How to format a research paper

It is safe to say that formatting your research paper is the last thing you should worry about, but this does not mean that it is not important, because it is the very reason why you read newly found information with ease. In learning how to format a research paper, the first thing you need to know is the academic style your school is requiring you to use. Since this is a research paper, there are instances in which you do not have to format the paper, which means that you just have to produce an essay anchored with research. But, in cases where formal research papers are required, universities usually obliges the researcher to use the APA style not only for formatting, but for citing your sources too. Considering its wide usage, this how to format a research paper in APA style:

Title Page

In writing a title page, you need the title of your paper, your name, and the name of your school. The date of submission is not required by some universities, but if it is needed in your title page, place it under the name of your school. Other elements are the distinct running head and the page number – these two should be placed outside the premises of your 1-inch margin on all sides, and this can be done automatically in your MS Word.


The abstract is first written content that your readers will see. Ironically, this is the last section you will deal with, because an abstract is a 100 to 150-word paragraph that gives an overview regarding the content of your research paper. You can give a brief background and discuss the significance of your topic, or you can summarize the sections of your research paper for your abstract.

Headings and Subheadings

As mentioned, formatting a research paper does not require you to utilize headings all the time especially if it is just a short piece, however, if it is required, the best headings depend solely on your topic and the subtopics you discuss. In short, your headings should not just be Introduction, Body, and Conclusion because a good research paper requires relevant headings and subheadings. Headings and subheadings are not used in short papers unless otherwise stated by your instructor. The best way to formulate your headings is first planning the aspects that you wish to cover in your paper. In other words, before you can write and format your research paper, you have to lay down an outline first.


Remember, how you format your research paper still depends on the required academic style, so is your references page. Since we are talking about APA formatted research paper, this example is also in APA style, however, keep in mind that your academic style should be followed from the first page of your paper to the last. For APA, your references should be written as: Writer’s Name. (Year). Article title. Journal Title, Volume (Issue), pages. (FOR A JOURNAL ARTICLE SOURCE) Franco, A. (2015). How to format a research paper. All About Research, 3(18), 78-87. The example given is how you should enter a journal source in your references page, because journals are the best sources to utilize when conducting research as most of them are peer-reviewed and carefully evaluated before publishing. Note that you need to use the hanging indentation – this type of indentation is applied to most academic styles including Chicago, MLA, and Harvard, among others. These are all the basic elements you need to keep in mind regarding how to format a research paper.

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