Research Paper Format

Research Paper Format

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Many research paper fields and subjects have a style of preference depending on the discipline. Ideas borrowed from outside sources must be cited through documentation. In this text, we will feature the MLA style also known as Modern Language Association Style and the APA which can also be known as the American Psychological Association style. The MLA style is mostly used in the humanities such as History and subjects like English while the APA is commonly used in the social sciences such as Psychology.

In this guide, you will learn not only how to write, but also how to organize your work in the two styles. But if your instructor gives you an assignment, it would be logical to ask which method they would prefer you to use.

Let’s start with a guide on how to write and organize with the MLA style.

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An Overview of the MLA Style

Here are the basic facts about the MLA style that can be useful to writers.

  • Use the double space and always include the quotations, lists, and notes in your college research paper.

  • Use margins that are of one-inch from the top, bottom, left .and right unless it has been stated otherwise.

  • Use citations that are parenthetical while stating your quotations or ideas that you have borrowed from other people.

  • Make sure that you have underlined the italics for the title of books, pamphlets, and plays.

  • You should number your pages, and this is done in the right-hand corner of the page.

  • Make sure that you use the present tense as you introduce a quote or make a personal comment. Use past tense only when you are stating a historical event or when the passage that you are quoting is stated in the past tense.

An example in a college research paper can be:

Winkelman in the novel of Diary of a Madman he says, “I was never ignorant” (pg293). The purpose of Winkelman in the book is to indicate the imperfection of human beings. The author named Moore who came up with the character Winkelman not only did he use a forum that is semi-fictional but also, he was able to express his own opinions.

Organization of a Research Paper in the MLA Style

  • Plagiarism

This is the using of words and ideas that belong to somebody else without mentioning the source. Plagiarism, be it deliberate or not, can certainly lead to either failure in a course or a college dismissal. To avoid this as a writer, you need to state your sources and cite quotations that are direct.

If you are to use an idea that is not yours or in other words paraphrasing other people’s ideas, don’t just rearrange words but also make sure to use your own style when it comes to the language and writing. Acknowledge your source by citing it, and then you can list the publications of your sources from where you got your citations.

  • Citations

In a research paper, you should refer to another person’s words by introducing a quotation with the full name of the author exactly as how it is in the source. Do not use titles such as Mr. and Mrs. Also, ensure that you have mentioned the page numbers where the material that has been cited can be found. A research paper example MLA that uses the following points can be like:

Rebecca Peacey states in the book called The Art of The Short Story that, writing good fiction for authors who are lacking fantasy, they are needed to be conversant with punctuation and grammar (pg17).

Note. The phrase, Rebecca Peacey states in the book called, The Art of The Short Story is what is referred to as the signal phrase.

In your text, as you are citing, make sure that you follow these points:

  1. Indicate your sources accurately and apparently in the works that you are quoting.

  2. Identify the location of the information correctly.

  3. Always confirm your accuracy by keeping your citation clear and brief.

  • The Format

MLA style for a college research paper does not need an outline, table of contents and a title page. All that is required is the information that is necessary on the first page as it is seen below:

  • Your final name and the number of the page an inch from the top on the right-hand side.

  • Format an inch from the margin of the top part, below part, sides of the rest of the document

  • Always remember to double space the texts in your report.

  • Indicate your name and that of your mentor on the left corner.

  • Ensure that your title is placed at the center and more so, it should be in bold.

In case your instructor requires a title page, you need to enquire the style that is preferred.

Now that we are done with the style of MLA, let’s proceed to how to write and organize a research paper that has the form of APA.

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APA Style

Like we mentioned earlier, APA is also known as American psychological association and it is commonly used in papers that are mainly based on scientific topics. In light of this, most of the research papers that will require you to use APA type of formatting include behavioral and social sciences papers. In the following sections, you will receive the best framework that you can use to write your information and organize it according to the APA standards.

How to Write and Organize Your Research Paper in the APA Style Effectively

The first thing that you should take into consideration about APA formatting of research papers is focusing on the desirable wording and how to format headings.

  1. The Length of the Paper

The APA style format requires for one to elaborate their points clearly, and briefly. Be direct and professional and see to it that you avoid adding any unnecessary details to your paper.

  1. Using Headings Correctly

The primary purpose of headings is to simply organize your paper, and make it easy to locate pieces of information that are different. Also, your headings need to give your readers a picture of the main idea. The format of the APA style of writing has five levels of headings, each one of them with different purposes and meanings.

  • Level 1- It has the largest heading size, has a title that should be centered in the middle of the page. The claim must be bolded with the upper and lower cases to be used appropriately in the text.

  • Level 2- It should be smaller than the title, which is the level 1. Place this heading on the left side of the margin, and here, bolded letters are used here while the upper and lower cases can be used where necessary.

  • Level 3 – It should be smaller than the alphabets in level 2 and indented from the margin on the left side of the paper.

  • Level 4 – Again, not only must it be smaller than level 3 but also indented towards the left side of the margin.

  • Level 5 – In your research paper, this must be the smallest heading. You can only capitalize the first letter at the word that is first in the heading.

  1. The Abstract in a Research Paper

What exactly is an abstract? This is a summary of your observations and findings. The abstract does not require to be in every paper instructed but it must be included in the documents that need a hypothesis. Outlines that are clear and brief are the best especially when written in the impersonal and objective style

An abstract that is good should have at least 100 to 150 words, but the question is this, how can this be pulled off? You can easily achieve this by just stating the facts of your research question and expounding more on your observations in brief sentences.


Dependent on the discipline that is being undertaken, the primary research in your abstract should give a clear and useful summary of the research question together with the findings. Show in your work how your research is related to the field of study.

  1. Citations and How to them in the APA Style

In your body, make sure that you have mentioned the source of your quotations or else it would be taken as plagiarism. The primary purpose of citing is to give credit to the sources where you gained that knowledge and to provide a platform for the reader to go follow up and learn more about the topic if they wished to.

In an in-text citation, the method that can be helpful to the reader is by stating out the names of the authors, the year that the example of research paper had been published and finally, the page where the quotation is in your source. All of these critical points can be included within a sentence just like in the following APA research paper example:

Junk food cannot be considered to be addictive in the same way as drugs as pointed out by Epstein (2010) page 137.

Another variation that can be considered is to introduce the author, together with the title of the source in one’s sentence. You can also provide the dates of publication, the page number either at the end of a sentence or within the sentence. This can be done only if the critical information has been included. However, in the end, the decision is yours. Ensure that you choose what particular option works in your favor

In the APA style, book titles can be formatted in the case of a sentence. This means that only the initial word can be capitalized together with any other proper noun.

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All in all, the best strategy for you to use when it comes to scientific writing is being straightforward in the information/message you are trying to relay. This brings a spotlight to the ideas that are being brought forward, and not how they are supposed to be presented. The choice of words, how to punctuate your research paper content, graphics and the references chosen all work to move the idea to a minimum disturbance and a maximum accuracy.

To achieve the clarity when it comes to research paper writing, publishers have rules of APA and MLA. These writing formats help people to present their material in a way that it is both clear and consistent for the reader to easily follow.

We sure hope that these guidelines on both APA and MLA have equipped you to tackle your research papers in future as you strive to be a competent writer. If you still need some more guidance, contact us today and we will pair you with one of our professional writers to offer you personalized help.