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What are the Different Research Paper Formats?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are a number of different research paper formats that can be used when writing a research paper for a classroom at any level. In general, however, most research papers will be written in either the Modern Language Association (MLA) format or the American Psychological Association (APA) format. Anyone writing a research paper for a class assignment should be sure to follow whichever format the teacher prefers or requires from students. Beyond the basics of these research paper formats, any specific requirements and preferences asked of students by a teacher should be followed and should supersede any basic MLA or APA style guidelines.

The two most common types of research paper formats are MLA and APA style. Each has its own unique requirements for layout and formatting, and whichever type is preferred or expected by the teacher should be followed. In general, however, MLA style is used for works in humanities, literature, and English classes while APA is used in psychology, history, and sociology classes.

When it comes to research paper formats, MLA style is quite common and easy to follow. In general, the research paper should be double-spaced throughout and typed in a 12-point font that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman. Many teachers instructed students in the past to leave two spaces after a period or similar punctuation mark, but modern printers properly space after a period and so only a single space is now required. The paper itself should usually have the name of the author, the teacher for whom it is for, the class number, and the date it is due on separate lines in the top left corner of the first page.

Just below this, the title of the paper should be centered and capitalized appropriately for a title, with the body of the paper beginning on the next line. Each page should be numbered in a header in the top right corner, along with the last name of the author, though some teachers prefer the first page not be numbered. APA style is similar to MLA research paper formats, though there are some significant and noteworthy differences. Papers written in APA style should also be double-spaced and typed in a 10 to 12 point font that should be easy to read such as Times New Roman.

APA guidelines require the first page be a title page for the paper, followed by a brief abstract of the overall ideas presented in the paper. This is followed by the first page of the paper itself, which begins at the top of the page with the title and the text of the paper itself. A header is also expected on each page, with the title of the paper left justified and the page number right justified on each page. There are also specific guidelines in each style for citing sources and providing the works cited at the end of the paper, and these should be followed appropriately for various research paper formats.

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