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Writing Properly: Understanding the Basic Research Paper Format

Academic writing requires the writer to use specific formats. Psychology majors and some other social science majors may use the APA format while those in the humanities may be more likely to use the MLA format. Several other formats are also in usage and a few of them are actually quite obscure. Whichever format you may be directed to in the completion of your assignments, bear the following in mind:

Font Formatting

Every writing format places restrictions on the font sizes and styles permitted. You can’t go wrong with Times New Roman in size 12 although other similar fonts are usually permitted. The fancier the font, the less seriously it is likely to be taken so avoid the more stylized fonts. Despite its simplicity, Comic Sans is considered unprofessional so it too should be avoided. The use of bold, italics and underline functions is also usually not allowed.

Page Size and Formatting

Part of the writing format you will need to obey is restrictions on page size. Legal size sheets are generally not used in this context. Any pages you do print should include margins. How many margins and their exact size may vary so consult the manual for your given format.


The authors of any works that you create must be given credit specifically in your research paper. This may be done in-text as well as in a special section to the back of your paper. The exact order in which a citation is made will depend on the style you are using. In general you should include the names of any authors, the name of the cited work and the year it was published or the edition.

Cover Pages

Some styles may require that a cover page accompany your research. This requirement comes with its own set of formatting rules that should be carefully studied.

Additional Expectations

The professor who will be correcting your research may have extra specifications for you. This may include a cover page in a style that doesn’t usually require one or slightly larger margins than usual. Whatever the case, defer to his or her judgment for the sake of your grades. The rules of the style are secondary in this case.

By keeping these points in mind you will have the general idea of how to approach any academic writing format.

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