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Research Paper Formats Types and Requirements

When you get a task to write a research paper, you have to source relevant data and think over the content of your future paper. However, that is not all, as there are always requirements for style and formatting that come with written tasks. Therefore, the particularities of research paper format are vital to learning. Our article would give you details on how to cite a research paper properly and other vital guidelines on formatting and referencing research paper.

Formatting rules basics

When preparing a research paper, lacking specific requirements, here are some generally acceptable ones:

  •  Margin sizes. A margin size of 1 inch.
  • Font choices. A text font size of 12 or 14 pt, serif (Times New Roman, Arial or other similar font).
  • Headings and subheadings. Headings and subheadings written in capital letters without a period at the end. Section and subsection headings left aligned and in bold font.
  • Numbering of pages and sections. All pages except the title page numbered in the center of the footer. The page number in Arabic numerals, without using the word “page” or the abbreviation “p.” Sections and subsections numbered in Arabic numerals with a period at the end (for example, 1., 1.1., 1.2., etc.).
  • Format of lists. Listing items using a bulleted or numbered list.
Style/Feature APA MLA Chicago ASA
Subjects Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology English and Literature, Cultural Studies, Areas of Humanities Arts, Humanities, History Sociology and related fields
Guidelines APA Publication Manual, 7th edition The MLA Handbook, 9th edition Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition American Sociological Association Style Guide, 7th edition
Margins 1 inch-margins 1 inch-margins 1 inch-margins 1 inch-margins
Title page Required No separate title page Optional Required

Types of research paper academic formats

research paper formats

Research paper APA format

The American Psychological Association, also known as the abbreviation APA, established the APA format to unify official standards for papers on several disciplines. APA standards show requirements for citation and referencing style, fonts, margins, etc.

The main particularities of an APA style research paper:

  • Times New Roman font, size 12
  • Double spacing
  • One-inch margins
  • Page number in the top right corner of each page (including title page)

Here are the core elements of the APA research paper format:

  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Body with headings and subheadings (optionally), and citations of sources
  • References

Consider the crucial point that all these items must be parts of one solid document. Now let us take a closer look at each element of a research paper APA format:

Title page in APA

Include the following data on the title page:

The title page of your paper includes the following information:

1) title of the research paper
2) the name and surname of the author
3) the name of your college or university

These first three items of the title page must be in the center of the page.

4) There must be a header at the top of the title page with the title in capital letters. Depending on the program you use for formatting, select the “add the header” option and put the title text in the left of the upper-right corner of the page.
5) The number of the page must be in the upper-right corner in the right.

Abstract in APA

APA research paper format establishes an abstract that summarizes all the central points and findings of the research. An abstract is obligated for research papers with a hypothesis. Do not overload an abstract with useless words – make it precise and laconic. Two to four sentences would be enough to explain the significance of your research and expose the core facts. For APA paper format, assume up to 250 words for the abstract.

The body in APA

The critical elements of the body in APA style are headings, subheadings, and in-text citations:

Headings in APA

It all depends on the content and length of the research paper. Usually, you would require using both section and subsection headings to arrange the information correctly. The aim of adding headers is to ease the navigation through the main points of the research and create a hierarchical structure of the document:

Section headings are usually written in bold font and title case situated in the center of the page.

Subsection headings are in bold font and title case but situated on the left side of the page.
Lower level headings are situated on the left side as well. They are indented, in bold, with only the first word capitalized, and the sentence ends with a period. Note that third and fourth level headings are similar except for the italic font used for the fourth level. And the fifth level is different from the previous levels with fonts – not bold and italic.

In-text citations in APA

Here is how to cite a paper in APA format. Note that in-text citations are vital to include even if you paraphrase the original materials. Include the author’s name and then point to the year of publishing. For direct quotations, add the number of the page as well. Place the citations in the middle of the sentence or at the end of the sentence.

References page in APA

Unlike in-text citations, the references page contains more comprehensive information about the sources in alphabetical order on a separate list. There are such requirements to follow:

  • Web sources: list the address of the website, the author’s name, publishing date, when, type, and title of the web source.
  • Articles: add the name of the author, title, year of publishing, and page range.
  • Books: add the author’s name, the book’s title and the publisher’s name, and the publishing year.
  • Essays: add the name of the source where the paper was published.

Common APA format mistakes

apa format mistakes

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MLA research paper format

Modern Language Association establishes the requirements of the MLA format, which is common for research papers on humanity disciplines.

Here are the main particularities of an MLA research paper format:

  • Times New Roman font, size 12
  • White 8 ½x11” paper
  • Indentation at the beginning of each paragraph
  • Double spacing
  • One-inch margins
  • Page number in the top left corner together with the last name (in the heading)

The critical elements of an MLA research paper format:

  • Header and first page
  • The body
  • References list

Header and first page in MLA

Note that a separate title page is not always obligatory in MLA style, but for some disciplines, a title page for a research paper is mandatory. Include in the heading, your full name and your supervisor’s name, the course, and the assignment’s due date. The header must be in the upper left corner of the first page. The page number must be in the upper right corner of the first page.

The body in MLA

It is mandatory to include lists in the body. When you use numbers, you should write them using words if their numbers are one or two words long. However, for measurements and fractions, you can use numbers. If you use quotations, you need to arrange the in-text citations in the same sentence by mentioning the author of the quote.

References list in MLA

Put the references on the last page of the research paper. Write “Works Cited” in the center of the list. Add a double space before you write your first reference. Then use double spacing for the entire page as well.

Common MLA format mistakes

Common MLA Mistakes

Chicago paper format

The paper format established by the Chicago Manual of Style is not as widespread for research papers as other styles. However, it also can be applied to humanity disciplines. For research paper format, the typically used variation of Chicago is called Turabian.

The main peculiarities of the Chicago/Turabian format are the following:

  • Times New Roman font size 12 size recommended but not mandatory
  • Double spacing
  • One-inch margins (could be more significant)
  • New paragraphs must be indented by ½ inch
  • Left-aligned text
  • Page numbers in the top right corner or the bottom center

The critical elements of Chicago research paper format:

  • Title page
  • Body with headings and subheadings (optionally), notes, and in-text citations
  • Bibliography/reference page

Title page in Chicago style

For many research papers, include only a title by placing it in bold in the center of the page. However, the title page can be more comprehensive for some papers and include subtitles (below the title in bold font), the student’s name, course name, and date. All the data except the title and subtitle are in the center lower than the title (approximately 2/3 page.) Note that the title page in Chicago style does not require a number on it. However, it must be included in the page count, and the next page will start with the number 2.

The body in Chicago style


Always use headline capitalization for headings in Chicago style. Make sure to present the same level headings equally, and the higher levels must be in larger font, italic, or bold.

Numbers, acronyms

Use words for all the numbers that are lower than one hundred. Acronyms are vital to put at the beginning of the sentence and explain their whole meaning when you mention the abbreviation for the first time.

In-text citations, notes

There are two appropriate variations for citation styles in Chicago research paper format:

  • Author-date: in-text citations that are pretty flexible in terms of formatting
  • Notes-bibliography: you have to use footnotes and endnotes with superscript numbers on the pages and add a separate reference page to allow readers to refer to it.

Bibliography/reference list page in Chicago style

For Chicago, the academic paper format bibliography page must be at the end of the document with two variations of referencing depending on the citation style you choose. Both of them, the bibliography and the references, must be with a blank line between entries.

ASA paper format

ASA stands for the American Sociological Association. This style of research paper format is typical for papers on sociology and related disciplines. However, students and academics use the ASA format more for articles; from time to time, tasks contain requirements for formatting a research paper in ASA.

Here are the main particularities of ASA paper format:

  • Times New Roman font size 12
  • One-inch margins for all four sides
  • Double spacing (for everything, including references)
  • Indented first lines for paragraphs

Critical elements for ASA paper format are:

  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Body with subheadings
  • References list

Title page in ASA

There should be a separate page with the title in the center in the upper case. Below, you need to place the name of the author, professor, and course.

Abstract in ASA

It is mandatory to include an abstract with a summary of the research paper’s main points: at least 200 words long. Put it on a separate page.

The body in ASA

It is vital to arrange subheadings of the body in the following way:

  • The first level must be without bold font.
  • The second level must be in italics, and each letter of each word must be in upper case (except prepositions).
  • The third level must be in italics, and only the first letter of the first word must be in upper case. The third level must end with a period and be indented.

References in ASA

Include here all the sources that you referred to in the paper’s body in alphabetical order. Include complete names of authors. All titles of journals must be capitalized (except prepositions) and be in italics. Put the titles of chapters into quotation marks.

research paper formatting tips

We can help with formatting or writing

We believe this guide on using the appropriate research paper format was helpful enough to ease creating your assignments correctly. You can check how to format your essay on our blog as well.

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