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13.1 Formatting a Research Paper
- Identify the major components of a research paper written using American Psychological Association (APA) style.
- Apply general APA style and formatting conventions in a research paper.
In this chapter, you will learn how to use APA style , the documentation and formatting style followed by the American Psychological Association, as well as MLA style , from the Modern Language Association. There are a few major formatting styles used in academic texts, including AMA, Chicago, and Turabian:
- AMA (American Medical Association) for medicine, health, and biological sciences
- APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the social sciences
- Chicago—a common style used in everyday publications like magazines, newspapers, and books
- MLA (Modern Language Association) for English, literature, arts, and humanities
- Turabian—another common style designed for its universal application across all subjects and disciplines
While all the formatting and citation styles have their own use and applications, in this chapter we focus our attention on the two styles you are most likely to use in your academic studies: APA and MLA.
If you find that the rules of proper source documentation are difficult to keep straight, you are not alone. Writing a good research paper is, in and of itself, a major intellectual challenge. Having to follow detailed citation and formatting guidelines as well may seem like just one more task to add to an already-too-long list of requirements.
Following these guidelines, however, serves several important purposes. First, it signals to your readers that your paper should be taken seriously as a student’s contribution to a given academic or professional field; it is the literary equivalent of wearing a tailored suit to a job interview. Second, it shows that you respect other people’s work enough to give them proper credit for it. Finally, it helps your reader find additional materials if he or she wishes to learn more about your topic.
Furthermore, producing a letter-perfect APA-style paper need not be burdensome. Yes, it requires careful attention to detail. However, you can simplify the process if you keep these broad guidelines in mind:
- Work ahead whenever you can. Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” includes tips for keeping track of your sources early in the research process, which will save time later on.
- Get it right the first time. Apply APA guidelines as you write, so you will not have much to correct during the editing stage. Again, putting in a little extra time early on can save time later.
- Use the resources available to you. In addition to the guidelines provided in this chapter, you may wish to consult the APA website at http://www.apa.org or the Purdue University Online Writing lab at http://owl.english.purdue.edu , which regularly updates its online style guidelines.
General Formatting Guidelines
This chapter provides detailed guidelines for using the citation and formatting conventions developed by the American Psychological Association, or APA. Writers in disciplines as diverse as astrophysics, biology, psychology, and education follow APA style. The major components of a paper written in APA style are listed in the following box.
These are the major components of an APA-style paper:
Body, which includes the following:
- Headings and, if necessary, subheadings to organize the content
- In-text citations of research sources
- References page
All these components must be saved in one document, not as separate documents.
The title page of your paper includes the following information:
- Title of the paper
- Author’s name
- Name of the institution with which the author is affiliated
- Header at the top of the page with the paper title (in capital letters) and the page number (If the title is lengthy, you may use a shortened form of it in the header.)
List the first three elements in the order given in the previous list, centered about one third of the way down from the top of the page. Use the headers and footers tool of your word-processing program to add the header, with the title text at the left and the page number in the upper-right corner. Your title page should look like the following example.
The next page of your paper provides an abstract , or brief summary of your findings. An abstract does not need to be provided in every paper, but an abstract should be used in papers that include a hypothesis. A good abstract is concise—about one hundred fifty to two hundred fifty words—and is written in an objective, impersonal style. Your writing voice will not be as apparent here as in the body of your paper. When writing the abstract, take a just-the-facts approach, and summarize your research question and your findings in a few sentences.
In Chapter 12 “Writing a Research Paper” , you read a paper written by a student named Jorge, who researched the effectiveness of low-carbohydrate diets. Read Jorge’s abstract. Note how it sums up the major ideas in his paper without going into excessive detail.
Write an abstract summarizing your paper. Briefly introduce the topic, state your findings, and sum up what conclusions you can draw from your research. Use the word count feature of your word-processing program to make sure your abstract does not exceed one hundred fifty words.
Depending on your field of study, you may sometimes write research papers that present extensive primary research, such as your own experiment or survey. In your abstract, summarize your research question and your findings, and briefly indicate how your study relates to prior research in the field.
Margins, Pagination, and Headings
APA style requirements also address specific formatting concerns, such as margins, pagination, and heading styles, within the body of the paper. Review the following APA guidelines.
Use these general guidelines to format the paper:
- Set the top, bottom, and side margins of your paper at 1 inch.
- Use double-spaced text throughout your paper.
- Use a standard font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, in a legible size (10- to 12-point).
- Use continuous pagination throughout the paper, including the title page and the references section. Page numbers appear flush right within your header.
- Section headings and subsection headings within the body of your paper use different types of formatting depending on the level of information you are presenting. Additional details from Jorge’s paper are provided.
Begin formatting the final draft of your paper according to APA guidelines. You may work with an existing document or set up a new document if you choose. Include the following:
- Your title page
- The abstract you created in Note 13.8 “Exercise 1”
- Correct headers and page numbers for your title page and abstract
APA style uses section headings to organize information, making it easy for the reader to follow the writer’s train of thought and to know immediately what major topics are covered. Depending on the length and complexity of the paper, its major sections may also be divided into subsections, sub-subsections, and so on. These smaller sections, in turn, use different heading styles to indicate different levels of information. In essence, you are using headings to create a hierarchy of information.
The following heading styles used in APA formatting are listed in order of greatest to least importance:
- Section headings use centered, boldface type. Headings use title case, with important words in the heading capitalized.
- Subsection headings use left-aligned, boldface type. Headings use title case.
- The third level uses left-aligned, indented, boldface type. Headings use a capital letter only for the first word, and they end in a period.
- The fourth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are boldfaced and italicized.
- The fifth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are italicized and not boldfaced.
Visually, the hierarchy of information is organized as indicated in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” .
Table 13.1 Section Headings
A college research paper may not use all the heading levels shown in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” , but you are likely to encounter them in academic journal articles that use APA style. For a brief paper, you may find that level 1 headings suffice. Longer or more complex papers may need level 2 headings or other lower-level headings to organize information clearly. Use your outline to craft your major section headings and determine whether any subtopics are substantial enough to require additional levels of headings.
Working with the document you developed in Note 13.11 “Exercise 2” , begin setting up the heading structure of the final draft of your research paper according to APA guidelines. Include your title and at least two to three major section headings, and follow the formatting guidelines provided above. If your major sections should be broken into subsections, add those headings as well. Use your outline to help you.
Because Jorge used only level 1 headings, his Exercise 3 would look like the following:
Throughout the body of your paper, include a citation whenever you quote or paraphrase material from your research sources. As you learned in Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” , the purpose of citations is twofold: to give credit to others for their ideas and to allow your reader to follow up and learn more about the topic if desired. Your in-text citations provide basic information about your source; each source you cite will have a longer entry in the references section that provides more detailed information.
In-text citations must provide the name of the author or authors and the year the source was published. (When a given source does not list an individual author, you may provide the source title or the name of the organization that published the material instead.) When directly quoting a source, it is also required that you include the page number where the quote appears in your citation.
This information may be included within the sentence or in a parenthetical reference at the end of the sentence, as in these examples.
Epstein (2010) points out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).
Here, the writer names the source author when introducing the quote and provides the publication date in parentheses after the author’s name. The page number appears in parentheses after the closing quotation marks and before the period that ends the sentence.
Addiction researchers caution that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (Epstein, 2010, p. 137).
Here, the writer provides a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence that includes the author’s name, the year of publication, and the page number separated by commas. Again, the parenthetical citation is placed after the closing quotation marks and before the period at the end of the sentence.
As noted in the book Junk Food, Junk Science (Epstein, 2010, p. 137), “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive.”
Here, the writer chose to mention the source title in the sentence (an optional piece of information to include) and followed the title with a parenthetical citation. Note that the parenthetical citation is placed before the comma that signals the end of the introductory phrase.
David Epstein’s book Junk Food, Junk Science (2010) pointed out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).
Another variation is to introduce the author and the source title in your sentence and include the publication date and page number in parentheses within the sentence or at the end of the sentence. As long as you have included the essential information, you can choose the option that works best for that particular sentence and source.
Citing a book with a single author is usually a straightforward task. Of course, your research may require that you cite many other types of sources, such as books or articles with more than one author or sources with no individual author listed. You may also need to cite sources available in both print and online and nonprint sources, such as websites and personal interviews. Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.2 “Citing and Referencing Techniques” and Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provide extensive guidelines for citing a variety of source types.
Writing at Work
APA is just one of several different styles with its own guidelines for documentation, formatting, and language usage. Depending on your field of interest, you may be exposed to additional styles, such as the following:
- MLA style. Determined by the Modern Languages Association and used for papers in literature, languages, and other disciplines in the humanities.
- Chicago style. Outlined in the Chicago Manual of Style and sometimes used for papers in the humanities and the sciences; many professional organizations use this style for publications as well.
- Associated Press (AP) style. Used by professional journalists.
The brief citations included in the body of your paper correspond to the more detailed citations provided at the end of the paper in the references section. In-text citations provide basic information—the author’s name, the publication date, and the page number if necessary—while the references section provides more extensive bibliographical information. Again, this information allows your reader to follow up on the sources you cited and do additional reading about the topic if desired.
The specific format of entries in the list of references varies slightly for different source types, but the entries generally include the following information:
- The name(s) of the author(s) or institution that wrote the source
- The year of publication and, where applicable, the exact date of publication
- The full title of the source
- For books, the city of publication
- For articles or essays, the name of the periodical or book in which the article or essay appears
- For magazine and journal articles, the volume number, issue number, and pages where the article appears
- For sources on the web, the URL where the source is located
The references page is double spaced and lists entries in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. If an entry continues for more than one line, the second line and each subsequent line are indented five spaces. Review the following example. ( Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provides extensive guidelines for formatting reference entries for different types of sources.)
In APA style, book and article titles are formatted in sentence case, not title case. Sentence case means that only the first word is capitalized, along with any proper nouns.
- Following proper citation and formatting guidelines helps writers ensure that their work will be taken seriously, give proper credit to other authors for their work, and provide valuable information to readers.
- Working ahead and taking care to cite sources correctly the first time are ways writers can save time during the editing stage of writing a research paper.
- APA papers usually include an abstract that concisely summarizes the paper.
- APA papers use a specific headings structure to provide a clear hierarchy of information.
- In APA papers, in-text citations usually include the name(s) of the author(s) and the year of publication.
- In-text citations correspond to entries in the references section, which provide detailed bibliographical information about a source.
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Writing Research Papers
- Research Paper Structure
Whether you are writing a B.S. Degree Research Paper or completing a research report for a Psychology course, it is highly likely that you will need to organize your research paper in accordance with American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines. Here we discuss the structure of research papers according to APA style.
Major Sections of a Research Paper in APA Style
A complete research paper in APA style that is reporting on experimental research will typically contain a Title page, Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, and References sections. 1 Many will also contain Figures and Tables and some will have an Appendix or Appendices. These sections are detailed as follows (for a more in-depth guide, please refer to " How to Write a Research Paper in APA Style ”, a comprehensive guide developed by Prof. Emma Geller). 2
What is this paper called and who wrote it? – the first page of the paper; this includes the name of the paper, a “running head”, authors, and institutional affiliation of the authors. The institutional affiliation is usually listed in an Author Note that is placed towards the bottom of the title page. In some cases, the Author Note also contains an acknowledgment of any funding support and of any individuals that assisted with the research project.
One-paragraph summary of the entire study – typically no more than 250 words in length (and in many cases it is well shorter than that), the Abstract provides an overview of the study.
What is the topic and why is it worth studying? – the first major section of text in the paper, the Introduction commonly describes the topic under investigation, summarizes or discusses relevant prior research (for related details, please see the Writing Literature Reviews section of this website), identifies unresolved issues that the current research will address, and provides an overview of the research that is to be described in greater detail in the sections to follow.
What did you do? – a section which details how the research was performed. It typically features a description of the participants/subjects that were involved, the study design, the materials that were used, and the study procedure. If there were multiple experiments, then each experiment may require a separate Methods section. A rule of thumb is that the Methods section should be sufficiently detailed for another researcher to duplicate your research.
What did you find? – a section which describes the data that was collected and the results of any statistical tests that were performed. It may also be prefaced by a description of the analysis procedure that was used. If there were multiple experiments, then each experiment may require a separate Results section.
What is the significance of your results? – the final major section of text in the paper. The Discussion commonly features a summary of the results that were obtained in the study, describes how those results address the topic under investigation and/or the issues that the research was designed to address, and may expand upon the implications of those findings. Limitations and directions for future research are also commonly addressed.
List of articles and any books cited – an alphabetized list of the sources that are cited in the paper (by last name of the first author of each source). Each reference should follow specific APA guidelines regarding author names, dates, article titles, journal titles, journal volume numbers, page numbers, book publishers, publisher locations, websites, and so on (for more information, please see the Citing References in APA Style page of this website).
Tables and Figures
Graphs and data (optional in some cases) – depending on the type of research being performed, there may be Tables and/or Figures (however, in some cases, there may be neither). In APA style, each Table and each Figure is placed on a separate page and all Tables and Figures are included after the References. Tables are included first, followed by Figures. However, for some journals and undergraduate research papers (such as the B.S. Research Paper or Honors Thesis), Tables and Figures may be embedded in the text (depending on the instructor’s or editor’s policies; for more details, see "Deviations from APA Style" below).
Supplementary information (optional) – in some cases, additional information that is not critical to understanding the research paper, such as a list of experiment stimuli, details of a secondary analysis, or programming code, is provided. This is often placed in an Appendix.
Variations of Research Papers in APA Style
Although the major sections described above are common to most research papers written in APA style, there are variations on that pattern. These variations include:
- Literature reviews – when a paper is reviewing prior published research and not presenting new empirical research itself (such as in a review article, and particularly a qualitative review), then the authors may forgo any Methods and Results sections. Instead, there is a different structure such as an Introduction section followed by sections for each of the different aspects of the body of research being reviewed, and then perhaps a Discussion section.
- Multi-experiment papers – when there are multiple experiments, it is common to follow the Introduction with an Experiment 1 section, itself containing Methods, Results, and Discussion subsections. Then there is an Experiment 2 section with a similar structure, an Experiment 3 section with a similar structure, and so on until all experiments are covered. Towards the end of the paper there is a General Discussion section followed by References. Additionally, in multi-experiment papers, it is common for the Results and Discussion subsections for individual experiments to be combined into single “Results and Discussion” sections.
Departures from APA Style
In some cases, official APA style might not be followed (however, be sure to check with your editor, instructor, or other sources before deviating from standards of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association). Such deviations may include:
- Placement of Tables and Figures – in some cases, to make reading through the paper easier, Tables and/or Figures are embedded in the text (for example, having a bar graph placed in the relevant Results section). The embedding of Tables and/or Figures in the text is one of the most common deviations from APA style (and is commonly allowed in B.S. Degree Research Papers and Honors Theses; however you should check with your instructor, supervisor, or editor first).
- Incomplete research – sometimes a B.S. Degree Research Paper in this department is written about research that is currently being planned or is in progress. In those circumstances, sometimes only an Introduction and Methods section, followed by References, is included (that is, in cases where the research itself has not formally begun). In other cases, preliminary results are presented and noted as such in the Results section (such as in cases where the study is underway but not complete), and the Discussion section includes caveats about the in-progress nature of the research. Again, you should check with your instructor, supervisor, or editor first.
- Class assignments – in some classes in this department, an assignment must be written in APA style but is not exactly a traditional research paper (for instance, a student asked to write about an article that they read, and to write that report in APA style). In that case, the structure of the paper might approximate the typical sections of a research paper in APA style, but not entirely. You should check with your instructor for further guidelines.
Workshops and Downloadable Resources
- For in-person discussion of the process of writing research papers, please consider attending this department’s “Writing Research Papers” workshop (for dates and times, please check the undergraduate workshops calendar).
- How to Write APA Style Research Papers (a comprehensive guide) [ PDF ]
- Tips for Writing APA Style Research Papers (a brief summary) [ PDF ]
- Example APA Style Research Paper (for B.S. Degree – empirical research) [ PDF ]
- Example APA Style Research Paper (for B.S. Degree – literature review) [ PDF ]
- Writing Research Paper Videos
APA Journal Article Reporting Guidelines
- Appelbaum, M., Cooper, H., Kline, R. B., Mayo-Wilson, E., Nezu, A. M., & Rao, S. M. (2018). Journal article reporting standards for quantitative research in psychology: The APA Publications and Communications Board task force report . American Psychologist , 73 (1), 3.
- Levitt, H. M., Bamberg, M., Creswell, J. W., Frost, D. M., Josselson, R., & Suárez-Orozco, C. (2018). Journal article reporting standards for qualitative primary, qualitative meta-analytic, and mixed methods research in psychology: The APA Publications and Communications Board task force report . American Psychologist , 73 (1), 26.
- Formatting APA Style Papers in Microsoft Word
- How to Write an APA Style Research Paper from Hamilton University
- WikiHow Guide to Writing APA Research Papers
- Sample APA Formatted Paper with Comments
- Sample APA Formatted Paper
- Tips for Writing a Paper in APA Style
1 VandenBos, G. R. (Ed). (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.) (pp. 41-60). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
2 geller, e. (2018). how to write an apa-style research report . [instructional materials]. , prepared by s. c. pan for ucsd psychology.
Back to top
- Formatting Research Papers
- Using Databases and Finding References
- What Types of References Are Appropriate?
- Evaluating References and Taking Notes
- Citing References
- Writing a Literature Review
- Writing Process and Revising
- Improving Scientific Writing
- Academic Integrity and Avoiding Plagiarism
- Writing Research Papers Videos
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How to format a research paper
7 February 2023
Writing a research paper can be daunting if you’re not experienced with the process. Getting the proper format is one of the most challenging aspects of the task. Reviewers will immediately dismiss a paper that doesn't comply with standard formatting, regardless of the valuable content it contains.
In this article, we'll delve into the essential characteristics of a research paper, including the proper formatting.
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- What is a research paper?
A research paper is a document that provides a thorough analysis of a topic , usually for an academic institution or professional organization. A research paper may be of any length, but they are typically 2,000–10,000 words.
Unlike less formal papers, such as articles or essays, empirical evidence and data are key to research papers. In addition to students handing in papers, scientists, attorneys, medical researchers, and independent scholars may need to produce research papers.
People typically write research papers to prove a particular point or make an argument. This could support or disprove a theoretical point, legal case, scientific theory, or an existing piece of research on any topic.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of research papers is that they contain citations to prior research. Citing sources using the correct format is essential for creating a legitimate research paper.
- Top considerations for writing a research paper
To write a research paper, you must consider several factors. Fields such as the sciences, humanities, and technical professions have certain criteria for writing research papers.
You’ll write a research paper using one of several types of formatting. These include APA, MLA, and CMOS styles, which we’ll cover in detail to guide you on citations and other formatting rules.
Specific requirements of the assignment
If the paper is for a college, university, or any specific organization, they’ll give you certain requirements, such as the range of topics, length, and formatting requirements.
You should study the specifics of the assignment carefully, as these will override more general guidelines you may find elsewhere. If you're writing for a particular professor, they may ask for single or double spacing or a certain citation style.
- Components of a research paper
Here are the basic steps to writing a quality research paper, assuming you've chosen your topic and considered the requirements of the paper. Depending on the specific conditions of the paper you're writing, you may need the following elements:
The thesis statement provides a blueprint for the paper. It conveys the theme and purpose of the paper. It also informs you and readers what your paper will argue and the type of research it will contain. As you write the paper, you can refer to the thesis statement to help you decide whether or not to include certain items.
Most research papers require an abstract as well as a thesis. While the thesis is a short (usually a single sentence) summary of the work, an abstract contains more detail. Many papers use the IMRaD structure for the abstract, especially in scientific fields. This consists of four elements:
Introduction : Summarize the purpose of the paper
Methods : Describe the research methods (e.g., collecting data , interviews , field research)
Results: Summarize your conclusions.
Discussion: Discuss the implications of your research. Mention any significant limitations to your approach and suggest areas for further research.
The thesis and abstract come at the beginning of a paper, but you should write them after completing the paper. This approach ensures a clear idea of your main topic and argument, which can evolve as you write the paper.
Table of contents
Like most nonfiction books, a research paper usually includes a table of contents.
Tables, charts, and illustrations
If your paper contains multiple tables, charts, illustrations, or other graphics, you can create a list of these.
Works cited or reference page
This page lists all the works you cited in your paper. For MLA and APA styles, you will use in-text citations in the body of the paper. For Chicago (CMOS) style, you'll use footnotes.
While you use a reference page to note all cited papers, a bibliography lists all the works you consulted in your research, even if you don't specifically cite them.
While references are essential, a bibliography is optional but usually advisable to demonstrate the breadth of your research.
Dedication and acknowledgments
You may include a dedication or acknowledgments at the beginning of the paper directly after the title page and before the abstract.
- Steps for writing a research paper
These are the most critical steps for researching, writing, and formatting a research paper:
Create an outline
The outline is not part of the published paper; it’s for your use. An outline makes it easier to structure the paper, ensuring you include all necessary points and research.
Here you can list all topics and subtopics that will support your argument. When doing your research, you can refer to the outline to ensure you include everything.
Solid research is the hallmark of a research paper. In addition to accumulating research, you need to present it clearly. However, gathering research is one of the first tasks. If you compile each piece of research correctly, it will be easier to format the paper correctly. You want to avoid having to go back and look up information constantly.
Start by skimming potentially useful sources and putting them aside for later use. Reading each source thoroughly at this stage will be time-consuming and slow your progress. You can thoroughly review the sources to decide what to include and discard later. At this stage, note essential information such as names, dates, page numbers, and website links. Citing sources will be easier when you’ve written all the information down.
Be aware of the quality of your sources. A research paper should reference scholarly, academic, or scientific journals. It’s vital to understand the difference between primary and secondary sources.
A primary source is an original, firsthand account of a topic. A secondary source is someone else covering the topic, as in a popular article or interview. While you may include secondary sources, your paper should also include primary research . Online research can be convenient, but you need to be extra careful when assessing the quality of your sources.
Write the first draft
Create a first draft where you put together all your research and address the topic described in your thesis and abstract.
Edit and format the paper
Proofread, edit, and make any necessary adjustments and improvements to the first draft. List your citations as described below. Ensure your thesis and abstract describe your research accurately.
- Formatting a research paper: MLA, APA, and CMOS styles
There are several popular formats for research papers: MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association). Certain academic papers use CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style). Other formats may apply to particular fields.
For example, medical research may use AMA (American Medical Association) formatting and IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) for particular technical papers. The following are the guidelines and examples of the most popular formats:
The humanities typically use MLA format, including literature, history, and culture. Look over examples of papers created in MLA format . Here are the main rules to keep in mind:
Indent new paragraphs 1/2 inch.
Title case for headings, where all major words are capitalized, as in "How to Write a Research Paper."
Use a popular font such as Times New Roman. This applies to all formatting styles.
Use one-inch margins on all sides.
Number sections of the paper using Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.).
Use a running head for each page on the upper right-hand corner, which consists of your last name and the page number.
Use an in-text citation within the text, using the author's last name followed by the page number: "Anything worth dying for is certainly worth living for" (Heller 155).
On the citations page, list the full name, book or periodical, and other information. For MLA, you will not need footnotes, only in-text citations.
List citations in alphabetical order on a separate page at the end of the paper entitled “Works Cited.”
Continuing with the above example from Heller, the listing would be: Heller, Joseph. Catch-22, Simon & Schuster, 1961.
For a periodical, the format is "Thompson, Hunter S. "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved" Scanlon's, June 1970."
Use title case for source titles, as in "On the Origin of Species."
The sciences typically use APA format, including physical sciences such as physics and social sciences such as psychology. Simply Psychology provides examples of APA formatting . The following are the most important rules of the APA format.
Begin the paper with a title page, which is not required for MLA.
Use double-line spacing.
Use a running head for each page in the upper right-hand corner, which consists of the paper's title in capital letters followed by the page number.
The citations page at the end should be titled "References."
In-text citations should include the publication date: (Smith, 1999, p. 50). Note also that there's a "p" for "page," whereas in MLA, you write the page number without a "p."
As with MLA, use title case for headings, as in "Most Popular Treatments for Cognitive Disorders."
Use sentence case for titles of sources, as in "History of the decline and fall of the Roman empire." Note "Roman" starts with a capital because it's a proper noun.
When citing in-text references, use the author's last name and the first and middle initials.
Always use the Oxford comma. This comma goes before the words "or" and "and" in a list. For example, "At the store, I bought oranges, paper towels, and pasta."
Book publishers and many academic papers use CMOS formatting based on the Chicago Manual of Style. CMOS is also called Turabian, named after Kate L. Turabian, who wrote the first manual for this style. Here are examples of CMOS style formatting and citations.
Include an unnumbered title page.
Place page numbers on the upper right-hand corner of the page. Do not list your name or the paper's title as you would for MLA or APA styles.
Use title case for both headings and sources (same as MLA).
Unlike MLA and APA, the Chicago style uses footnotes for citations. Use a superscript for footnotes: "Smith argues against Jones' theory¹.” Footnotes may appear at the bottom of the page or the end of the document.
CMOS supports both short notes and full notes. In most cases, you'll use the full note: "Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (New York: Penguin, 2006), 76." For further references to the same source, use a short note: " Pollan, Omnivore's Dilemma, 45." The requirements of some papers may specify using only short notes for all footnotes.
- General guidelines for writing and formatting research papers
Keep these guidelines in mind for all types of research papers:
As you create your first draft, don't worry about formatting. If you try to format it perfectly as you write the paper, it will be difficult to progress and develop a flow of thought. With the first draft, you don't have to be concerned about ordering the sections. You can rearrange headings and sections later.
Use automation tools for citations . Some useful tools make citations easier by automatically generating a citation list and bibliography. Many work with APA, MLA, and CMOS styles.
Check for plagiarism
Use a plagiarism detector to make sure your paper isn't unintentionally plagiarizing. There are many free and paid plagiarism checkers online, such as Grammarly.
Proofread your work
Do several rounds of editing and proofreading. Editing is necessary for any type of writing, but you’ll need to revisit several distinct areas with a research paper:
Check for spelling and grammatical errors.
Read the paper to make sure it's well-argued and that you’ve organized it properly.
Check that you’ve correctly formatted citations. It's easy to make errors, such as incorrect numbering of footnotes (e.g., Chicago style) or forgetting to include a source on your citations page.
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How to Write a Research Paper in APA Format — A Complete Guide
Completed your research experiments and collated your results? Does it feel like you have crossed a major hurdle in your research journey? No, not even close! What lies next is — publishing your research work for it to reach the science world! The process of publishing a research paper is so intricate, if you miss one aspect, you could end up struggling with revisions and reworks or getting a rejection! Thus, there is a necessity of following an exceptional mode of writing. The APA style research format comes to a researcher’s rescue.
This article discusses how to effortlessly write an APA style research paper and how it is necessary to understand the basic elements of APA style research paper in order to write an article in APA style research format.
Table of Contents
What Is APA Style?
The APA format is the official style of American Psychological Association (APA) and is commonly used to cite sources in psychology, education and social sciences. APA research paper format is widely used in the research publishing industry.
Students and researchers usually get confused with various research paper writing formats and are unclear about the requirements from the research publication journals. Therefore, the best way to deal with beginning to write a research paper is to first know the journal’s requirement and then follow the guidelines accordingly.
Though the reference section may change over the course of time, the information related to the other sections in APA research paper format is similar and could be referred to, for writing an exemplary research paper.
Guidelines for APA Style Paper (7th edition)
An APA style research format is different as compared to a term paper, a creative writing paper, a composition-style paper, or a thought paper. Throughout the paper you need to apply these guidelines while writing the paper –
Type the content and keep double-space on standard-sized paper (8.5” x 11”), with 1” margins on all sides.
You should indent the first line of every paragraph 0.5 inches
Include a page number on every page.
You could use an accessible font like Times New Roman 12pt., Arial 11pt., or Georgia 11pt.
APA Research Paper Sections
The APA research paper format is based on seven main components: title page, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, and references. The sections in APA-style paper are as follows:
1. Title Page
As per the APA research paper format, the title should be between 10-12 words and should reflect the essence of the paper. After writing the title, write your name followed by name of the college. Furthermore, create a page header using the “View Header” function in MS Word and on the title page include a running head — a short title that appears at the top of pages of published articles (flush left) and page number on the same line (flush right). The running head should not exceed 50 characters, including punctuation and spacing. Moreover, you could use the toolbox to insert a page number, so that it automatically numbers each page.
Abstract should contain no more than 120 words , and should be one paragraph written in block format with double spacing. Additionally, state the topic in a sentence or two. Also, provide overview of methods, results, and discussion.
APA Style – Abstract in APA Style
An introduction of APA research paper format is the most difficult section to write. A good introduction critically evaluates the empirical knowledge in the relevant area(s) in a way that defines the knowledge gap and expresses your aim for your study and why you conducted it. However, the challenge here is to keep the reader’s interest in reading your paper.
A good introduction keeps readers engaged with your paper. For writing an interesting introduction, researchers should introduce logical flow of ideas which will eventually lead to the research hypothesis . Furthermore, while incorporating references into your introduction, do not describe every single study in complete detail. Summarize the key findings from the article and do not quote from the articles, instead paraphrase the content .
The method section in APA research paper format is straightforward. However, the protocol and requirements should be mentioned precisely. The goal of this section is to describe your study and experiments in detail, so that there is no issue in reproducibility of results and other researchers could duplicate your methods effectively.
This section includes Materials and/or Apparatus and Experiments/Procedures/Protocols. Furthermore, keep the procedures brief and accurate, and make sure to read through so as to not repeat the steps or avoid redundancy.
In this section, you could describe how you analyzed the data and explain your findings. If your data analyses are complex, then break the section into subsections, ideally a subsection for each hypothesis and elaborate the subsections by using statistical analysis and including tables or figures to represent results visually. Most importantly, do not share interpretation of the results here. You can interpret and explain the results in the discussion section.
Results are interpreted and understood in this section. Discussion section helps understand the research hypothesis better and places the results in the broader context of the literature in the area. This section is the reversal of introduction section, wherein you begin with the specifics and explain the general understanding of the topics.
In discussion, you start with a brief of your main findings, followed by explaining if your research findings support your hypothesis. Furthermore, you could explain how your findings enhance or support the existing literature on the topic. Connect your results with some of the literature mentioned in the introduction to bring your story back to full circle. You could also mention if there are any interesting or surprising findings in your results. Discuss other theories which could help you justify your surprising results.
Explain the limitation of your study and mention all the additional questions that were generated from your study. You could also mention what further research should be conducted on the topic and what are the knowledge gaps in the current body of research. Finally, mention how your results could relate to the larger issues of human existence and highlight “the big picture” for your readers.
Provide an alphabetical listing of the references. Do not keep extra spaces between references and double-space all the references. The second line of each reference should be intended. You could refer to the examples (mentioned below) to know how to format references correctly.
I. Journal Article:
Only first letter of the first word of the article title is capitalized; the journal name and volume are italicized. If the journal name had multiple words, each of the major words are capitalized.
Example: Ebner-Priemer, U. W., & Trull, T. J. (2009). Ecological momentary assessment of mood disorders and mood dysregulation. Psychological Assessment, 21 , 463-475. doi:10.1037/a0017075
II. Book Chapter:
Only the first letter of the first word of both the chapter title and book title are capitalized.
Example: Stephan, W. G. (1985). Intergroup relations. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology (3rd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 599-658). New York: Random House.
Example: Gray, P. (2010). Psychology (6th ed.). New York: Worth
There are various formats for tables, depending upon the information you wish to include. So, be thorough and provide a table number and title (the latter should be italicized). Tables can be single or double-spaced.
Be sure to mention x- and y-axes clearly. Underneath the figure provide a label and brief caption. The figure caption typically includes variables and units of measurements. Also, include error bars in your bar graphs, and note what the bars represent in the figure caption – Error bars represent one standard error above and below the mean.
VI. In-Text Citation:
- Mention the authors’ names and publication date while citing sources in your paper.
- When including the citation as part of the sentence, use AND: “According to Jones and Smith (2003), the…”
- When the citation is written in parentheses, use &: “Studies have shown that priming can affect actual motor behavior (Jones & Smith, 2003; Kiley, Bailey, & Hammer, 1999). The studies in parentheses should appear alphabetically by first author’s last name, and separate it with semicolons.
- You should avoid quoting directly, but in case you do – along with the name and date, include the page number.
- For sources with three or more authors, once you have listed all the authors’ names, you may write “et al.” on subsequent mentions: “Klein et al. (1999) found that…”.
- Meanwhile, when source has six or more authors, the first author’s last name and “et al.” are used every time the source is cited.
VII. Secondary Source:
It is a term used to describe material that is cited in another source. Avoid using secondary sources in your papers. Try to find the primary source and read it before citing in your work. However, if you must mention a secondary source, refer to the APA style paper example below:
Primary source author’s last name (as cited in secondary source author’s last name, year) argued that…
7 Tips for Writing an Error-free APA Style Research Paper
- Although there are exceptions, minimize using first person while writing.
- Avoid including personal statements or anecdotes.
- Although there are exceptions, use past tense while writing.
- Do not use contractions. (e.g., “it does not follow” rather than “it doesn’t follow”)
- Avoid biased language – Be updated with appropriate terminologies, especially if you are writing a paper that includes gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.
- Be certain to cite your sources.
- Try to paraphrase as much as possible, and do not directly quote from source articles.
This article contains only a few aspects of an APA research paper format. There are many APA style rules which can be explored before you begin to write an APA style research paper. Many of the APA research paper format rules are dynamic and subject to change, so it is best to refer to 7 th edition (latest) of the APA Publication Manual and be thorough with every section’s format before writing a research paper.
Have you used an APA research paper format to write your article? Do write to us or comment below and tell us how your experience writing an APA style paper was?
Frequently Asked Questions
The APA format is the official style of American Psychological Association (APA) and is commonly used to cite sources in psychology, education and social sciences.
APA stands for the American Psychological Association. It is a professional organization that focuses on the field of psychology and related disciplines.
Citing sources in APA format involves specific guidelines for different types of sources. In-text Citations: For a paraphrased or summarized idea from a source, include the author's last name and the publication year in parentheses. Example: (Smith, 2021) Reference List Entry for a Journal Article: Only first letter of the first word of the article title is capitalized; the journal name and volume are italicized. If the journal name had multiple words, each of the major words are capitalized. Example: Ebner-Priemer, U. W., & Trull, T. J. (2009). Ecological momentary assessment of mood disorders and mood dysregulation. Psychological Assessment, 21, 463-475. doi:10.1037/a0017075
The APA (American Psychological Association) style is primarily used by researchers, scholars, and students in the social sciences, including psychology, sociology, education, and related fields. However, the APA style is not limited to these disciplines and is also used in other academic and scientific fields when writing research papers or scholarly articles.
As per the 7th edition of APA citation (published in 2020), the last name and first/middle initials for all authors (up to first 20 authors) are mentioned in the bibliography. If there are 21 or more authors, an ellipsis (but no ampersand) is used after the 19th author, and then the final author’s name is added. Generic format: Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article. Title of Journal, Volume # (issue number), Pages. https://doi.org/xx.xxx/yyyy Example: Ebner-Priemer, U. W., & Trull, T. J. (2009). Ecological momentary assessment of mood disorders and mood dysregulation. Psychological Assessment, 21, 463-475. doi:10.1037/a0017075
When quoting in APA format, you need to properly incorporate and cite direct quotations from sources. Introduce the Quote: Begin with a signal phrase or an introductory statement to lead into the quote. This helps provide context and relevance for the quotation. Provide In-text Citation: Immediately after the closing quotation mark, include an in-text citation that provides the author's last name, publication year, and, if applicable, page number(s) of the quoted material. Example: (Smith, 2021, p. 25) Cite the Source in the Reference List: Include a corresponding entry in the reference list for the source you are quoting. The format for the reference list entry depends on the type of source being quoted (e.g., book, journal article, website).
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How to Write a Research Paper? Research Paper Format
Research Paper Format
Table of contents
How to write a research paper, introduction, methodology, results and discussion, acknowledgment, how to write a thesis phd thesis format.
Writing and publishing a research paper is important for an/a academician, researcher, and scientist. Publishing the article in a reputed and high impact factor journal may fetch you a scholarship, funding to carry out R&D projects and makes your profile strong. Here, in iLovePhD you can find out everything you need to know to write an effective research paper with a sample research paper format.
The first step is to select your target journal before start writing your article. It could be easy to shape your manuscript according to the journal’s requirement, which would increase the chance of accepting your manuscript. After choosing your target journal, start reading the research papers relevant to your work, which are already published in that journal. This can help you to get an idea of the editor’s expectation and guide your writing.
Also Read: 6 Steps to Select a Right Journal to Publish your Research Paper
The strongest research papers generally have one or two strong points to make. The authors register those points powerfully with results and suitable evidence. ilovephd.com
Use clear and simple language which helps the reader to read and understand easily. Ensure that your present research work is unique and novel from already published works, though your concept is existing. Write your article with full confidence to give your reader certainty in your work. Relate your research with key work which is reported already and show how you are working to eliminate the research gap. Plan a logical sequence of the manuscript, and develop ideas succinctly and precisely.
The structure of the research paper is as important as the content itself and helps the reader to get a clear understanding of your work. The format of a research paper is presented below.
Good Research Paper Format
The title of a manuscript should indicate the theme of the research work. It should be clear, specific, and attractive to the readers to read the article.
- In addition to the title that grabs the reader’s attention, a well-written abstract is important.
- The abstract is what researchers/scientist reads first to identify whether the article is worth reading.
- It is suggested to rewrite the abstract after finishing writing the entire manuscript.
- Superfluous sentences and irrelevant statements should be eliminated.
- The authors must highlight the novelty of the work. The abstract should be focussing on the following points.
- What was investigated in the study (State briefly the specific objectives of the study)
- Why was it done
- How was it done
- What are the important findings of the study
- What is the significance of the study
The abstract can also be represented in a graphical format. Some journals mandate to submission a graphical abstract. The procedure to create a graphical abstract can be found in HOW TO CREATE GRAPHICAL ABSTRACT .
The keywords should be relevant to the work and it should be easy for the readers to search for the manuscript. Five to seven keywords are essential.
- The introduction should clearly address the significance and impact of the manuscript.
- The research on a particular area may be intensively published so that describing novelty is of significance.
- It should have a clear point regarding the advancement or improvement and a motivation to carry out the research work.
- Discuss the literature pertaining to the work and identify the research gap.
- The literature review should take into consideration the current state of the literature.
- Frame the objectives of the study clearly based on the research gap.
- It is suggested to write the introduction and conclusion last, once the skeleton of the manuscript becomes clear.
- The methodology should elaborate on how the research study was conducted.
- It includes experimental procedures/steps followed, preparation methods, instrumentation used, and formula.
- The readers should get a clear vision of how the research study was carried out by reading the methods section.
Also Read: How to get Published in High Impact Journals?
- The results and discussion section of any manuscript are discussed in detail the research findings.
- The discussion needs to be beyond the findings and emphasize more on the claims.
- The interpretations of the experimental results should be explained scientifically, and logically in line with fundamental science and principles.
- To support the findings, the results can be expressed in any format (plots, models, expressions, etc.).
- The results reported in your manuscript should be original, reliable, ad reproducible.
- The results obtained in the present study may also be compared with the results reported in the literature.
- It includes the summary of the research findings and the overall impression of the study.
- A good conclusion will complete the article’s arguments, research outcome, and further scope of studies.
- It should be strong enough to convince the researchers.
- Citing references in appropriate places in the paper is necessary and important to avoid plagiarism .
- When you cite a reference, make sure that you understand its relevance to your research work.
- The references should be listed at the end of the manuscript and each journal has its own referencing style.
The authors can submit a brief acknowledgment of any financial, instrumentation, and academic support received pertaining to research work.
Hope, this article helps you to learn how to write a research paper for your research work with a good research paper format.
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How to Write an APA Research Paper
Psychology/neuroscience 201, v iew in pdf format.
An APA-style paper includes the following sections: title page, abstract, introduction, method, results, discussion, and references. Your paper may also include one or more tables and/or figures. Different types of information about your study are addressed in each of the sections, as described below.
General formatting rules are as follows:
Do not put page breaks in between the introduction, method, results, and discussion sections.
The title page, abstract, references, table(s), and figure(s) should be on their own pages. The entire paper should be written in the past tense, in a 12-point font, double-spaced, and with one-inch margins all around.
(see sample on p. 41 of APA manual)
- Title should be between 10-12 words and should reflect content of paper (e.g., IV and DV).
- Title, your name, and Hamilton College are all double-spaced (no extra spaces)
- Create a page header using the “View header” function in MS Word. On the title page, the header should include the following: Flush left: Running head: THE RUNNING HEAD SHOULD BE IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. The running head is a short title that appears at the top of pages of published articles. It should not exceed 50 characters, including punctuation and spacing. (Note: on the title page, you actually write the words “Running head,” but these words do not appear on subsequent pages; just the actual running head does. If you make a section break between the title page and the rest of the paper you can make the header different for those two parts of the manuscript). Flush right, on same line: page number. Use the toolbox to insert a page number, so it will automatically number each page.
Abstract (labeled, centered, not bold)
No more than 120 words, one paragraph, block format (i.e., don’t indent), double-spaced.
- State topic, preferably in one sentence. Provide overview of method, results, and discussion.
(Do not label as “Introduction.” Title of paper goes at the top of the page—not bold)
The introduction of an APA-style paper is the most difficult to write. A good introduction will summarize, integrate, and critically evaluate the empirical knowledge in the relevant area(s) in a way that sets the stage for your study and why you conducted it. The introduction starts out broad (but not too broad!) and gets more focused toward the end. Here are some guidelines for constructing a good introduction:
- Don’t put your readers to sleep by beginning your paper with the time-worn sentence, “Past research has shown (blah blah blah)” They’ll be snoring within a paragraph! Try to draw your reader in by saying something interesting or thought-provoking right off the bat. Take a look at articles you’ve read. Which ones captured your attention right away? How did the authors accomplish this task? Which ones didn’t? Why not? See if you can use articles you liked as a model. One way to begin (but not the only way) is to provide an example or anecdote illustrative of your topic area.
- Although you won’t go into the details of your study and hypotheses until the end of the intro, you should foreshadow your study a bit at the end of the first paragraph by stating your purpose briefly, to give your reader a schema for all the information you will present next.
- Your intro should be a logical flow of ideas that leads up to your hypothesis. Try to organize it in terms of the ideas rather than who did what when. In other words, your intro shouldn’t read like a story of “Schmirdley did such-and-such in 1991. Then Gurglehoff did something-or-other in 1993. Then....(etc.)” First, brainstorm all of the ideas you think are necessary to include in your paper. Next, decide which ideas make sense to present first, second, third, and so forth, and think about how you want to transition between ideas. When an idea is complex, don’t be afraid to use a real-life example to clarify it for your reader. The introduction will end with a brief overview of your study and, finally, your specific hypotheses. The hypotheses should flow logically out of everything that’s been presented, so that the reader has the sense of, “Of course. This hypothesis makes complete sense, given all the other research that was presented.”
- When incorporating references into your intro, you do not necessarily need to describe every single study in complete detail, particularly if different studies use similar methodologies. Certainly you want to summarize briefly key articles, though, and point out differences in methods or findings of relevant studies when necessary. Don’t make one mistake typical of a novice APA-paper writer by stating overtly why you’re including a particular article (e.g., “This article is relevant to my study because…”). It should be obvious to the reader why you’re including a reference without your explicitly saying so. DO NOT quote from the articles, instead paraphrase by putting the information in your own words.
- Be careful about citing your sources (see APA manual). Make sure there is a one-to-one correspondence between the articles you’ve cited in your intro and the articles listed in your reference section.
- Remember that your audience is the broader scientific community, not the other students in your class or your professor. Therefore, you should assume they have a basic understanding of psychology, but you need to provide them with the complete information necessary for them to understand the research you are presenting.
Method (labeled, centered, bold)
The Method section of an APA-style paper is the most straightforward to write, but requires precision. Your goal is to describe the details of your study in such a way that another researcher could duplicate your methods exactly.
The Method section typically includes Participants, Materials and/or Apparatus, and Procedure sections. If the design is particularly complicated (multiple IVs in a factorial experiment, for example), you might also include a separate Design subsection or have a “Design and Procedure” section.
Note that in some studies (e.g., questionnaire studies in which there are many measures to describe but the procedure is brief), it may be more useful to present the Procedure section prior to the Materials section rather than after it.
Participants (labeled, flush left, bold)
Total number of participants (# women, # men), age range, mean and SD for age, racial/ethnic composition (if applicable), population type (e.g., college students). Remember to write numbers out when they begin a sentence.
- How were the participants recruited? (Don’t say “randomly” if it wasn’t random!) Were they compensated for their time in any way? (e.g., money, extra credit points)
- Write for a broad audience. Thus, do not write, “Students in Psych. 280...” Rather, write (for instance), “Students in a psychological statistics and research methods course at a small liberal arts college….”
- Try to avoid short, choppy sentences. Combine information into a longer sentence when possible.
Materials (labeled, flush left, bold)
Carefully describe any stimuli, questionnaires, and so forth. It is unnecessary to mention things such as the paper and pencil used to record the responses, the data recording sheet, the computer that ran the data analysis, the color of the computer, and so forth.
- If you included a questionnaire, you should describe it in detail. For instance, note how many items were on the questionnaire, what the response format was (e.g., a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree)), how many items were reverse-scored, whether the measure had subscales, and so forth. Provide a sample item or two for your reader.
- If you have created a new instrument, you should attach it as an Appendix.
- If you presented participants with various word lists to remember or stimuli to judge, you should describe those in detail here. Use subheadings to separate different types of stimuli if needed. If you are only describing questionnaires, you may call this section “Measures.”
Apparatus (labeled, flush left, bold)
Include an apparatus section if you used specialized equipment for your study (e.g., the eye tracking machine) and need to describe it in detail.
Procedure (labeled, flush left, bold)
What did participants do, and in what order? When you list a control variable (e.g., “Participants all sat two feet from the experimenter.”), explain WHY you did what you did. In other words, what nuisance variable were you controlling for? Your procedure should be as brief and concise as possible. Read through it. Did you repeat yourself anywhere? If so, how can you rearrange things to avoid redundancy? You may either write the instructions to the participants verbatim or paraphrase, whichever you deem more appropriate. Don’t forget to include brief statements about informed consent and debriefing.
Results (labeled, centered, bold)
In this section, describe how you analyzed the data and what you found. If your data analyses were complex, feel free to break this section down into labeled subsections, perhaps one section for each hypothesis.
- Include a section for descriptive statistics
- List what type of analysis or test you conducted to test each hypothesis.
- Refer to your Statistics textbook for the proper way to report results in APA style. A t-test, for example, is reported in the following format: t (18) = 3.57, p < .001, where 18 is the number of degrees of freedom (N – 2 for an independent-groups t test). For a correlation: r (32) = -.52, p < .001, where 32 is the number of degrees of freedom (N – 2 for a correlation). For a one-way ANOVA: F (2, 18) = 7.00, p < .001, where 2 represents the between and 18 represents df within Remember that if a finding has a p value greater than .05, it is “nonsignificant,” not “insignificant.” For nonsignificant findings, still provide the exact p values. For correlations, be sure to report the r 2 value as an assessment of the strength of the finding, to show what proportion of variability is shared by the two variables you’re correlating. For t- tests and ANOVAs, report eta 2 .
- Report exact p values to two or three decimal places (e.g., p = .042; see p. 114 of APA manual). However, for p-values less than .001, simply put p < .001.
- Following the presentation of all the statistics and numbers, be sure to state the nature of your finding(s) in words and whether or not they support your hypothesis (e.g., “As predicted …”). This information can typically be presented in a sentence or two following the numbers (within the same paragraph). Also, be sure to include the relevant means and SDs.
- It may be useful to include a table or figure to represent your results visually. Be sure to refer to these in your paper (e.g., “As illustrated in Figure 1…”). Remember that you may present a set of findings either as a table or as a figure, but not as both. Make sure that your text is not redundant with your tables/figures. For instance, if you present a table of means and standard deviations, you do not need to also report these in the text. However, if you use a figure to represent your results, you may wish to report means and standard deviations in the text, as these may not always be precisely ascertained by examining the figure. Do describe the trends shown in the figure.
- Do not spend any time interpreting or explaining the results; save that for the Discussion section.
Discussion (labeled, centered, bold)
The goal of the discussion section is to interpret your findings and place them in the broader context of the literature in the area. A discussion section is like the reverse of the introduction, in that you begin with the specifics and work toward the more general (funnel out). Some points to consider:
- Begin with a brief restatement of your main findings (using words, not numbers). Did they support the hypothesis or not? If not, why not, do you think? Were there any surprising or interesting findings? How do your findings tie into the existing literature on the topic, or extend previous research? What do the results say about the broader behavior under investigation? Bring back some of the literature you discussed in the Introduction, and show how your results fit in (or don’t fit in, as the case may be). If you have surprising findings, you might discuss other theories that can help to explain the findings. Begin with the assumption that your results are valid, and explain why they might differ from others in the literature.
- What are the limitations of the study? If your findings differ from those of other researchers, or if you did not get statistically significant results, don’t spend pages and pages detailing what might have gone wrong with your study, but do provide one or two suggestions. Perhaps these could be incorporated into the future research section, below.
- What additional questions were generated from this study? What further research should be conducted on the topic? What gaps are there in the current body of research? Whenever you present an idea for a future research study, be sure to explain why you think that particular study should be conducted. What new knowledge would be gained from it? Don’t just say, “I think it would be interesting to re-run the study on a different college campus” or “It would be better to run the study again with more participants.” Really put some thought into what extensions of the research might be interesting/informative, and why.
- What are the theoretical and/or practical implications of your findings? How do these results relate to larger issues of human thoughts, feelings, and behavior? Give your readers “the big picture.” Try to answer the question, “So what?
Final paragraph: Be sure to sum up your paper with a final concluding statement. Don’t just trail off with an idea for a future study. End on a positive note by reminding your reader why your study was important and what it added to the literature.
References (labeled, centered, not bold)
Provide an alphabetical listing of the references (alphabetize by last name of first author). Double-space all, with no extra spaces between references. The second line of each reference should be indented (this is called a hanging indent and is easily accomplished using the ruler in Microsoft Word). See the APA manual for how to format references correctly.
Examples of references to journal articles start on p. 198 of the manual, and examples of references to books and book chapters start on pp. 202. Digital object identifiers (DOIs) are now included for electronic sources (see pp. 187-192 of APA manual to learn more).
Journal article example: [Note that only the first letter of the first word of the article title is capitalized; the journal name and volume are italicized. If the journal name had multiple words, each of the major words would be capitalized.]
Ebner-Priemer, U. W., & Trull, T. J. (2009). Ecological momentary assessment of mood disorders and mood dysregulation. Psychological Assessment, 21, 463-475. doi:10.1037/a0017075
Book chapter example: [Note that only the first letter of the first word of both the chapter title and book title are capitalized.]
Stephan, W. G. (1985). Intergroup relations. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology (3 rd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 599-658). New York: Random House.
Book example: Gray, P. (2010). Psychology (6 th ed.). New York: Worth
Table There are various formats for tables, depending upon the information you wish to include. See the APA manual. Be sure to provide a table number and table title (the latter is italicized). Tables can be single or double-spaced.
Figure If you have more than one figure, each one gets its own page. Use a sans serif font, such as Helvetica, for any text within your figure. Be sure to label your x- and y-axes clearly, and make sure you’ve noted the units of measurement of the DV. Underneath the figure provide a label and brief caption (e.g., “Figure 1. Mean evaluation of job applicant qualifications as a function of applicant attractiveness level”). The figure caption typically includes the IVs/predictor variables and the DV. Include error bars in your bar graphs, and note what the bars represent in the figure caption: Error bars represent one standard error above and below the mean.
In-Text Citations: (see pp. 174-179 of APA manual) When citing sources in your paper, you need to include the authors’ names and publication date.
You should use the following formats:
- When including the citation as part of the sentence, use AND: “According to Jones and Smith (2003), the…”
- When the citation appears in parentheses, use “&”: “Studies have shown that priming can affect actual motor behavior (Jones & Smith, 2003; Klein, Bailey, & Hammer, 1999).” The studies appearing in parentheses should be ordered alphabetically by the first author’s last name, and should be separated by semicolons.
- If you are quoting directly (which you should avoid), you also need to include the page number.
- For sources with three or more authors, once you have listed all the authors’ names, you may write “et al.” on subsequent mentions. For example: “Klein et al. (1999) found that….” For sources with two authors, both authors must be included every time the source is cited. When a source has six or more authors, the first author’s last name and “et al.” are used every time the source is cited (including the first time).
“Secondary source” is the term used to describe material that is cited in another source. If in his article entitled “Behavioral Study of Obedience” (1963), Stanley Milgram makes reference to the ideas of Snow (presented above), Snow (1961) is the primary source, and Milgram (1963) is the secondary source.
Try to avoid using secondary sources in your papers; in other words, try to find the primary source and read it before citing it in your own work. If you must use a secondary source, however, you should cite it in the following way:
Snow (as cited in Milgram, 1963) argued that, historically, the cause of most criminal acts... The reference for the Milgram article (but not the Snow reference) should then appear in the reference list at the end of your paper.
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How to Write a Research Paper | A Beginner's Guide
A research paper is a piece of academic writing that provides analysis, interpretation, and argument based on in-depth independent research.
Research papers are similar to academic essays , but they are usually longer and more detailed assignments, designed to assess not only your writing skills but also your skills in scholarly research. Writing a research paper requires you to demonstrate a strong knowledge of your topic, engage with a variety of sources, and make an original contribution to the debate.
This step-by-step guide takes you through the entire writing process, from understanding your assignment to proofreading your final draft.
Table of contents
Understand the assignment, choose a research paper topic, conduct preliminary research, develop a thesis statement, create a research paper outline, write a first draft of the research paper, write the introduction, write a compelling body of text, write the conclusion, the second draft, the revision process, research paper checklist, free lecture slides.
Completing a research paper successfully means accomplishing the specific tasks set out for you. Before you start, make sure you thoroughly understanding the assignment task sheet:
- Read it carefully, looking for anything confusing you might need to clarify with your professor.
- Identify the assignment goal, deadline, length specifications, formatting, and submission method.
- Make a bulleted list of the key points, then go back and cross completed items off as you’re writing.
Carefully consider your timeframe and word limit: be realistic, and plan enough time to research, write, and edit.
Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.
There are many ways to generate an idea for a research paper, from brainstorming with pen and paper to talking it through with a fellow student or professor.
You can try free writing, which involves taking a broad topic and writing continuously for two or three minutes to identify absolutely anything relevant that could be interesting.
You can also gain inspiration from other research. The discussion or recommendations sections of research papers often include ideas for other specific topics that require further examination.
Once you have a broad subject area, narrow it down to choose a topic that interests you, m eets the criteria of your assignment, and i s possible to research. Aim for ideas that are both original and specific:
- A paper following the chronology of World War II would not be original or specific enough.
- A paper on the experience of Danish citizens living close to the German border during World War II would be specific and could be original enough.
Note any discussions that seem important to the topic, and try to find an issue that you can focus your paper around. Use a variety of sources , including journals, books, and reliable websites, to ensure you do not miss anything glaring.
Do not only verify the ideas you have in mind, but look for sources that contradict your point of view.
- Is there anything people seem to overlook in the sources you research?
- Are there any heated debates you can address?
- Do you have a unique take on your topic?
- Have there been some recent developments that build on the extant research?
In this stage, you might find it helpful to formulate some research questions to help guide you. To write research questions, try to finish the following sentence: “I want to know how/what/why…”
A thesis statement is a statement of your central argument — it establishes the purpose and position of your paper. If you started with a research question, the thesis statement should answer it. It should also show what evidence and reasoning you’ll use to support that answer.
The thesis statement should be concise, contentious, and coherent. That means it should briefly summarize your argument in a sentence or two, make a claim that requires further evidence or analysis, and make a coherent point that relates to every part of the paper.
You will probably revise and refine the thesis statement as you do more research, but it can serve as a guide throughout the writing process. Every paragraph should aim to support and develop this central claim.
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A research paper outline is essentially a list of the key topics, arguments, and evidence you want to include, divided into sections with headings so that you know roughly what the paper will look like before you start writing.
A structure outline can help make the writing process much more efficient, so it’s worth dedicating some time to create one.
Your first draft won’t be perfect — you can polish later on. Your priorities at this stage are as follows:
- Maintaining forward momentum — write now, perfect later.
- Paying attention to clear organization and logical ordering of paragraphs and sentences, which will help when you come to the second draft.
- Expressing your ideas as clearly as possible, so you know what you were trying to say when you come back to the text.
You do not need to start by writing the introduction. Begin where it feels most natural for you — some prefer to finish the most difficult sections first, while others choose to start with the easiest part. If you created an outline, use it as a map while you work.
Do not delete large sections of text. If you begin to dislike something you have written or find it doesn’t quite fit, move it to a different document, but don’t lose it completely — you never know if it might come in useful later.
Paragraphs are the basic building blocks of research papers. Each one should focus on a single claim or idea that helps to establish the overall argument or purpose of the paper.
George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” has had an enduring impact on thought about the relationship between politics and language. This impact is particularly obvious in light of the various critical review articles that have recently referenced the essay. For example, consider Mark Falcoff’s 2009 article in The National Review Online, “The Perversion of Language; or, Orwell Revisited,” in which he analyzes several common words (“activist,” “civil-rights leader,” “diversity,” and more). Falcoff’s close analysis of the ambiguity built into political language intentionally mirrors Orwell’s own point-by-point analysis of the political language of his day. Even 63 years after its publication, Orwell’s essay is emulated by contemporary thinkers.
It’s also important to keep track of citations at this stage to avoid accidental plagiarism . Each time you use a source, make sure to take note of where the information came from.
You can use our free citation generators to automatically create citations and save your reference list as you go.
APA Citation Generator MLA Citation Generator
The research paper introduction should address three questions: What, why, and how? After finishing the introduction, the reader should know what the paper is about, why it is worth reading, and how you’ll build your arguments.
What? Be specific about the topic of the paper, introduce the background, and define key terms or concepts.
Why? This is the most important, but also the most difficult, part of the introduction. Try to provide brief answers to the following questions: What new material or insight are you offering? What important issues does your essay help define or answer?
How? To let the reader know what to expect from the rest of the paper, the introduction should include a “map” of what will be discussed, briefly presenting the key elements of the paper in chronological order.
The major struggle faced by most writers is how to organize the information presented in the paper, which is one reason an outline is so useful. However, remember that the outline is only a guide and, when writing, you can be flexible with the order in which the information and arguments are presented.
One way to stay on track is to use your thesis statement and topic sentences . Check:
- topic sentences against the thesis statement;
- topic sentences against each other, for similarities and logical ordering;
- and each sentence against the topic sentence of that paragraph.
Be aware of paragraphs that seem to cover the same things. If two paragraphs discuss something similar, they must approach that topic in different ways. Aim to create smooth transitions between sentences, paragraphs, and sections.
The research paper conclusion is designed to help your reader out of the paper’s argument, giving them a sense of finality.
Trace the course of the paper, emphasizing how it all comes together to prove your thesis statement. Give the paper a sense of finality by making sure the reader understands how you’ve settled the issues raised in the introduction.
You might also discuss the more general consequences of the argument, outline what the paper offers to future students of the topic, and suggest any questions the paper’s argument raises but cannot or does not try to answer.
You should not :
- Offer new arguments or essential information
- Take up any more space than necessary
- Begin with stock phrases that signal you are ending the paper (e.g. “In conclusion”)
There are four main considerations when it comes to the second draft.
- Check how your vision of the paper lines up with the first draft and, more importantly, that your paper still answers the assignment.
- Identify any assumptions that might require (more substantial) justification, keeping your reader’s perspective foremost in mind. Remove these points if you cannot substantiate them further.
- Be open to rearranging your ideas. Check whether any sections feel out of place and whether your ideas could be better organized.
- If you find that old ideas do not fit as well as you anticipated, you should cut them out or condense them. You might also find that new and well-suited ideas occurred to you during the writing of the first draft — now is the time to make them part of the paper.
The goal during the revision and proofreading process is to ensure you have completed all the necessary tasks and that the paper is as well-articulated as possible.
- Confirm that your paper completes every task specified in your assignment sheet.
- Check for logical organization and flow of paragraphs.
- Check paragraphs against the introduction and thesis statement.
Check the content of each paragraph, making sure that:
- each sentence helps support the topic sentence.
- no unnecessary or irrelevant information is present.
- all technical terms your audience might not know are identified.
Next, think about sentence structure , grammatical errors, and formatting . Check that you have correctly used transition words and phrases to show the connections between your ideas. Look for typos, cut unnecessary words, and check for consistency in aspects such as heading formatting and spellings .
Finally, you need to make sure your paper is correctly formatted according to the rules of the citation style you are using. For example, you might need to include an MLA heading or create an APA title page .
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Checklist: Research paper
I have followed all instructions in the assignment sheet.
My introduction presents my topic in an engaging way and provides necessary background information.
My introduction presents a clear, focused research problem and/or thesis statement .
My paper is logically organized using paragraphs and (if relevant) section headings .
Each paragraph is clearly focused on one central idea, expressed in a clear topic sentence .
Each paragraph is relevant to my research problem or thesis statement.
I have used appropriate transitions to clarify the connections between sections, paragraphs, and sentences.
My conclusion provides a concise answer to the research question or emphasizes how the thesis has been supported.
My conclusion shows how my research has contributed to knowledge or understanding of my topic.
My conclusion does not present any new points or information essential to my argument.
I have provided an in-text citation every time I refer to ideas or information from a source.
I have included a reference list at the end of my paper, consistently formatted according to a specific citation style .
I have thoroughly revised my paper and addressed any feedback from my professor or supervisor.
I have followed all formatting guidelines (page numbers, headers, spacing, etc.).
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The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Research Paper
Few things strike more fear in academics than the accursed research paper , a term synonymous with long hours and hard work. Luckily there’s a secret to help you get through them. As long as you know how to write a research paper properly, you’ll find they’re not so bad . . . or at least less painful.
In this guide we concisely explain how to write an academic research paper step by step. We’ll cover areas like how to start a research paper, how to write a research paper outline, how to use citations and evidence, and how to write a conclusion for a research paper.
But before we get into the details, let’s take a look at what a research paper is and how it’s different from other writing .
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What is a research paper?
A research paper is a type of academic writing that provides an in-depth analysis, evaluation, or interpretation of a single topic, based on empirical evidence. Research papers are similar to analytical essays, except that research papers emphasize the use of statistical data and preexisting research, along with a strict code for citations.
Research papers are a bedrock of modern science and the most effective way to share information across a wide network. However, most people are familiar with research papers from school; college courses often use them to test a student’s knowledge of a particular area or their research skills in general.
Considering their gravity, research papers favor formal, even bland language that strips the writing of any bias. Researchers state their findings plainly and with corresponding evidence so that other researchers can consequently use the paper in their own research.
Keep in mind that writing a research paper is different from writing a research proposal . Essentially, research proposals are to acquire the funding needed to get the data to write a research paper.
How long should a research paper be?
The length of a research paper depends on the topic or assignment. Typically, research papers run around 4,000–6,000 words, but it’s common to see short papers around 2,000 words or long papers over 10,000 words.
If you’re writing a paper for school, the recommended length should be provided in the assignment. Otherwise, let your topic dictate the length: Complicated topics or extensive research will require more explanation.
How to write a research paper in 9 steps
Below is a step-by-step guide to writing a research paper, catered specifically for students rather than professional researchers. While some steps may not apply to your particular assignment, think of this as more of a general guideline to keep you on track.
1 Understand the assignment
For some of you this goes without saying, but you might be surprised at how many students start a research paper without even reading the assignment guidelines.
So your first step should be to review the assignment and carefully read the writing prompt. Specifically, look for technical requirements such as length , formatting requirements (single- vs. double-spacing, indentations, etc.) and citation style . Also pay attention to the particulars, such as whether or not you need to write an abstract or include a cover page.
Once you understand the assignment, the next steps in how to write a research paper follow the usual writing process , more or less. There are some extra steps involved because research papers have extra rules, but the gist of the writing process is the same.
2 Choose your topic
In open-ended assignments, the student must choose their own topic. While it may seem simple enough, choosing a topic is actually the most important decision you’ll make in writing a research paper, since it determines everything that follows.
Your top priority in how to choose a research paper topic is whether it will provide enough content and substance for an entire research paper. You’ll want to choose a topic with enough data and complexity to enable a rich discussion. However, you also want to avoid general topics and instead stick with topics specific enough that you can cover all the relevant information without cutting too much.
3 Gather preliminary research
The sooner you start researching, the better—after all, it’s called a research paper for a reason.
To refine your topic and prepare your thesis statement, find out what research is available for your topic as soon as possible. Early research can help dispel any misconceptions you have about the topic and reveal the best paths and approaches to find more material.
Typically, you can find sources either online or in a library. If you’re searching online, make sure you use credible sources like science journals or academic papers. Some search engines—mentioned below in the Tools and resources section—allow you to browse only accredited sources and academic databases.
Keep in mind the difference between primary and secondary sources as you search. Primary sources are firsthand accounts, like published articles or autobiographies; secondary sources are more removed, like critical reviews or secondhand biographies.
When gathering your research, it’s better to skim sources instead of reading each potential source fully. If a source seems useful, set it aside to give it a full read later. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck poring over sources that you ultimately won’t use, and that time could be better spent finding a worthwhile source.
Sometimes you’re required to submit a literature review , which explains your sources and presents them to an authority for confirmation. Even if no literature review is required, it’s still helpful to compile an early list of potential sources—you’ll be glad you did later.
4 Write a thesis statement
Using what you found in your preliminary research, write a thesis statement that succinctly summarizes what your research paper will be about. This is usually the first sentence in your paper, making it your reader’s introduction to the topic.
A thesis statement is the best answer for how to start a research paper. Aside from preparing your reader, the thesis statement also makes it easier for other researchers to assess whether or not your paper is useful to them for their own research. Likewise, you should read the thesis statements of other research papers to decide how useful they are to you.
A good thesis statement mentions all the important parts of the discussion without disclosing too many of the details. If you’re having trouble putting it into words, try to phrase your topic as a question and then answer it .
For example, if your research paper topic is about separating students with ADHD from other students, you’d first ask yourself, “Does separating students with ADHD improve their learning?” The answer—based on your preliminary research—is a good basis for your thesis statement.
5 Determine supporting evidence
At this stage of how to write an academic research paper, it’s time to knuckle down and do the actual research. Here’s when you go through all the sources you collected earlier and find the specific information you’d like to use in your paper.
Normally, you find your supporting evidence by reading each source and taking notes. Isolate only the information that’s directly relevant to your topic; don’t bog down your paper with tangents or unnecessary context, however interesting they may be. And always write down page numbers , not only for you to find the information later, but also because you’ll need them for your citations.
Aside from highlighting text and writing notes, another common tactic is to use bibliography cards . These are simple index cards with a fact or direct quotation on one side and the bibliographical information (source citation, page numbers, subtopic category) on the other. While bibliography cards are not necessary, some students find them useful for staying organized, especially when it’s time to write an outline.
6 Write a research paper outline
A lot of students want to know how to write a research paper outline. More than informal essays, research papers require a methodical and systematic structure to make sure all issues are addressed, and that makes outlines especially important.
First make a list of all the important categories and subtopics you need to cover—an outline for your outline! Consider all the information you gathered when compiling your supporting evidence and ask yourself what the best way to separate and categorize everything is.
Once you have a list of what you want to talk about, consider the best order to present the information. Which subtopics are related and should go next to each other? Are there any subtopics that don’t make sense if they’re presented out of sequence? If your information is fairly straightforward, feel free to take a chronological approach and present the information in the order it happened.
Because research papers can get complicated, consider breaking your outline into paragraphs. For starters, this helps you stay organized if you have a lot of information to cover. Moreover, it gives you greater control over the flow and direction of the research paper. It’s always better to fix structural problems in the outline phase than later after everything’s already been written.
Don’t forget to include your supporting evidence in the outline as well. Chances are you’ll have a lot you want to include, so putting it in your outline helps prevent some things from falling through the cracks.
7 Write the first draft
Once your outline is finished, it’s time to start actually writing your research paper. This is by far the longest and most involved step, but if you’ve properly prepared your sources and written a thorough outline, everything should run smoothly.
If you don’t know how to write an introduction for a research paper, the beginning can be difficult. That’s why writing your thesis statement beforehand is crucial. Open with your thesis statement and then fill out the rest of your introduction with the secondary information—save the details for the body of your research paper, which comes next.
The body contains the bulk of your research paper. Unlike essays , research papers usually divide the body into sections with separate headers to facilitate browsing and scanning. Use the divisions in your outline as a guide.
Follow along your outline and go paragraph by paragraph. Because this is just the first draft, don’t worry about getting each word perfect . Later you’ll be able to revise and fine-tune your writing, but for now focus simply on saying everything that needs to be said. In other words, it’s OK to make mistakes since you’ll go back later to correct them.
One of the most common problems with writing long works like research papers is connecting paragraphs to each other. The longer your writing is, the harder it is to tie everything together smoothly. Use transition sentences to improve the flow of your paper, especially for the first and last sentences in a paragraph.
Even after the body is written, you still need to know how to write a conclusion for a research paper. Just like an essay conclusion , your research paper conclusion should restate your thesis , reiterate your main evidence , and summarize your findings in a way that’s easy to understand.
Don’t add any new information in your conclusion, but feel free to say your own personal perspective or interpretation if it helps the reader understand the big picture.
8 Cite your sources correctly
Citations are part of what sets research papers apart from more casual nonfiction like personal essays . Citing your sources both validates your data and also links your research paper to the greater scientific community. Because of their importance, citations must follow precise formatting rules . . . problem is, there’s more than one set of rules!
You need to check with the assignment to see which formatting style is required. Typically, academic research papers follow one of two formatting styles for citing sources:
- MLA (Modern Language Association)
- APA (American Psychological Association)
The links above explain the specific formatting guidelines for each style, along with an automatic citation generator to help you get started.
In addition to MLA and APA styles, you occasionally see requirements for CMOS (The Chicago Manual of Style), AMA (American Medical Association) and IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers).
Citations may seem confusing at first with all their rules and specific information. However, once you get the hang of them, you’ll be able to properly cite your sources without even thinking about it. Keep in mind that each formatting style has specific guidelines for citing just about any kind of source, including photos , websites , speeches , and YouTube videos .
9 Edit and proofread
Last but not least, you want to go through your research paper to correct all the mistakes by proofreading . We recommend going over it twice: once for structural issues such as adding/deleting parts or rearranging paragraphs and once for word choice, grammatical, and spelling mistakes. Doing two different editing sessions helps you focus on one area at a time instead of doing them both at once.
To help you catch everything, here’s a quick checklist to keep in mind while you edit:
- Is your thesis statement clear and concise?
- Is your paper well-organized, and does it flow from beginning to end with logical transitions?
- Do your ideas follow a logical sequence in each paragraph?
- Have you used concrete details and facts and avoided generalizations?
- Do your arguments support and prove your thesis?
- Have you avoided repetition?
- Are your sources properly cited?
- Have you checked for accidental plagiarism?
Word choice, grammar, and spelling edit:
- Is your language clear and specific?
- Do your sentences flow smoothly and clearly?
- Have you avoided filler words and phrases ?
- Have you checked for proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation?
Some people find it useful to read their paper out loud to catch problems they might miss when reading in their head. Another solution is to have someone else read your paper and point out areas for improvement and/or technical mistakes.
Revising is a separate skill from writing, and being good at one doesn’t necessarily make you good at the other. If you want to improve your revision skills, read our guide on self-editing , which includes a more complete checklist and advanced tips on improving your revisions.
Technical issues like grammatical mistakes and misspelled words can be handled effortlessly if you use a spellchecker with your word processor, or even better, a digital writing assistant that also suggests improvements for word choice and tone, like Grammarly (we explain more in the Tools and resources section below).
Tools and resources
If you want to know more about how to write a research paper, or if you want some help with each step, take a look at the tools and resources below.
This is Google’s own search engine, which is dedicated exclusively to academic papers. It’s a great way to find new research and sources. Plus, it’s free to use.
Zotero is a freemium, open-source research manager, a cross between an organizational CMS and a search engine for academic research. With it, you can browse the internet for research sources relevant to your topic and share them easily with colleagues. Also, it automatically generates citations.
Writing long research papers is always a strain on your attention span. If you have trouble avoiding distractions during those long stretches, FocusWriter might be able to help. FocusWriter is a minimalist word processor that removes all the distracting icons and sticks only to what you type. You’re also free to choose your own customized backgrounds, with other special features like timed alarms, daily goals, and optional typewriter sound effects.
This useful and free tool from Google lets you create simple charts and graphs based on whatever data you input. Charts and graphs are excellent visual aids for expressing numeric data, a perfect complement if you need to explain complicated evidential research.
Grammarly goes way beyond grammar, helping you hone word choice, checking your text for plagiarism, detecting your tone, and more. For foreign-language learners, it can make your English sound more fluent, and even those who speak English as their primary language benefit from Grammarly’s suggestions.
Research paper FAQs
A research paper is a piece of academic writing that analyzes, evaluates, or interprets a single topic with empirical evidence and statistical data.
When will I need to write a research paper in college?
Many college courses use research papers to test a student’s knowledge of a particular topic or their research skills in general. While research papers depend on the course or professor, you can expect to write at least a few before graduation.
How do I determine a topic for my research paper?
If the topic is not assigned, try to find a topic that’s general enough to provide ample evidence but specific enough that you’re able to cover all the basics. If possible, choose a topic you’re personally interested in—it makes the work easier.
Where can I conduct research for my paper?
Today most research is conducted either online or in libraries. Some topics might benefit from old periodicals like newspapers or magazines, as well as visual media like documentaries. Museums, parks, and historical monuments can also be useful.
How do I cite sources for a research paper?
The correct formatting for citations depends on which style you’re using, so check the assignment guidelines. Most school research reports use either MLA or APA styles, although there are others.
This article was originally written by Karen Hertzberg in 2017. It’s been updated to include new information.
- A Research Guide
- Research Paper Guide
- Research Paper Format
- 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
Supplementary materials formatting.
- Outline for your paper
- A final note
Short overview of style formats and research paper setup
- Title page;
- Headings and subheadings of sections (in each of them, the citation norms must be observed);
- List of literature.
How do you style and format a research paper?
Line and word spacing and paragraph indentation formatting.
- 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.
Numbering pages of the research paper
Title page research essay format.
Table of contents
Science paper formatting of the abstract, titles of books, magazines, newspapers, or journals.
- The name of the author or group of authors who wrote the text of the book or source;
- Date of publication or year of publication;
- The full title of the book, article, or another source;
- City of publication of the source;
- Issue number and page where you got the information from;
- Site URL if you used internet sources.
- 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)
Keeping essay together
How do you create an outline for your paper, how to write an outline for a research paper.
- The Introduction .
- The Conclusion .
A final note on your paper
- A quick overview or introduction of the topic or issue.
- The methodology being used.
- The thesis statement.
- A full review of every source used and the corresponding literature.
- A brief explanation of the relevance of the research.
- Detailed and thorough information about the main points of the argument.
- Use as many paragraphs as necessary. Each paragraph should represent a different point.
- Brief summary of the main points or facts mentioned in the body.
- Reiteration of the thesis statement.
- Closing remark or thought.
- Writing a Research Paper
- Research Paper Title
- Research Paper Sources
- Research Paper Problem Statement
- Research Paper Thesis Statement
- Hypothesis for a Research Paper
- Research Question
- Research Paper Outline
- Research Paper Summary
- Research Paper Prospectus
- Research Paper Proposal
- Research Paper Styles
- AMA Style Research Paper
- MLA Style Research Paper
- Chicago Style Research Paper
- APA Style Research Paper
- Research Paper Structure
- Research Paper Cover Page
- Research Paper Abstract
- Research Paper Introduction
- Research Paper Body Paragraph
- Research Paper Literature Review
- Research Paper Background
- Research Paper Methods Section
- Research Paper Results Section
- Research Paper Discussion Section
- Research Paper Conclusion
- Research Paper Appendix
- Research Paper Bibliography
- APA Reference Page
- Annotated Bibliography
- Bibliography vs Works Cited vs References Page
- Research Paper Types
- What is Qualitative Research
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