sources, and with MLA you may have a page titled “Works Cited.” Each formatting style may have you listing sources differently. If you leave out details during the citation process this could be consider plagiarism. Whichever format you are required to follow you should use it throughout the entire paper.
  • Consider technical aspects of formatting such as title page, margins, and the paper used to print your content. You may be required to make changes to margins and/or line spacing to help make your content easier to read. Some instructors may require students to have a title page but in some cases it may not be required. This page may include details such as your name, course, instructor name, and title of your paper completed following a specific format.