Research Paper Formatting Requirements


All research papers that are submitted into colleges and universities have specific requirements to formatting. This is done in order to give the papers professional look, present the information in proper scientific order, avoid plagiarism by referring to other sources throughout the paper and on special page.

There are several formatting styles which are used for research papers and the most popular are APA, MLA and Chicago. However, educational establishments could slightly change them according to their preferences. This is why it is recommended to consult with your faculty on formatting before submitting any papers. Even approved standards can be altered so be sure you have all necessary information.

Let’s review two styles that are used for research papers, APA and MLA. They both have many similarities but at the same time they have different approaches when it comes to many elements. The font used in these styles is Times New Roman. However, APA allows usage of several other fonts, like Verdana and Arial. Additionally, Arial can be used for figures in research papers. APA and MLA both recommend using 12th size for the font.

Text in research papers is always shifted to the left in both formatting styles. Right margin has to be uneven. It is advised to double space text throughout the paper.

Format of the first page is different in the styles. For example, APA papers must have separate title page which gives the reader information about the writer, his or her educational affiliation, course title, professor and so on. MLA, however, allows starting the main text on the first page. Information about the writer along with the paper title and school is contained in upper left corner of the page.

Page numbers indications are different as well. APA and MLA require starting them from the very first page. The numbers are typed in the upper right corner in both styles. APA has only number and MLA has it and the name of the student. Additionally, APA requires adding RUNNING HEAD to the title of the paper on the first page. Starting from the second page, this element is abandoned so the student has to use only the actual title. In some cases professors ask to include separate title page for MLA papers so have a talk with your tutor about that.

The sources of information which are used in the research papers must be identified. For example, if you use a source, you have to include information about it in the text and on a separate page. APA requires including the last name of the author and the year of publication for in-text citations. On the other hand, MLA uses the last name of the student and the page in the source which contains the information.

Separate pages for used information sources are called Works cited in MLA and References in APA. The styles clearly identify how the literature should be formatted.

Further information about formatting research papers is contained at Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL).