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13.1 Formatting a Research Paper

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the major components of a research paper written using American Psychological Association (APA) style.
  • Apply general APA style and formatting conventions in a research paper.

In this chapter, you will learn how to use APA style , the documentation and formatting style followed by the American Psychological Association, as well as MLA style , from the Modern Language Association. There are a few major formatting styles used in academic texts, including AMA, Chicago, and Turabian:

  • AMA (American Medical Association) for medicine, health, and biological sciences
  • APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the social sciences
  • Chicago—a common style used in everyday publications like magazines, newspapers, and books
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) for English, literature, arts, and humanities
  • Turabian—another common style designed for its universal application across all subjects and disciplines

While all the formatting and citation styles have their own use and applications, in this chapter we focus our attention on the two styles you are most likely to use in your academic studies: APA and MLA.

If you find that the rules of proper source documentation are difficult to keep straight, you are not alone. Writing a good research paper is, in and of itself, a major intellectual challenge. Having to follow detailed citation and formatting guidelines as well may seem like just one more task to add to an already-too-long list of requirements.

Following these guidelines, however, serves several important purposes. First, it signals to your readers that your paper should be taken seriously as a student’s contribution to a given academic or professional field; it is the literary equivalent of wearing a tailored suit to a job interview. Second, it shows that you respect other people’s work enough to give them proper credit for it. Finally, it helps your reader find additional materials if he or she wishes to learn more about your topic.

Furthermore, producing a letter-perfect APA-style paper need not be burdensome. Yes, it requires careful attention to detail. However, you can simplify the process if you keep these broad guidelines in mind:

  • Work ahead whenever you can. Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” includes tips for keeping track of your sources early in the research process, which will save time later on.
  • Get it right the first time. Apply APA guidelines as you write, so you will not have much to correct during the editing stage. Again, putting in a little extra time early on can save time later.
  • Use the resources available to you. In addition to the guidelines provided in this chapter, you may wish to consult the APA website at http://www.apa.org or the Purdue University Online Writing lab at http://owl.english.purdue.edu , which regularly updates its online style guidelines.

General Formatting Guidelines

This chapter provides detailed guidelines for using the citation and formatting conventions developed by the American Psychological Association, or APA. Writers in disciplines as diverse as astrophysics, biology, psychology, and education follow APA style. The major components of a paper written in APA style are listed in the following box.

These are the major components of an APA-style paper:

Body, which includes the following:

  • Headings and, if necessary, subheadings to organize the content
  • In-text citations of research sources
  • References page

All these components must be saved in one document, not as separate documents.

The title page of your paper includes the following information:

  • Title of the paper
  • Author’s name
  • Name of the institution with which the author is affiliated
  • Header at the top of the page with the paper title (in capital letters) and the page number (If the title is lengthy, you may use a shortened form of it in the header.)

List the first three elements in the order given in the previous list, centered about one third of the way down from the top of the page. Use the headers and footers tool of your word-processing program to add the header, with the title text at the left and the page number in the upper-right corner. Your title page should look like the following example.

Beyond the Hype: Evaluating Low-Carb Diets cover page

The next page of your paper provides an abstract , or brief summary of your findings. An abstract does not need to be provided in every paper, but an abstract should be used in papers that include a hypothesis. A good abstract is concise—about one hundred fifty to two hundred fifty words—and is written in an objective, impersonal style. Your writing voice will not be as apparent here as in the body of your paper. When writing the abstract, take a just-the-facts approach, and summarize your research question and your findings in a few sentences.

In Chapter 12 “Writing a Research Paper” , you read a paper written by a student named Jorge, who researched the effectiveness of low-carbohydrate diets. Read Jorge’s abstract. Note how it sums up the major ideas in his paper without going into excessive detail.

Beyond the Hype: Abstract

Write an abstract summarizing your paper. Briefly introduce the topic, state your findings, and sum up what conclusions you can draw from your research. Use the word count feature of your word-processing program to make sure your abstract does not exceed one hundred fifty words.

Depending on your field of study, you may sometimes write research papers that present extensive primary research, such as your own experiment or survey. In your abstract, summarize your research question and your findings, and briefly indicate how your study relates to prior research in the field.

Margins, Pagination, and Headings

APA style requirements also address specific formatting concerns, such as margins, pagination, and heading styles, within the body of the paper. Review the following APA guidelines.

Use these general guidelines to format the paper:

  • Set the top, bottom, and side margins of your paper at 1 inch.
  • Use double-spaced text throughout your paper.
  • Use a standard font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, in a legible size (10- to 12-point).
  • Use continuous pagination throughout the paper, including the title page and the references section. Page numbers appear flush right within your header.
  • Section headings and subsection headings within the body of your paper use different types of formatting depending on the level of information you are presenting. Additional details from Jorge’s paper are provided.

Cover Page

Begin formatting the final draft of your paper according to APA guidelines. You may work with an existing document or set up a new document if you choose. Include the following:

  • Your title page
  • The abstract you created in Note 13.8 “Exercise 1”
  • Correct headers and page numbers for your title page and abstract

APA style uses section headings to organize information, making it easy for the reader to follow the writer’s train of thought and to know immediately what major topics are covered. Depending on the length and complexity of the paper, its major sections may also be divided into subsections, sub-subsections, and so on. These smaller sections, in turn, use different heading styles to indicate different levels of information. In essence, you are using headings to create a hierarchy of information.

The following heading styles used in APA formatting are listed in order of greatest to least importance:

  • Section headings use centered, boldface type. Headings use title case, with important words in the heading capitalized.
  • Subsection headings use left-aligned, boldface type. Headings use title case.
  • The third level uses left-aligned, indented, boldface type. Headings use a capital letter only for the first word, and they end in a period.
  • The fourth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are boldfaced and italicized.
  • The fifth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are italicized and not boldfaced.

Visually, the hierarchy of information is organized as indicated in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” .

Table 13.1 Section Headings

A college research paper may not use all the heading levels shown in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” , but you are likely to encounter them in academic journal articles that use APA style. For a brief paper, you may find that level 1 headings suffice. Longer or more complex papers may need level 2 headings or other lower-level headings to organize information clearly. Use your outline to craft your major section headings and determine whether any subtopics are substantial enough to require additional levels of headings.

Working with the document you developed in Note 13.11 “Exercise 2” , begin setting up the heading structure of the final draft of your research paper according to APA guidelines. Include your title and at least two to three major section headings, and follow the formatting guidelines provided above. If your major sections should be broken into subsections, add those headings as well. Use your outline to help you.

Because Jorge used only level 1 headings, his Exercise 3 would look like the following:

Citation Guidelines

In-text citations.

Throughout the body of your paper, include a citation whenever you quote or paraphrase material from your research sources. As you learned in Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” , the purpose of citations is twofold: to give credit to others for their ideas and to allow your reader to follow up and learn more about the topic if desired. Your in-text citations provide basic information about your source; each source you cite will have a longer entry in the references section that provides more detailed information.

In-text citations must provide the name of the author or authors and the year the source was published. (When a given source does not list an individual author, you may provide the source title or the name of the organization that published the material instead.) When directly quoting a source, it is also required that you include the page number where the quote appears in your citation.

This information may be included within the sentence or in a parenthetical reference at the end of the sentence, as in these examples.

Epstein (2010) points out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Here, the writer names the source author when introducing the quote and provides the publication date in parentheses after the author’s name. The page number appears in parentheses after the closing quotation marks and before the period that ends the sentence.

Addiction researchers caution that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (Epstein, 2010, p. 137).

Here, the writer provides a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence that includes the author’s name, the year of publication, and the page number separated by commas. Again, the parenthetical citation is placed after the closing quotation marks and before the period at the end of the sentence.

As noted in the book Junk Food, Junk Science (Epstein, 2010, p. 137), “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive.”

Here, the writer chose to mention the source title in the sentence (an optional piece of information to include) and followed the title with a parenthetical citation. Note that the parenthetical citation is placed before the comma that signals the end of the introductory phrase.

David Epstein’s book Junk Food, Junk Science (2010) pointed out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Another variation is to introduce the author and the source title in your sentence and include the publication date and page number in parentheses within the sentence or at the end of the sentence. As long as you have included the essential information, you can choose the option that works best for that particular sentence and source.

Citing a book with a single author is usually a straightforward task. Of course, your research may require that you cite many other types of sources, such as books or articles with more than one author or sources with no individual author listed. You may also need to cite sources available in both print and online and nonprint sources, such as websites and personal interviews. Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.2 “Citing and Referencing Techniques” and Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provide extensive guidelines for citing a variety of source types.

Writing at Work

APA is just one of several different styles with its own guidelines for documentation, formatting, and language usage. Depending on your field of interest, you may be exposed to additional styles, such as the following:

  • MLA style. Determined by the Modern Languages Association and used for papers in literature, languages, and other disciplines in the humanities.
  • Chicago style. Outlined in the Chicago Manual of Style and sometimes used for papers in the humanities and the sciences; many professional organizations use this style for publications as well.
  • Associated Press (AP) style. Used by professional journalists.

References List

The brief citations included in the body of your paper correspond to the more detailed citations provided at the end of the paper in the references section. In-text citations provide basic information—the author’s name, the publication date, and the page number if necessary—while the references section provides more extensive bibliographical information. Again, this information allows your reader to follow up on the sources you cited and do additional reading about the topic if desired.

The specific format of entries in the list of references varies slightly for different source types, but the entries generally include the following information:

  • The name(s) of the author(s) or institution that wrote the source
  • The year of publication and, where applicable, the exact date of publication
  • The full title of the source
  • For books, the city of publication
  • For articles or essays, the name of the periodical or book in which the article or essay appears
  • For magazine and journal articles, the volume number, issue number, and pages where the article appears
  • For sources on the web, the URL where the source is located

The references page is double spaced and lists entries in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. If an entry continues for more than one line, the second line and each subsequent line are indented five spaces. Review the following example. ( Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provides extensive guidelines for formatting reference entries for different types of sources.)

References Section

In APA style, book and article titles are formatted in sentence case, not title case. Sentence case means that only the first word is capitalized, along with any proper nouns.

Key Takeaways

  • Following proper citation and formatting guidelines helps writers ensure that their work will be taken seriously, give proper credit to other authors for their work, and provide valuable information to readers.
  • Working ahead and taking care to cite sources correctly the first time are ways writers can save time during the editing stage of writing a research paper.
  • APA papers usually include an abstract that concisely summarizes the paper.
  • APA papers use a specific headings structure to provide a clear hierarchy of information.
  • In APA papers, in-text citations usually include the name(s) of the author(s) and the year of publication.
  • In-text citations correspond to entries in the references section, which provide detailed bibliographical information about a source.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Grad Coach (R)

What’s Included: Research Paper Template

If you’re preparing to write an academic research paper, our free research paper template is the perfect starting point. In the template, we cover every section step by step, with clear, straightforward explanations and examples .

The template’s structure is based on the tried and trusted best-practice format for formal academic research papers. The template structure reflects the overall research process, ensuring your paper will have a smooth, logical flow from chapter to chapter.

The research paper template covers the following core sections:

  • The title page/cover page
  • Abstract (sometimes also called the executive summary)
  • Section 1: Introduction 
  • Section 2: Literature review 
  • Section 3: Methodology
  • Section 4: Findings /results
  • Section 5: Discussion
  • Section 6: Conclusion
  • Reference list

Each section is explained in plain, straightforward language , followed by an overview of the key elements that you need to cover within each section. We’ve also included links to free resources to help you understand how to write each section.

The cleanly formatted Google Doc can be downloaded as a fully editable MS Word Document (DOCX format), so you can use it as-is or convert it to LaTeX.

FAQs: Research Paper Template

What format is the template (doc, pdf, ppt, etc.).

The research paper template is provided as a Google Doc. You can download it in MS Word format or make a copy to your Google Drive. You’re also welcome to convert it to whatever format works best for you, such as LaTeX or PDF.

What types of research papers can this template be used for?

The template follows the standard best-practice structure for formal academic research papers, so it is suitable for the vast majority of degrees, particularly those within the sciences.

Some universities may have some additional requirements, but these are typically minor, with the core structure remaining the same. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to double-check your university’s requirements before you finalise your structure.

Is this template for an undergrad, Masters or PhD-level research paper?

This template can be used for a research paper at any level of study. It may be slight overkill for an undergraduate-level study, but it certainly won’t be missing anything.

How long should my research paper be?

This depends entirely on your university’s specific requirements, so it’s best to check with them. We include generic word count ranges for each section within the template, but these are purely indicative. 

What about the research proposal?

If you’re still working on your research proposal, we’ve got a template for that here .

We’ve also got loads of proposal-related guides and videos over on the Grad Coach blog .

How do I write a literature review?

We have a wealth of free resources on the Grad Coach Blog that unpack how to write a literature review from scratch. You can check out the literature review section of the blog here.

How do I create a research methodology?

We have a wealth of free resources on the Grad Coach Blog that unpack research methodology, both qualitative and quantitative. You can check out the methodology section of the blog here.

Can I share this research paper template with my friends/colleagues?

Yes, you’re welcome to share this template. If you want to post about it on your blog or social media, all we ask is that you reference this page as your source.

Can Grad Coach help me with my research paper?

Within the template, you’ll find plain-language explanations of each section, which should give you a fair amount of guidance. However, you’re also welcome to consider our private coaching services .

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Home » Academic Paper – Format, Example and Writing Guide

Academic Paper – Format, Example and Writing Guide

Table of Contents

Academic Paper

Academic Paper

Definition:

Academic paper is a written document that presents the findings of a research study or scholarly inquiry in a formal manner. It is typically written by researchers or scholars and is intended to communicate their research findings to their peers or the academic community at large.

Types of Academic Paper

There are several types of academic papers that are commonly assigned in academic settings, including:

  • Research papers : These are papers that involve the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data to answer a research question or test a hypothesis.
  • Review papers: These are papers that synthesize and analyze existing research on a particular topic to provide a comprehensive overview of the field.
  • Case studies: These are papers that examine a particular instance or example in-depth, often used in business or law settings.
  • Essays : These are papers that provide a well-organized argument or analysis of a topic, often used in literature or philosophy courses.
  • Lab reports : These are papers that document experiments conducted in a laboratory setting and include detailed observations, methods, results, and conclusions.
  • Thesis and dissertations : Thesis are long-form research papers that are typically required for advanced degrees, such as a Master’s or PhD.
  • White papers : These are papers that provide detailed information about a particular product, service, or issue, often used in marketing or policy settings.
  • Position papers : These are papers that present a particular point of view or stance on a controversial issue, often used in political or social settings.
  • Literature reviews : These are papers that critically evaluate and summarize the research literature on a particular topic, often used in social and health sciences.
  • Conference papers : These are papers presented at academic conferences, which typically focus on recent research and developments in a particular field.
  • Book reviews: These are papers that provide a critical analysis and evaluation of a book, often used in literature or history courses.
  • Personal statements : These are papers that are used in applications for academic programs or scholarships, in which the author describes their background, interests, and qualifications.
  • Reflection papers: These are papers in which the author reflects on their own experiences or observations related to a particular topic, often used in education or social work courses.
  • Policy papers : These are papers that provide recommendations or proposals for addressing a particular policy issue, often used in political science or public policy courses.
  • Technical reports : These are papers that provide detailed information about a technical project or process, often used in engineering or computer science settings.

Academic Paper Format

Academic papers typically follow a specific format, although it can vary depending on the discipline or journal. Here is a general outline of the components that are commonly included:

  • Title page : This should include the title of the paper, the author’s name, and their affiliation (e.g. university or organization).
  • Abstract : This is a brief summary of the paper, typically around 150-250 words. It should provide an overview of the research question, methods, results, and conclusions.
  • Introduction : This section should introduce the topic of the paper and provide some background information. It should also include a clear research question or hypothesis.
  • Literature review : This section should review the existing research on the topic and explain how the current study contributes to the field.
  • Methodology : This section should describe the methods used in the study, including the sample, measures, and procedures.
  • Results : This section should present the findings of the study, typically using tables and figures to display the data.
  • Discussion : This section should interpret the results and discuss their implications. It should also address the research question or hypothesis and explain how the findings contribute to the field.
  • Conclusion : This section should summarize the main findings and their implications, and suggest directions for future research.
  • References: This section should list all the sources cited in the paper, following a specific citation style (e.g. APA, MLA).

Example of Academic Paper

Example Sample of Academic Paper is as follows:

Title Page:

  • Running head: TITLE OF PAPER
  • Title of paper
  • Author’s name
  • Institutional affiliation
  • A brief summary of the paper’s main points, including the research question, methods, results, and conclusions
  • Should be no more than 250 words

Introduction:

  • Introduce the research question and provide background information
  • Discuss the significance of the research question and how it relates to previous research in the field
  • Provide a clear and concise thesis statement
  • Describe the research design, including the participants, procedures, and materials used
  • Explain how data was collected and analyzed
  • Present the findings of the study in a clear and organized manner
  • Use tables and figures to visually represent the data

Discussion :

  • Interpret the results and explain their significance
  • Discuss how the findings relate to the research question and previous research in the field
  • Identify limitations of the study and suggest directions for future research

References:

  • List all sources cited in the paper, formatted according to APA style guidelines.

When to Write Academic Paper

There are several occasions when you might want to write an academic paper, including:

  • Coursework : In many academic programs, you’ll be required to write papers as part of your coursework. This may include essays, research papers, case studies, or other types of academic writing.
  • Conference presentations: If you’re a researcher, you may want to present your work at academic conferences. Writing an academic paper can help you organize your thoughts and prepare for your presentation.
  • Journal publications: Publishing a paper in a peer-reviewed academic journal is an important way to share your research with the broader academic community. This can help you build your reputation as a scholar and may be required for promotion or tenure.
  • Grant proposals: When applying for research funding, you may need to submit a proposal that includes a research paper outlining your research question, methodology, and expected results.
  • Thesis or dissertation: If you’re pursuing a graduate degree, you’ll likely need to write a thesis or dissertation, which will require extensive research and academic writing.

Purpose of Academic Paper

Academic papers serve several purposes, including:

  • Contribution to knowledge : One of the primary purposes of academic papers is to contribute to the existing body of knowledge on a particular topic. By conducting research and presenting new findings, scholars and researchers can build upon previous work and expand our understanding of a subject.
  • Communication: Academic papers allow researchers to communicate their findings to a wider audience, including other scholars, students, and policymakers. Through publications, academic papers can reach a broader audience and have a greater impact on society.
  • Validation and peer review: Academic papers are subjected to rigorous peer review by other experts in the field. This process helps ensure the accuracy and validity of the research and helps maintain the quality of academic work.
  • Career advancement : Publishing academic papers is often a requirement for career advancement in academia. Researchers who publish frequently are more likely to receive grants, promotions, and tenure.
  • Preservation of knowledge : Academic papers are often archived and made available for future generations to study and learn from. They can provide a record of research and scholarship that can be used to build upon in the future.
  • Development of critical thinking skills : The process of writing an academic paper requires careful analysis, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. By engaging in this process, researchers can develop their abilities to think deeply and systematically about complex topics.
  • Influence on policy: Academic papers can have a significant impact on policy decisions. Policymakers often rely on academic research to inform their decisions, and researchers who are able to communicate their findings effectively can have a real-world impact.
  • Advancement of science and technology : Many academic papers are focused on advancing science and technology. By publishing research on new technologies or breakthroughs in scientific understanding, researchers can help drive innovation and progress in these fields.
  • Education and training: Academic papers are often used as educational resources in universities and other academic settings. They can provide students with valuable insights into research methods, data analysis, and academic writing.
  • Building collaborations: Collaborations and partnerships can be built through academic papers. Researchers working on similar topics can connect through publications, leading to further research and collaboration opportunities.

Advantages of Academic Paper

Academic papers have several advantages, including:

  • Sharing knowledge : Academic papers are an effective way to share knowledge with other scholars and researchers in a particular field. Through publication, ideas and findings can be disseminated to a wider audience and contribute to the advancement of knowledge in a particular discipline.
  • Building credibility : Publishing academic papers can help researchers establish credibility and demonstrate expertise in their field. By contributing to the scholarly conversation, researchers can gain recognition and respect from their peers.
  • Facilitating collaboration: Academic papers can foster collaboration between researchers who share similar interests and can lead to new research partnerships and collaborations.
  • Providing feedback: Academic papers often go through a peer-review process, which allows for constructive feedback from other experts in the field. This feedback can help researchers refine their ideas, strengthen their arguments, and improve the quality of their work.
  • Career advancement: Publishing academic papers can be important for career advancement in academia. It is often a requirement for promotion and tenure, and can also help researchers secure funding for future research projects.
  • Preservation of knowledge : Academic papers are often archived and preserved, ensuring that the knowledge and findings they contain are accessible to future generations of researchers and scholars.

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How to format a research paper

Last updated

7 February 2023

Reviewed by

Miroslav Damyanov

Writing a research paper can be daunting if you’re not experienced with the process. Getting the proper format is one of the most challenging aspects of the task. Reviewers will immediately dismiss a paper that doesn't comply with standard formatting, regardless of the valuable content it contains. 

In this article, we'll delve into the essential characteristics of a research paper, including the proper formatting.

Make research less tedious

Dovetail streamlines research to help you uncover and share actionable insights

  • What is a research paper?

A research paper is a document that provides a thorough analysis of a topic , usually for an academic institution or professional organization. A research paper may be of any length, but they are typically 2,000–10,000 words. 

Unlike less formal papers, such as articles or essays, empirical evidence and data are key to research papers. In addition to students handing in papers, scientists, attorneys, medical researchers, and independent scholars may need to produce research papers.

People typically write research papers to prove a particular point or make an argument. This could support or disprove a theoretical point, legal case, scientific theory, or an existing piece of research on any topic. 

One of the distinguishing characteristics of research papers is that they contain citations to prior research. Citing sources using the correct format is essential for creating a legitimate research paper. 

  • Top considerations for writing a research paper

To write a research paper, you must consider several factors. Fields such as the sciences, humanities, and technical professions have certain criteria for writing research papers. 

You’ll write a research paper using one of several types of formatting. These include APA, MLA, and CMOS styles, which we’ll cover in detail to guide you on citations and other formatting rules. 

Specific requirements of the assignment

If the paper is for a college, university, or any specific organization, they’ll give you certain requirements, such as the range of topics, length, and formatting requirements.

You should study the specifics of the assignment carefully, as these will override more general guidelines you may find elsewhere. If you're writing for a particular professor, they may ask for single or double spacing or a certain citation style. 

  • Components of a research paper

Here are the basic steps to writing a quality research paper, assuming you've chosen your topic and considered the requirements of the paper. Depending on the specific conditions of the paper you're writing, you may need the following elements:

Thesis statement

The thesis statement provides a blueprint for the paper. It conveys the theme and purpose of the paper. It also informs you and readers what your paper will argue and the type of research it will contain. As you write the paper, you can refer to the thesis statement to help you decide whether or not to include certain items.

Most research papers require an abstract as well as a thesis. While the thesis is a short (usually a single sentence) summary of the work, an abstract contains more detail. Many papers use the IMRaD structure for the abstract, especially in scientific fields. This consists of four elements:

Introduction : Summarize the purpose of the paper

Methods : Describe the research methods (e.g., collecting data , interviews , field research)

Results: Summarize your conclusions.  

Discussion: Discuss the implications of your research. Mention any significant limitations to your approach and suggest areas for further research.

The thesis and abstract come at the beginning of a paper, but you should write them after completing the paper. This approach ensures a clear idea of your main topic and argument, which can evolve as you write the paper.

Table of contents

Like most nonfiction books, a research paper usually includes a table of contents. 

Tables, charts, and illustrations

If your paper contains multiple tables, charts, illustrations, or other graphics, you can create a list of these. 

Works cited or reference page

This page lists all the works you cited in your paper. For MLA and APA styles, you will use in-text citations in the body of the paper. For Chicago (CMOS) style, you'll use footnotes. 

Bibliography

While you use a reference page to note all cited papers, a bibliography lists all the works you consulted in your research, even if you don't specifically cite them. 

While references are essential, a bibliography is optional but usually advisable to demonstrate the breadth of your research.

Dedication and acknowledgments

You may include a dedication or acknowledgments at the beginning of the paper directly after the title page and before the abstract.

  • Steps for writing a research paper

These are the most critical steps for researching, writing, and formatting a research paper:

Create an outline

The outline is not part of the published paper; it’s for your use. An outline makes it easier to structure the paper, ensuring you include all necessary points and research. 

Here you can list all topics and subtopics that will support your argument. When doing your research, you can refer to the outline to ensure you include everything. 

Gather research

Solid research is the hallmark of a research paper. In addition to accumulating research, you need to present it clearly. However, gathering research is one of the first tasks. If you compile each piece of research correctly, it will be easier to format the paper correctly. You want to avoid having to go back and look up information constantly.

Start by skimming potentially useful sources and putting them aside for later use. Reading each source thoroughly at this stage will be time-consuming and slow your progress. You can thoroughly review the sources to decide what to include and discard later. At this stage, note essential information such as names, dates, page numbers, and website links. Citing sources will be easier when you’ve written all the information down.

Be aware of the quality of your sources. A research paper should reference scholarly, academic, or scientific journals. It’s vital to understand the difference between primary and secondary sources. 

A primary source is an original, firsthand account of a topic. A secondary source is someone else covering the topic, as in a popular article or interview. While you may include secondary sources, your paper should also include primary research . Online research can be convenient, but you need to be extra careful when assessing the quality of your sources.

Write the first draft

Create a first draft where you put together all your research and address the topic described in your thesis and abstract. 

Edit and format the paper

Proofread, edit, and make any necessary adjustments and improvements to the first draft. List your citations as described below. Ensure your thesis and abstract describe your research accurately. 

  • Formatting a research paper: MLA, APA, and CMOS styles

There are several popular formats for research papers: MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association). Certain academic papers use CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style). Other formats may apply to particular fields. 

For example, medical research may use AMA (American Medical Association) formatting and IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) for particular technical papers. The following are the guidelines and examples of the most popular formats:

The humanities typically use MLA format, including literature, history, and culture. Look over examples of papers created in MLA format . Here are the main rules to keep in mind:

Double-spaced lines.

Indent new paragraphs 1/2 inch.

Title case for headings, where all major words are capitalized, as in "How to Write a Research Paper." 

Use a popular font such as Times New Roman. This applies to all formatting styles.

Use one-inch margins on all sides. 

Number sections of the paper using Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.). 

Use a running head for each page on the upper right-hand corner, which consists of your last name and the page number.

Use an in-text citation within the text, using the author's last name followed by the page number: "Anything worth dying for is certainly worth living for" (Heller 155).  

On the citations page, list the full name, book or periodical, and other information. For MLA, you will not need footnotes, only in-text citations.

List citations in alphabetical order on a separate page at the end of the paper entitled “Works Cited.” 

Continuing with the above example from Heller, the listing would be: Heller, Joseph. Catch-22, Simon & Schuster, 1961.

For a periodical, the format is "Thompson, Hunter S. "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved" Scanlon's, June 1970."

Use title case for source titles, as in "On the Origin of Species."

The sciences typically use APA format, including physical sciences such as physics and social sciences such as psychology. Simply Psychology provides examples of APA formatting . The following are the most important rules of the APA format.

Begin the paper with a title page, which is not required for MLA.

Use double-line spacing.

Use a running head for each page in the upper right-hand corner, which consists of the paper's title in capital letters followed by the page number.

The citations page at the end should be titled "References."

In-text citations should include the publication date: (Smith, 1999, p. 50). Note also that there's a "p" for "page," whereas in MLA, you write the page number without a "p."

As with MLA, use title case for headings, as in "Most Popular Treatments for Cognitive Disorders."

Use sentence case for titles of sources, as in "History of the decline and fall of the Roman empire." Note "Roman" starts with a capital because it's a proper noun.  

When citing in-text references, use the author's last name and the first and middle initials. 

Always use the Oxford comma. This comma goes before the words "or" and "and" in a list. For example, "At the store, I bought oranges, paper towels, and pasta."

CMOS formatting

Book publishers and many academic papers use CMOS formatting based on the Chicago Manual of Style. CMOS is also called Turabian, named after Kate L. Turabian, who wrote the first manual for this style. Here are examples of CMOS style formatting and citations.

Include an unnumbered title page.

Place page numbers on the upper right-hand corner of the page. Do not list your name or the paper's title as you would for MLA or APA styles.

Use title case for both headings and sources (same as MLA).

Unlike MLA and APA, the Chicago style uses footnotes for citations. Use a superscript for footnotes: "Smith argues against Jones' theory¹.” Footnotes may appear at the bottom of the page or the end of the document.  

CMOS supports both short notes and full notes. In most cases, you'll use the full note: "Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (New York: Penguin, 2006), 76." For further references to the same source, use a short note: " Pollan, Omnivore's Dilemma, 45." The requirements of some papers may specify using only short notes for all footnotes.

  • General guidelines for writing and formatting research papers

Keep these guidelines in mind for all types of research papers:

Initial formatting

As you create your first draft, don't worry about formatting. If you try to format it perfectly as you write the paper, it will be difficult to progress and develop a flow of thought. With the first draft, you don't have to be concerned about ordering the sections. You can rearrange headings and sections later. 

Citation tools

Use automation tools for citations . Some useful tools make citations easier by automatically generating a citation list and bibliography. Many work with APA, MLA, and CMOS styles.

Check for plagiarism

Use a plagiarism detector to make sure your paper isn't unintentionally plagiarizing. There are many free and paid plagiarism checkers online, such as Grammarly. 

Proofread your work

Do several rounds of editing and proofreading. Editing is necessary for any type of writing, but you’ll need to revisit several distinct areas with a research paper:

Check for spelling and grammatical errors.

Read the paper to make sure it's well-argued and that you’ve organized it properly. 

Check that you’ve correctly formatted citations. It's easy to make errors, such as incorrect numbering of footnotes (e.g., Chicago style) or forgetting to include a source on your citations page.

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Exploring the Relationship Between Early Life Exposures and the Comorbidity of Obesity and Hypertension: Findings from the 1970 The British Cohort Study (BCS70)

  • Find this author on Google Scholar
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  • ORCID record for Sebastian Stannard
  • For correspondence: [email protected]
  • ORCID record for Rhiannon K Owen
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  • ORCID record for Simon DS Fraser
  • ORCID record for Shantini Paranjothy
  • ORCID record for Rebecca B Hoyle
  • ORCID record for Nisreen A Alwan
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Abstract Background: Epidemiological research commonly investigates single exposure-outcome relationships, while childrens experiences across a variety of early lifecourse domains are intersecting. To design realistic interventions, epidemiological research should incorporate information from multiple risk exposure domains to assess effect on health outcomes. In this paper we identify exposures across five pre-hypothesised childhood domains and explored their association to the odds of combined obesity and hypertension in adulthood. Methods: We used data from 17,196 participants in the 1970 British Cohort Study. The outcome was obesity (BMI of over 30) and hypertension (blood pressure>140/90mm Hg or self-reported doctors diagnosis) comorbidity at age 46. Early life domains included: prenatal, antenatal, neonatal and birth, developmental attributes and behaviour, child education and academic ability, socioeconomic factors and parental and family environment. Stepwise backward elimination selected variables for inclusion for each domain. Predicted risk scores of combined obesity and hypertension for each cohort member within each domain were calculated. Logistic regression investigated the association between domain-specific risk scores and odds of obesity-hypertension, controlling for demographic factors and other domains. Results: Adjusting for demographic confounders, all domains were associated with odds of obesity-hypertension. Including all domains in the same model, higher predicted risk values across the five domains remained associated with increased odds of obesity-hypertension comorbidity, with the strongest associations to the parental and family environment domain (OR1.11 95%CI 1.05-1.18) and the socioeconomic factors domain (OR1.11 95%CI 1.05-1.17). Conclusions: Targeted prevention interventions aimed at population groups with shared early-life characteristics could have an impact on obesity-hypertension prevalence which are known risk factors for further morbidity including cardiovascular disease.

Competing Interest Statement

R.O. is a member of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Technology Appraisal Committee, member of the NICE Decision Support Unit (DSU), and associate member of the NICE Technical Support Unit (TSU). She has served as a paid consultant to the pharmaceutical industry and international reimbursement agencies, providing unrelated methodological advice. She reports teaching fees from the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI). R.H. is a member of the Scientific Board of the Smith Institute for Industrial Mathematics and System Engineering.

Funding Statement

This work is part of the multidisciplinary ecosystem to study lifecourse determinants and prevention of early-onset burdensome multimorbidity (MELD-B) project which is supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR203988). The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.

Author Declarations

I confirm all relevant ethical guidelines have been followed, and any necessary IRB and/or ethics committee approvals have been obtained.

The details of the IRB/oversight body that provided approval or exemption for the research described are given below:

Ethics approval for this work has been obtained from the University of Southampton Faculty of Medicine Ethics committee (ERGO II Reference 66810).

I confirm that all necessary patient/participant consent has been obtained and the appropriate institutional forms have been archived, and that any patient/participant/sample identifiers included were not known to anyone (e.g., hospital staff, patients or participants themselves) outside the research group so cannot be used to identify individuals.

I understand that all clinical trials and any other prospective interventional studies must be registered with an ICMJE-approved registry, such as ClinicalTrials.gov. I confirm that any such study reported in the manuscript has been registered and the trial registration ID is provided (note: if posting a prospective study registered retrospectively, please provide a statement in the trial ID field explaining why the study was not registered in advance).

I have followed all appropriate research reporting guidelines, such as any relevant EQUATOR Network research reporting checklist(s) and other pertinent material, if applicable.

Data Availability

The BCS70 datasets generated and analysed in the current study are available from the UK Data Archive repository (available here: http://www.cls.ioe.ac.uk/page.aspx?&sitesectionid=795).

http://www.cls.ioe.ac.uk/page.aspx?&sitesectionid=795

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  1. How to Write a Research Paper in APA Format

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  5. 8+ Academic Paper Templates

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COMMENTS

  1. Research Paper Format

    Formatting a Chicago paper. The main guidelines for writing a paper in Chicago style (also known as Turabian style) are: Use a standard font like 12 pt Times New Roman. Use 1 inch margins or larger. Apply double line spacing. Indent every new paragraph ½ inch. Place page numbers in the top right or bottom center.

  2. 13.1 Formatting a Research Paper

    Set the top, bottom, and side margins of your paper at 1 inch. Use double-spaced text throughout your paper. Use a standard font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, in a legible size (10- to 12-point). Use continuous pagination throughout the paper, including the title page and the references section.

  3. Sample papers

    The following two sample papers were published in annotated form in the Publication Manual and are reproduced here as PDFs for your ease of use. The annotations draw attention to content and formatting and provide the relevant sections of the Publication Manual (7th ed.) to consult for more information.. Student sample paper with annotations (PDF, 5MB)

  4. Paper format

    To format a paper in APA Style, writers can typically use the default settings and automatic formatting tools of their word-processing program or make only minor adjustments. The guidelines for paper format apply to both student assignments and manuscripts being submitted for publication to a journal. If you are using APA Style to create ...

  5. How To Write A Research Paper (FREE Template

    We've covered a lot of ground here. To recap, the three steps to writing a high-quality research paper are: To choose a research question and review the literature. To plan your paper structure and draft an outline. To take an iterative approach to writing, focusing on critical writing and strong referencing.

  6. Research Paper Format

    Research paper format is an essential aspect of academic writing that plays a crucial role in the communication of research findings.The format of a research paper depends on various factors such as the discipline, style guide, and purpose of the research. It includes guidelines for the structure, citation style, referencing, and other elements of the paper that contribute to its overall ...

  7. PDF Formatting a Research Paper

    Do not use a period after your title or after any heading in the paper (e.g., Works Cited). Begin your text on a new, double-spaced line after the title, indenting the first line of the paragraph half an inch from the left margin. Fig. 1. The top of the first page of a research paper.

  8. PDF Student Paper Setup Guide, APA Style 7th Edition

    7th Edition. Student Paper Setup Guide. This guide will help you set up an APA Style student paper. The basic setup directions apply to the entire paper. Annotated diagrams illustrate how to set up the major sections of a student paper: the title page or cover page, the text, tables and figures, and the reference list. Basic Setup.

  9. APA Sample Paper

    Media Files: APA Sample Student Paper , APA Sample Professional Paper This resource is enhanced by Acrobat PDF files. Download the free Acrobat Reader. Note: The APA Publication Manual, 7 th Edition specifies different formatting conventions for student and professional papers (i.e., papers written for credit in a course and papers intended for scholarly publication).

  10. PDF The Structure of an Academic Paper

    Not all academic papers include a roadmap, but many do. Usually following the thesis, a roadmap is a narrative table of contents that summarizes the flow of the rest of the paper. Below, see an example roadmap in which Cuevas (2019) succinctly outlines her argument. You may also see roadmaps that list

  11. Research Paper

    The methods section of a research paper describes the research design, the sample selection, the data collection and analysis procedures, and the statistical methods used to analyze the data. ... Academic recognition: Research papers can lead to academic recognition in the form of awards, grants, or invitations to speak at conferences or events ...

  12. Free Research Paper Template (Word Doc & PDF)

    If you're preparing to write an academic research paper, our free research paper template is the perfect starting point. In the template, we cover every section step by step, with clear, straightforward explanations and examples.. The template's structure is based on the tried and trusted best-practice format for formal academic research papers. The template structure reflects the overall ...

  13. Academic Paper

    Example Sample of Academic Paper is as follows: Title Page: Running head: TITLE OF PAPER. Title of paper. Author's name. Institutional affiliation. Abstract: A brief summary of the paper's main points, including the research question, methods, results, and conclusions. Should be no more than 250 words.

  14. How to Format a Research Paper: Styles and Examples

    A research paper is a document that provides a thorough analysis of a topic, usually for an academic institution or professional organization. A research paper may be of any length, but they are typically 2,000-10,000 words. Unlike less formal papers, such as articles or essays, empirical evidence and data are key to research papers.

  15. APA Format for Academic Papers: Guidelines & Examples for 2024

    II. Elements of an APA Academic Paper. This how to write in APA format style guide is based on the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th Edition (APA, 2014).. A. Title. A title should be a brief statement of the main topic and should simply sum up the main concept of the article.

  16. PDF HOW TO WRITE AN EFFECTIVE RESEARCH PAPER

    Getting ready with data. Gather all important data, analyses, plots and tables. Organize results so that they follow a logical sequence (this may or may not be in the order of experiments conducted) Consolidate data plots and create figures for the manuscript (Limit the number of total figures (6-8 is usually a good number).

  17. (Pdf) How to Write an Academic Research Paper

    four main stages: choosing a topic, researching your topic, making an outline, and doing the actual writing. The paper won't write itself, but by planning and preparing well, the writing ...

  18. A Guide on How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper

    Use strong action verbs to describe the effect of your research, such as "transforms," "enables," "revolutionizes," or "underscores.". 5. Keep it concise. Focus on writing within the word limit and keeping the information that is required to be showcased or highlighted. After drafting your abstract, review it specifically for ...

  19. Welcome to the Purdue Online Writing Lab

    Mission. The Purdue On-Campus Writing Lab and Purdue Online Writing Lab assist clients in their development as writers—no matter what their skill level—with on-campus consultations, online participation, and community engagement. The Purdue Writing Lab serves the Purdue, West Lafayette, campus and coordinates with local literacy initiatives.

  20. Writing a Research Paper Introduction

    Table of contents. Step 1: Introduce your topic. Step 2: Describe the background. Step 3: Establish your research problem. Step 4: Specify your objective (s) Step 5: Map out your paper. Research paper introduction examples. Frequently asked questions about the research paper introduction.

  21. Exploring the Relationship Between Early Life Exposures and the

    Abstract Background: Epidemiological research commonly investigates single exposure-outcome relationships, while childrens experiences across a variety of early lifecourse domains are intersecting. To design realistic interventions, epidemiological research should incorporate information from multiple risk exposure domains to assess effect on health outcomes. In this paper we identify ...

  22. 2024 Conference

    The Neural Information Processing Systems Foundation is a non-profit corporation whose purpose is to foster the exchange of research advances in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, principally by hosting an annual interdisciplinary academic conference with the highest ethical standards for a diverse and inclusive community.

  23. How to Write a Literature Review

    Examples of literature reviews. Step 1 - Search for relevant literature. Step 2 - Evaluate and select sources. Step 3 - Identify themes, debates, and gaps. Step 4 - Outline your literature review's structure. Step 5 - Write your literature review.

  24. How to Write a Research Proposal

    Research proposal examples. Writing a research proposal can be quite challenging, but a good starting point could be to look at some examples. We've included a few for you below. Example research proposal #1: "A Conceptual Framework for Scheduling Constraint Management".