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How to Format a Research Paper

As a college student, you should familiarize yourself with different writing styles and perfect the art of conducting research, compiling your references, and presenting ideas logically. Without these skills, you cannot attain good grades since they are part and parcel of students’ life.  So, what are the tips for formatting a research paper? Read this review to learn more about them.

Tips for Formatting a Research Paper

Before writing any research, you should have an outline that will serve as a reminder to ensure you cover all pertinent details in your paper. Besides, it will help you prepare a sample of your paragraphs and organize your thoughts logically. A standard outline should have an introduction, body, and conclusion.

After preparing an outline, you should write and format your assignment depending on your discipline and instructions. American Psychological Association (APA) and Modern Language Association (MLA) are two main examples of formatting styles for academic assignments.

The following section outlines how to write a research paper in APA format.

Learn How to Write a Research Paper in APA Format

APA is a popular writing format in biology, life science, psychology, nursing, education, and business management. A paper written in this format has four major components;

A title page

A title page comprises the student’s or author’s name, institutional affiliation, course, lecturer or instructor’s name, and the submission date. While formatting your paper, you should align these elements at the center, several lines from the top of your page. The assignment should have a header and page numbers in the right-hand corner.

If your title can’t fit in a single line, you can use a shortened version, although it should be consistent throughout the document.

An abstract

An abstract is a summary of your research findings or an overview of an essay. A good abstract comprises 150 words and should be concise to guide the readers.


The body of a research paper comprises the headings and subheadings where applicable. The main distinguishing features between APA and other formatting styles are the headings and references.


APA requires section headings to organize ideas. Depending on your paper’s length, you can subdivide it into subsections to create a hierarchy of information. The approach allows you to avoid repetition. Besides, it makes it easy for the readers to follow your thoughts and understand the flow of major topics and concepts.

The following section outlines how to format APA headings;

The first heading, commonly known as the section header, is centered and bolded. It uses a title case and requires you to capitalize important words.
Subsection headings, also known as heading 2, should be aligned left, bolded, and in title case.
Level 3 headings should be aligned left, bolded, and indented. Only the first letter should have a capital letter.
Level 4 heading follows the standard requirements for level three, although it should be bold and in italics.
The 5th level adheres to guidelines for the previous levels except that it should be italicized and not in boldface.
In-text citations and a reference page

You should always use citations when paraphrasing or quoting materials from other people’s works. APA in-text citations must indicate the author or authors’ name and the year of the source’s publication. If an article doesn’t have an individual’s name, it’s always advisable to provide its title or the organization that wrote it.

The reference page contains a list of sources used in the paper and should correspond to the in-text citations.

Its entries should adhere to the following arrangement;

The author/authors’ names or the institution that published the source
The publication year and date, where applicable
The source title
Place of publication; this applies to books
For any essay or article, you should include the name of the book or periodical in which it appears
Volume number, issue, and pages for a journal or magazine article
The URL or Doi number for journals

The references should always be in alphabetical order according to the authors’ surname and in hanging indentation.

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Learn How to Write a Research Paper in MLA Format

MLA is commonly used in humanities and liberal arts. It has specific requirements for the cover page, headings, and references like APA.

Title page

MLA uses a title block format; it doesn’t require a separate title page. You only need to include your name, the instructor’s name, the course number, and the submission date at the top left corner of the first page.

Body and headings

If you’re writing a long paper, you can use headings and format them using the following guidelines;

Level 1: Should be bold, flush left, and in title case. The paragraph should be flush left.
Level 2: It should be flush left, in title case and italics. The paragraph should commence after the period.
Level 3: The headings should be bold, centered, and written in the title case.
Level 4: The heading should be centered, italicized, and in title case. The topic sentence of the immediate paragraph should be flush left in a new line.
Level 5: Should be in title case, underlined, and flush left. The paragraph should begin on a new line.
In-text citations and works cited page

The following tips will teach you how to write a research paper in MLA format;

MLA uses in-text citations enclosed with parenthesis. They should contain the author’s name and page numbers or an article’s title in case of a webpage without the authors’ details. This format includes a works-cited page in place of the reference page.

When citing a website, you should write the author’s surname (last name), first name, title, date of publication, organization’s name, Date, and URL.
When citing a book, you should include the author’s surname, first name, title in italics, place of publication, publishing agency, and publication date.
An online article should have the author’s first and last name, the article’s title in quotation marks, the web title, the publication date, the hosting organization, and the date when you accessed the site.

Whether a high school or college student, you should learn how to cite a source, prepare an outline, and express your ideas effectively. These are essential steps in writing essays, research papers, proposals, and other academic assignments. There are several ways to format your work, although APA and MLA are the most common ones. This report has analyzed how to format a research paper using these methods can be helpful in your entire college life.