When pursuing higher education, you must know how to format research paper to impress your college or university professor and score a higher grade. Formatting your essay should not take longer than researching the topic. But knowing the essential parts of this document enables you to outline it faster. Also, it helps you frame the work while guiding your research.
Formats of research papers differ as per the style guide that the educator asks the students to follow. Additionally, citations like MLA, APA, Chicago, and Turabian provide academic paper format guidelines for page layout, font choice, headings, and the reference page. This article explains how a student can format a research paper. It explains the basics of research paper formatting, different formats, and what to include in every section.
What Is The Format Of A Research Paper?
A research paper format is a structure or layout showing where different types of information will appear. It’s also called a research paper layout or template, and it shows what the author will include in the document. A comprehensive format comprises the preliminary pages, main body, and the end matter.
Typical essays comprise an introduction, the body, and the conclusion sections. However, the body of a regular essay and a research paper differs slightly. A scientific paper format will include a literature review, methods, results or findings, and discussion sections. Ideally, the structure is parallel to the experimental process.
Overall, a research paper outline is specific to the experimental or academic work it reports. Also, it adheres to specific standards for other scientists to reference the work for their initiatives. Therefore, it’s not surprising for students to ask, “How should a research paper be structured?” This question is common among learners tackling research paper assignments for the first time.
How To Format a Research Paper: Basic Structure
Before writing a research paper, know the style guide that the educator wants you to follow. Different style guides dictate the paper’s citation, grammar, typography, and bibliography. As hinted, various academic fields have unique style guides.
For instance, social and behavioral science research uses the American Psychological Association or APA style guide. Here are the basic guidelines for formatting your APA paper.
- 81/2 x1-inch margins on the bottom, top, and sides.
- Double-spaced sentences
- 12 point Times New Roman
- Center-aligned cover pages
- Left-aligned header with the study title
- Right-aligned numbers for the pages at the top
- Indentation for the first word in every paragraph apart from the abstract
- Bolded headings for sections like Methodology and Background but not the title
- In-text citations of reports, articles, and studies, including the organization’s or author’s name and publication date
Other writing style guides include Chicago, MLA, AMA, and CBE. MLA and CMOS are prominent guides for liberal arts, with AMA and CBE being similar in specific ways. Your professor or teacher will state the style guide they want you to use when writing your research paper.
You don’t need a running head for MLA formatting, but the font is the same. Also, you require the author’s name and a citation page or a bibliography. Each paragraph should start with an indented word, ½ inch apart from the 1-inch margin for all sides.
The Chicago style requires the exact font specifications and side margins similar to MLA formatting. Don’t bold or italicize the title page. However, students should include the professor’s name and numbered footnotes.
With Turabian, most features are similar to Chicago. The citation format uses bibliography and notes citations. The notes are similar to footnotes, while the bibliography comprises the work you cited in your study. This style does not specify the font but says it should be legible.
The ASA writing style is almost the same as APA. ASA research papers include a running head with a format similar to APA and the same title page setup. However, this style requires a 12-point Arial font. Also, authors must include the word count of the text, including the bibliography and footnotes. For the margins, this style is liberal, requiring one and ¼ margin on all sides.
Standard Research Paper Format
Apart from the slight variations in the citation, grammar, typography, and bibliography based on the style guide, most research papers have the following primary sections.
- Title Page
Also called the cover page, this section tells the audience about the paper’s name and the author. The first page comprises the paper’s and author’s names, a running head, and institutional affiliations. The author’s note includes the institutional affiliation, usually towards the title page’s bottom. Also, the author’s message can acknowledge the funding support and individuals that helped with the study.
An abstract summarizes the study, typically in less than 250 words. In some cases, the abstract can be less than 250 words. This section overviews the study.
An introduction is part of the structure of a paper in every academic discipline. It tells the audience about the topic and why it deserves studying. Essentially, the introduction describes the subject while discussing or summarizing relevant past studies related to it.
The author identifies the unresolved issues that necessitated the current study while telling the readers how the researcher will address them. The introduction is a basic overview of the entire research.
Writing a research paper comes after researching a topic. The method or methodology section tells the audience how you performed the research. Typically, it features a description of the subjects or participants involved in your study. Also, this section presents the study design, procedure, and materials.
If you conducted multiple experiments, each experiment should have its methods section. Most academic fields require a detailed methods section to help any other researcher that may want to duplicate the study.
This section tells the readers what you found or established with your research. Here, you describe the gathered data and results of statistical tests. Also, you can preface this section with a description of any analysis procedure that you may have used in your research. If you performed multiple experiments, provide separate areas for their results.
Tell your readers why your study results are significant in the discussion section. Perhaps, this is the last central section of your paper, featuring the results’ summary. Here, you describe how the results address your study topic or the issues you set out to address with your investigation. Also, you can expand on the findings’ implications. Additionally, address the limitations of your current study while providing directions for further research.
The reference or bibliography section lists the books and articles you cited in your paper. Please refer to the research paper style guide when writing the reference section. When writing an APA paper, list your information sources alphabetically by the author’s last name. Also, follow the APA guidelines for article titles, author names, dates, journal volume numbers, journal titles, page numbers, publisher locations, book publishers, and websites. Also, follow the specific guidelines for MLA, Chicago, and Turban writing styles, among others.
- Tables and Figures
Data and graphs are optional, depending on the research type. In an APA paper, each figure or table has a separate page. Also, the figures and tables come after the reference section, and the tables come before the statistics. Nevertheless, some undergraduate research papers and journals may require students to embed figures and tables in the text. But this depends on the editor’s or instructor’s policies.
The appendix section provides supplementary information, and it’s optional. Ideally, this section comprises extra information that might not be critical to the comprehension of the research paper. For instance, the appendix can provide secondary analysis details, experiment stimuli list, or programming code.
Variations In Research Paper Format
The sections described above are common to most academic papers. However, some disciplines have slight variations in this pattern. Here are some of these variations.
- Literature review: Some research papers have a literature review section. Here, the author reviews published research without presenting a new empirical study like a review article. After that, the writer can forego the methods and results. Instead, they include an introduction and sections for various aspects of the research body they review in this part. Perhaps, the discussion section can follow.
- Multi-experiment papers: If a research project involves several experiments, the writer can write the introduction and then the Experiment 1 section with methods, results, and discussion subsections. The same structure can follow for Experiment 2, Experiment 3, etc. In the end, the paper can feature a general discussion of the sections and, eventually, the references. In some multi-experiment pieces, the authors can combine the results and discussion subsections into one Results and Discussions part.
Other Considerations When Formatting A Research Paper
Maybe you want to get into more details when writing the primary sections of your paper. In that case, consider the following.
- Study limitations: After the introduction, you can add a section listing your study limitations. Here, you can list the factors that limited your investigation. These can include location, age, educational level, and sex. Also, you can explain how these shortcomings affected your study. For instance, you can expound on the impact of a small sample size or limited resources on your research.
- Literature review: You can also include a separate literature review section. In that case, don’t include scholarly books and articles in the Background section. Instead, investigate them in detail in the literature review section. This section appears between the Methodology and Background sections.
- Discussion: The discussion section is more concentrated and allows you to evaluate the results in detail. Use this section to consider the entire research process.
- Acknowledgments: In the acknowledgment section, thank everyone who assisted you with your research. Some of the entities you can mention here include the focus participants or groups, colleagues, fellow researchers, family members, and mentors.
Adhering to the format of research paper guidelines can be challenging. However, you can find many samples to help you format your paper. Modern students have an easier way of finding sample papers with their desired formats. Also, your educator can provide examples to help you with research paper formatting.
Practical Research Essay Format Tips
Once the educator assigns you a research paper writing assignment, ask yourself, “What is the right format for this paper?” If the professor has not indicated this in the assignment instructions, follow your study field’s guidelines and format your paper accordingly. Here are more tips from research paper writing service writers to help you.
- Remember that each academic discipline has a style guide explaining how to format papers in that field.
- Avoid domain names with extensions like .net and .com and go for .edu, .gov, and .org websites.
- If you don’t know about the structure of your research paper, use a research paper template in your academic discipline for guidance.
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