We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Research Paper Format

Published on: Aug 28, 2017
Updated on: Apr 01, 2024
Table of content
  • Short overview of style formats
  • Page setup and margins format
  • Font type and size format
  • Line and word spacing
  • Numbering pages
  • Title page format
  • Table of contents format
  • Abstract format
  • Body text formatting
  • Titles of sources format
  • Bibliography formatting
  • Supplementary materials formatting
  • Outline for your paper
  • A final note

Research Paper Format

During the studying, students have to create many different papers. However, it is sometimes unclear how to style or arrange them to get the highest score from the teacher.

Regardless of the nature of your research, an outline will help you organize your thoughts, format them and serve as the template for your entire paper. An outline for a research paper is a visual reminder to include all of the pertinent details of your research in your essay or paper. It is essentially a skeletal version of the true paper and will guide you through the entire research process.

Short overview of style formats and research paper setup

Standard formatting and citation norms are often used when writing student research papers. There are APA, MLA, Chicago, and Turabian styles. And each of them has its characteristics.

Before writing your paper, ask your teacher what style to use. The most popular formats for a research paper are APA and AMA, so let’s closely examine them. The APA style was developed for the American Psychological Association. The Modern Language Association uses the MLA style for work in education and many social disciplines.

When writing your papers, you must adhere to the norms of this citation style and formatting so that the work is not plagiarized and has a high academic value. Thus, you need to know the needed format of a research paper.

Formatting style shows the reader that the student wrote the research paper with an objective scientific approach, collected all the information, and arranged it in a convenient format.

The research paper should contain the following components:

  1. Title page;
  2. Abstract;
  3. Body part;
    • Headings and subheadings of sections (in each of them, the citation norms must be observed);
  4. List of literature.

Next, we will look at each component in more detail.

The deadline is too short to read long manuals?
Save your time with our Writing Partner - EduBirdie
Place order 7 minutes
Choose writer 2 minutes
Receive paper always on time
Receive Paper in 3 Hours
*EduBirdie as a Premium Partner was chosen among 50+ writing services by our Customer Satisfaction Team.

How do you style and format a research paper?

You can turn to several sources for research paper help and pick up many potential high-quality topics from which to pull your subject matter. As you will learn from looking through any good research paper example, writing a great paper involves so much more than simply throwing a bunch of text and citations into a word processor and hoping for the best.

A passing grade means thoroughly researching your topic and ensuring all your sources are accurately cited, and your research essay is formatted correctly. Thus, you must use the proper layout of a research paper. The following guideline of the format will help you to create a finished paper that not only reads like it was professionally written – but also looks like it!

Different formats and styles of citing and formatting provide different designs. Therefore, you must know the citation style and format to know what a research paper looks like. For example, in the APA style formatting, on the title page, you need to include not only the title of the work but also information about the author and educational institution. In the MLA style formatting, you need to specify not only the work’s author and title but also the shipper, course, and date. Moreover, this is indicated not in the center, as in the APA scientific research paper format, but in the upper left corner of the work’s first page.

Page setup and margins format

Before writing, you need to set up a research paper document and standards. Let’s move on to the specific style requirements you need to comply with during the design of your work. Use clean, good quality 8 1/2″ x 11″ white paper, one side only. Leave margins of your essay 1″ (2.5 cm) at the top, bottom, left and right sides of every page. 1″ is about 10 typed spaces. The exception is for page numbers placed 1/2″ (1.25 cm) from the top upper-right-hand corner, flushed to the right margin.

Font type and size format

If there is no special standard writing format at your university, use a clear, contrasting font style such as Times New Roman 12pt.

Line and word spacing and paragraph indentation formatting

Whether your research essay is handwritten, typed, or printed, the entire essay should be double-spaced along lines and 1″ margin on all sides for your teacher to write comments.

In general, formatting, leave one space between words and one space after every comma, semi-colon, or colon. Traditionally, two spaces are required at the end of every sentence, whether the sentence ends with a period, a question mark, or an exclamation mark. Although it is not wrong to leave two spaces after a period, it is quite acceptable nowadays to leave only one space after each punctuation mark. However, NO space should be left before a punctuation mark; for example, the following style would be incorrect: op. cit. or “Why me?”.

  • If a handwritten research paper is acceptable to your teacher, double-space all lines, and begin each paragraph with an indentation of 1″ from the left margin. Use the width of your thumb as a rough guide.
  • If you use a typewriter or a word processor on a computer, indent 5 spaces or 1/2″ at the beginning of each paragraph. Indent set-off quotations 10 spaces or 1″ from the left margin.
  • If you are NOT indenting, you will start each paragraph flush to the left margin. It is essential that you double-space between lines and quadruple-space between paragraphs.

Your instructor may give you a choice to indent or not to indent your paragraphs. No matter whichever style you choose to use, you must be consistent throughout your essay format. Moreover, it is easier for a reader to see where a new paragraph begins when indented. Hence quadruple space is called for between paragraphs. Set-off quotations should still be indented 10 spaces or 1″ from the left margin.

Do not justify your entire essay, and do not automatically format hyphens if you use a word processor to type your research essay. Left justify your essay and format the hyphens yourself where needed. Left justification is preferred as it will not leave big gaps between words.

Numbering pages of the research paper

Number your pages consecutively throughout the essay in the upper right-hand corner, flush against the right margin and 1/2″ from the top. The MLA Handbook recommends you type your last name just before the page number in case the pages get misplaced (134). On page 4 of your essay, for example, your top right-hand corner should show Jones 4.

Page numbers must be written in Arabic-style numerals. Do not add anything fancy to decorate a page number. Do not underline it! Do not enclose it between hyphens, parentheses, or asterisks, precede it with “Page”, “Pg.”, “P.”, or add a period after the number. In other words, DO NOT use any of the following styles:

PAGE 4, Page 4, Pg. 4, P 4, pg. 4, p. 4, #4, ~ 4 ~, – 4 -, * 4*, (4), “4”, 4, or 4.

Simply write: 4.

Remember, there is no period after the page number.

Suppose you submit your research paper to your teacher via email. In that case, they may prefer that you number all your paragraphs consecutively with reference points by adding [1] at the beginning of your 1st paragraph, [2] before your 2nd paragraph, and so forth. Electronic submission of documents is becoming more common as e-mail is being used widely. This system will facilitate the citation of sources by quickly identifying a specific paragraph for reference.

Title page research essay format

A title page is only essential for a research paper if specifically requested by your teacher. The MLA Handbook provides a general guideline for writing a research paper, formatting, and documenting sources. In case of conflict, you should always follow guidelines set down by your teacher.

If you don’t have a title page of the research paper, you may begin 1″ from the top of the first page of your essay and start typing your name flushed against the left margin. Proceed typing your teacher’s name, course code, and date under your name ─ on separate lines, double-spaced, and flushed against the left margin. Double-space after the date. On a new line, center the title of your research essay. If you have a long title, double-space between the lines of the title.

If your teacher prefers the first page of your research paper not to be numbered, you will begin numbering with page 2.


Jones 1

Tracy Jones

Ms. K. Smith


16 January 2006 Gun Control: Pros and Cons

Use proper format, and do not type your title all in capital letters. Do not put quotation marks before and after the title. Do not underline the title or put a period at the end of the title. Proper names of people and places and important words should be capitalized in the title. Still, prepositions and conjunctions are normally shown in lowercase letters, e.g., Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The same rule applies to headings and subheadings as well.

Follow the same capitalization style rules for acronyms as you normally would in writing and formatting a text of the essay, e.g., FBI would be all in capitals as it is the Federal Bureau of Investigations acronym. When using an acronym, especially an uncommon one, you must indicate what the letters stand for at the first occurrence in your essay. Example: The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has nearly finished converting from standard desktop PCs to blade PCs.

If a Title Page is a requirement for your assignment, begin on a new page. Use formats of research papers preferred by your teacher. Otherwise, center each line and double-space every line on a blank page: name of school (optional), paper title in upper and lower case, course code, course name (optional), teacher’s name, first and last name, and date.

Your separate title page should appear as follows the format:

Gun Control: Pros and Cons


Ms. K. Smith

Tracy Jones

16 January 2006

The following example of formatting shows what NOT to do for a title page:






Premium Partner
From $13.99 per page
4,8 / 5
Writers Experience
Recommended Service
From $13.90 per page
4,5 / 5
Writers Experience
From $20.00 per page
4,4 / 5
Writers Experience
* All Partners were chosen among 50+ writing services by our Customer Satisfaction Team

Describing or explaining the title page is optional by adding the words: Title, Course Code, To, From, or Due Date. More is not better. Minimal information providing simple format identification is adequate.

Table of contents

A short essay or research paper requires no Table of Contents. However, you can find it if you Google: “research paper format example”.

If your written report or research paper is extremely long, including a Table of Contents showing the page number where each section begins may be helpful. For those writing a lengthy document, i.e., a book, here is the suggested order to place items and format them in a Table of Contents:

Acknowledgements, Foreword, Introduction, Body (Parts I, II, III), Summary or Conclusion, Afterword, Explanatory Notes, Appendices, Contact Organizations, Glossary, Endnotes (if not using Footnotes or Parenthetical citations), Bibliography, Index.

A less involved Table of Contents format may simply include the following sections: Introduction, Body (use main section headings), Conclusion (or Summary), Works Cited (or References), along with the corresponding page number where each section begins.

Example of Table of Contents formatting:


Introduction ………………………………………………….………………… 1

Government …………………………………………………………………… 3

Economy ………………………………………….…………………………… 6

Arts and Entertainment ……………………………………….…………….. 10

Conclusion ……………………………………………………..…………….. 14

Works Cited ……………………………………………………..…………… 15

Science paper formatting of the abstract

An abstract is a summary of your article or paper. It shows your work and whether it is worth studying for the reader. Therefore, the main rule to follow when formatting this part of the research is to keep it short. As a rule, the abstract should be 100-250 words or 5-7 sentences. The style of paper annotating is optional, so you should check with the teacher.

The annotation is formatted in the same way as the rest of the paper. The only thing is that it should not contain simple and concise sentences and much text.

Body text formatting

Usually, there is no research paper layout, but there are general rules to follow. All essay or article titles should be bold in the page center, using Headings in the appropriate case. Headers help organize information and make the text easier to read. All important words should be capitalized.

Subheadings are usually aligned to the left.

The formatting of numbers and tables is also different. For example, the names of columns and rows should be clear and short. Tables are numbered and signed so you can refer to them while writing the research work. Numbers must also be written in a specific format. There must be a certain number of decimal places.

Writing a paper format such as APA style also provides special table layouts. Thus, they usually don’t have vertical lines, but there are some essential horizontal lines.

Titles of books, magazines, newspapers, or journals

When used within the text of your paper, titles of all full-length works, such as novels, plays, or books, should be underlined, e.g., Shakespeare’s Theater.

Put in quotation marks titles of shorter works, such as newspaper, journal, and magazine articles, chapters of books or essays, e.g., “Giving Back to the Earth: Western Helps Make a Difference in India.”

For all title citations styles, every word should be capitalized except articles (“a“, “an“, “the“), prepositions (such as “in“, “on“, “under“, “over“), and conjunctions (such as “and“, “because“, “but“, “however“), unless they occur at the beginning of the title or subtitle, e.g., “And Now for Something Completely Different: A Hedgehog Hospital.”

Look it up in a dictionary whenever you are unsure whether a word is used as a preposition, a conjunction, a noun, a verb, or an adverb. The word “near“, e.g., may be an adverb, an adjective, a verb, or a preposition depending on the context.

For complicated details of different styles on citing and format titles and quotations within titles, sacred texts, shortened titles, exceptions to the rule, etc., please consult the MLA Handbook (102-109).

Bibliography formatting

In the list of literature section, you collect all the sources you used while writing the paper. There should be information like this:

  1. The name of the author or group of authors who wrote the text of the book or source;
  2. Date of publication or year of publication;
  3. The full title of the book, article, or another source;
  4. City of publication of the source;
  5. Issue number and page where you got the information from;
  6. Site URL if you used internet sources.

All literature sources should be formatted in alphabetical order by author’s name.

Supplementary materials formatting

Some study styles must be confirmed with text or a table and a visual drawing, photograph, graphic annotation, or other similar material.

Additional materials must be in the appropriate format:

  • Text format: TXT, DOC, DOCX, or PDF
  • Image format: JPG, TIF, PNG, GIF, PDF, PS, EPS or BMP
  • Video format: MP4, MOV, WMV or AVI
  • Audio format: MP3, AIFF, MOV (Quicktime Audio), RA (Real Audio), or WAV (Windows Audio)

Additional materials may be downloaded and submitted separately. Remember to number and name them when you refer to them.

For details on how to format tables, illustrations, figures, musical notations, labels, captions, etc., in your research essay, please see the MLA Handbook (134-137).

Keeping essay together

Sheets of paper should be stapled at the upper left-hand corner. Use a paper clip if no stapler is available. Do not use a pin or fold the paper. Unless specifically requested by your teacher, do not hand in your paper in a folder, a binder, a plastic jacket, rolled up with an elastic band around it, or tied with a ribbon or a string. Do not spray perfume or cologne on your paper or use scented paper. And NEVER hand in your research or term paper in loose sheets, even if the sheets are numbered and neatly placed in an envelope or folder.

The condition of the paper you hand in indicates your respect for yourself and your teacher. Before handing in your paper, ask yourself, “Is this the VERY BEST I can do?”.

How do you create an outline for your paper?

Initially, dividing your essay, research, or other paper into components (Introduction, Body, Conclusion, etc.) will help you stay better organized and reduce the risk of forgetting or unintentionally omitting important information or style. Furthermore, breaking the essay down into these parts will allow you to address specific parts individually, use the required formatting of a research paper and lessen the chances of feeling overwhelmed.

How to write an outline for a research paper?

The structure and style of your outline will be similar regardless of whether you are writing a scientific paper or something more general. Interestingly, the structure of a research outline is nearly identical to that of a research paper template. To better acquaint yourself with the structure of an outline, check out sample research papers online. The USC Guide to Making an Outline will also help you.

The chief components of an outline are:

  1. The Introduction.
  2. The Body.
  3. The Conclusion.

Relatively straightforward, right? However, remember that each part serves a specific purpose, and how you arrange information in your outline will drive how your paper reads upon completion.

The Introduction is one of the most important elements of any great research paper, and interestingly enough, often written LAST. It is because the purpose of the introduction is to grab the attention of the reader. It is done by presenting the topic and using the thesis statement to ‘hook’ the reader’s attention.

The Body is the heartiest part of the essay. It includes many fact-rich paragraphs or subsections and will allow you to build upon your thesis statement by providing facts to support your argument. This section should not only elaborate on your opening statement but also provide insight into the methods used to conduct your research and include investigative points or answers to questions pondered.

You will also want to consider using a literature overview. It is achieved by documenting the literary sources used to support your theories and hypothesis. The topic of your paper and the selected literature should be adjacent.

If you used any data validation, this would typically follow the methodology and literature sections. It is where you will highlight your results and mention other variables you’ve uncovered in your research. You might use graphs or tables, but remember to explain these to your readers.

The Conclusion typically does not offer new information but summarizes the main points addressed in the paper. It is mandatory also to reiterate the thesis statement and mention any future research.

To help you, we have reviewed the top research paper writing services.

A final note on your paper

The topics used for each research paper are inherently different, and even identical topics will appear to be unique based on the viewpoints and educational level of the author. Regardless of your grade level or the topic you’ve been assigned, a research paper outline can help you turn in a great essay. It should include a bulleted list of subheadings and headings; be sure to mention as much detail as possible. Crossing out each section as you finish it will help you to stay thorough.

Here is a sample research paper outline.


  1. A quick overview or introduction of the topic or issue.
  2. The methodology being used.
  3. The thesis statement.
  4. A full review of every source used and the corresponding literature.
  5. A brief explanation of the relevance of the research.


  1. Detailed and thorough information about the main points of the argument.
  2. Use as many paragraphs as necessary. Each paragraph should represent a different point.


  1. Brief summary of the main points or facts mentioned in the body.
  2. Reiteration of the thesis statement.
  3. Closing remark or thought.
Busy at work, have a lot on your plate, in addition, your paper is due?
Get professional help with paper Get help
*EduBirdie as a Premium Partner was chosen among 50+ writing services by our Customer Satisfaction Team.


What format should a research paper be in?
What font should a research paper be?
What are the proper margin widths for a research paper?
aside icon
Get Stuck with Your Paper? Get help
Need research paper from scratch?
4,8 / 5
Writers Experience
Recommended Service
4,5 / 5
Writers Experience
4,4 / 5
Writers Experience
* All Partners were chosen among 50+ writing services by our Customer Satisfaction Team