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Master Research Paper Format | Your Guide to APA, MLA & Chicago

Research paper format: things you need to know

Many students run into problems when it comes to proper paper formatting. That is why you need to know the formatting basics to avoid elementary mistakes. This article provides essential guidance for students to format their research papers according to widely-accepted styles. Mastering these formatting conventions is crucial for presenting your work professionally and coherently. By understanding how to format a research paper, you can ensure that your research paper aligns with your discipline's expectations and adheres to established academic standards.

How to write a research paper in APA format

This research paper format refers to guidelines and rules developed by the American Psychological Association for formatting research papers, essays, and other written assignments in the social and behavioral sciences. It provides a standardized way of organizing and presenting information in academic writing. Check these key requirements to start formatting a research paper like a boss.

  • 1-inch margins on all sides;
  • double-spaced text throughout the document;
  • 12-point Times New Roman or a similar font;
  • a running head on each page, including the title and page number;
  • a separate title page, including the title, author's name, institutional affiliation, and an author's note (if applicable);
  • an abstract that briefly summarizes the research paper;
  • headings and subheadings to organize content;
  • in-text citations and a reference list for all sources used.

Title page

An APA title page is the first page of an academic paper or research report formatted according to the guidelines of the American Psychological Association (APA). The title page typically includes the title of the paper, the author's name, their affiliation (university and department), and the submission date. It may also include other information, such as the course name and number, the instructor's name, or a running head (a short title at the top of every page). This research paper example will help you understand how to craft title pages.

Running head

It is a shortened version of the title and should not exceed fifty characters, including spaces. The title should be rapidly centered in the middle of the page and written in the title case (capitalize the 1-st letter of each major word). The author's name should be written underneath the title and centered, followed by their affiliation (university and department). And the date of submission should be written at the bottom of the page.


APA headings are a hierarchical system of organizing content in a research paper written in the American Psychological Association (APA) format. They help to structure your paper, making it easier for professors to navigate and understand the flow of your arguments or findings. Check this example to craft an outline for a research paper right.

Works cited

When writing a research paper in APA style, citing any sources used to support your argument accurately is important. It ensures that the reader can locate and verify the information you have used and helps avoid plagiarism. To properly cite a research paper in APA style, follow specific guidelines for formatting in-text citations and the reference list.

  • Book: Author, A.A. (Year of Publication). The Title of Work. Publisher City, State: Publisher.
  • Example: Smith, J. (2020). The Power of Habit. Random House: New York, NY.
  • Magazine: Author, A.A. (Year, a month of Publication). Article title. Magazine Title, Volume(Issue), pp.-pp.
  • Example: Gladwell, M. (2011, October). The Naked Face. The New Yorker, 87(32), 52-63.
  • Newspaper: Author, A.A. (Year, Month, Date of Publication). Article title. Magazine Title, pp. xx-xx.
  • Garcia, M. (2022, March 28). COVID-19 Cases Surge in New York City. The Wall Street Journal, p. A1.
  • Website: Author, A.A. (Year, Month, Date of Publication). Article title. Retrieved from URL
  • Example: Smith, A. (2021, May 17). The Benefits of Meditation. Retrieved from {link}

Following these guidelines ensures your research paper is properly formatted and cited in APA style.

How to write a research paper in MLA format

The MLA (Modern Language Association) research paper format, including literature, languages, and cultural studies, is commonly used in the humanities. When formatting a research paper in MLA style, it is important to follow certain guidelines to ensure proper citation and formatting.

  • Use 12-point font size and Times New Roman or another legible font.
  • Set your margins to one inch on all sides.
  • Double-spacing the entire document, including the Works Cited page.
  • Include a header with your last name and page number in the top right corner of each page.
  • Use in-text citations for all sources, including the author's name and page number within parentheses after the quote or paraphrase.
  • Alphabetize the Works Cited page by the author's last name and use a hanging indent for each entry.
  • Include basic bibliographic information for all sources on the Works Cited page, including author, title, publisher, and publication date.

MLA title page

In MLA format, the title page should be the first page of your research paper. It should include your name, your instructor's name, the course name or number, the due date of the assignment, and the title of your paper. Center all information on the page and double-space the entire page.

Page header

In your paper, a page header should be included at the top, consisting of your last name and the page number.


In MLA format, headings organize your research paper into sections or chapters. Use only one type of heading throughout your paper, and make sure it is consistent with the formatting of your paper. The first heading level should be centered, and each subsequent level should be aligned with the left margin. Capitalize the 1-st letter of each word in the heading, except for articles, conjunctions, and prepositions. Besides, you should use italics for titles of longer works, such as books or films. To start your headings right, check this research paper example first.

Works cited

The Works Cited page is an important part of any research paper in MLA format. This page lists all the sources you have cited in your paper and provides your reader with information about where to find those sources.

How to cite an mla research paper

When citing a research paper in MLA format, there are specific formats to follow. Here are some examples:

  • Book: Last Name, First Name. Book Title. Publisher City: Publisher Name, Year Published. Medium.
  • Example: Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986. Print.
  • Magazine: Last Name, First Name. "Article Title." Journal Title Volume.Issue (Year Published): Page Numbers. Medium.
  • Example: Johnson, Sarah. "The Effects of Climate Change on Coastal Ecosystems." Environmental Science Quarterly 28.2 (2019): 55-72. Print.
  • Newspaper article: Last Name, First Name. "Article Title." Newspaper Name Publication Date: Page Numbers. Medium.
  • Example: Cooper, Anderson. "Hurricane Katrina: What Happened and Why." New York Times September 6, 2005: A1+. Print.
  • Website: Last Name, First Name. "Page Title." Website Title. Sponsoring Institution/Publisher. Publication Date: Page Numbers. Medium.
  • Example: National Cancer Institute. "Breast Cancer Treatment." National Institutes of Health, February 1, 2021. Web. April 10, 2023.

How to format a research paper in Chicago style

The Chicago research paper format is commonly used in history, humanities, and some social sciences. This citation style offers two documentation systems: the Notes-Bibliography System (NB) and the Author-Date System. Here are the main requirements for formatting a research paper in the Chicago style:

  • 1-inch margins on all sides.
  • Use double-spaced text throughout the document, except for block quotes, which are single-spaced.
  • Use 12-point Times New Roman or a similar font.
  • Page numbers are in the top right corner, starting from the first page of the text.
  • A title page or a title block, depending on the specific guidelines from your instructor or institution.
  • Use headings and subheadings to organize content (optional but recommended for clarity).
  • Use footnotes or endnotes for the Notes-Bibliography System or in-text citations for the Author-Date System.
  • Add a bibliography (for the Notes-Bibliography System) or a reference list (for the Author-Date System) containing all cited sources.

Title page format

The title page is an essential element of a research paper, presenting the title, author, and other relevant information in a clear and organized manner. Here's a general structure for a title page:

Chicago headings

Headings in the Chicago Manual of Style format help organize and structure the content of a research paper. They guide readers through the sections and subsections, ensuring a clear and coherent presentation. The Chicago style is flexible regarding headings, but it's essential to maintain consistency and hierarchy throughout your work. Headings should accurately represent the content of each section or subsection. You should apply the same formatting and capitalization rules to all headings of the same level.

Bibliography or reference list

This style provides guidelines for creating a bibliography (or reference list) to document the sources used in your research paper. When using the Chicago style, it's essential to follow these rules and guidelines:

  • Title: Label the bibliography as "Bibliography" or "References," centered and bold at the top of a new page.
  • Spacing: Use double-spacing between entries and single-spacing within each entry.
  • Font: Use the same font as the main text (usually 12-point Times New Roman or similar).
  • Indentation: Use hanging indents for each entry, with the first line flush left and subsequent lines indented by 0.5 inches.
  • Alphabetical order: Arrange entries alphabetically by the author's last name. If no author is available, use the title or editor's name.
  • Punctuation: Follow the Chicago style guidelines for punctuation and capitalization in each entry.

Comparing APA, Chicago, and MLA formatting styles
difference formatting styles

Creating a research paper can be challenging for beginners, especially when they are not yet familiar with using formatting styles correctly. Navigating the nuances of APA, MLA, Chicago, or other styles can be overwhelming. Our company is ready to give you a helping hand and assist you at any stage of the process. By providing expert guidance and polishing your papers, we'll ensure that your research paper meets the highest standards of academic writing. Let us help you on your journey to academic success!


  • How to format a research paper outline?

    To format a research paper outline, use Roman numerals for main sections, capital letters for subheadings, and Arabic numerals for subpoints. Maintain consistent indentation levels for clarity.

  • How to format an abstract in a research paper?

    To format an abstract, keep it brief (usually 150-250 words), and include the research problem, methods, results, and conclusions. It should be a single, double-spaced paragraph without any citations or headings.

  • How to format the title of a research paper?

    To format the title of a research paper, center it on the title page (or at the top of the first page for MLA). Use title case, with major words capitalized. Keep the title concise, informative, and engaging.

  • How to format a scientific research paper?

    To format a scientific research paper, use the IMRaD structure (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion). Follow the specific citation style for headings, in-text citations, and references. Ensure consistent formatting throughout, including margins, font, and spacing. If you need help with writing a scientific research paper, you can check out this link.

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