Guide To Research Paper Format – Structure, Styles, And More

Writing research papers is a fundamental part of your studies, apart from serving as an avenue to contribute your quota to the general pool of knowledge, as well as a visual reminder of everything you've learned.

And, since they are primarily designed to assess your writing and academic research skills, it is best to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of your field research topic in a clear, well-structured format.

Whether you are a student, researcher, or professional, this guide will equip you with the skills you need to write impressive research papers that stand out from the rest. So, let's dive in and discover the world of research paper formatting!

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Research Paper Structure

A research paper, like any other paper, is not just a random collection of thoughts and ideas thrown together in a haphazard manner. It's a well-thought-out, organized piece of work that requires a clear and concise structure to convey its message effectively.

The structure of a good research paper outline is the backbone that holds everything together. It's a set of general guidelines that help you organize your ideas and present them in a logical and coherent manner. Typically, most research papers include:

Title page

The title page for research paper, also known as a cover page, contains your details, including your name, a "running head", topic, school, and other personal information. Keep the new page title interesting as it determines what to expect in your academic paper. A typical layout includes the above information centered about one-third of the way from the top of the page.


The first word of this first page is called "abstract", written in the first line. The abstract briefly summarizes the research paper, providing an overview of the study's purpose, methods, results, and conclusions. It's typically 150–250 words in length and is often the first section of the paper that readers will take note of.


A strong introduction for research paper separates an average research paper from an excellent one. It gives your supervisor a glimpse of what to expect from your paper. Your introduction should also include a thesis statement that explains the paper's focus and provide context from prior research.

Literature Review

Typically, a literature review is broken down into several different parts. First, introduce the topic and provide a background section. From there, you delve into the literature review, and the existing literature, discussing previous theories, and ideas in your field. You should also analyze and evaluate these sources, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses.

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This section outlines the procedures used to conduct the study, including the participants, materials, and data collection methods. It’s essential to provide enough detail to allow readers to replicate the study.


The research paper results section presents the data collected during the study and should be presented in a clear and concise manner. Place tables, figures, and graphs to illustrate the data and make it easier for readers to understand.

Discussion Section

This part interprets the results of further research and provides an explanation of the findings. It also discusses the implications of the study and its limitations. This is where you spare no space to drive home your thesis statement or point, and logically present your argument with the hope of convincing readers.


Lastly, the reference list provides a list of all the sources cited in the research paper. It’s essential to ensure that all reference entries are accurately cited and referenced according to the appropriate citation style.

Each section serves a specific purpose and should be written in a way that complements the others. In terms of formatting text, one space should be left between words and one space after each grammatical entry (punctuation mark for example).

You will find this guide on writing a research paper instructive to understand the nitty-gritty of academic writing. Until then, keep reading for an in-depth guide to formatting your research papers in the correct style.

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Research Paper Format Style

Research paper format refers to the reference style of an academic paper or publication. APA, AMA (American medical association) Chicago, MLA, ASA, and Turabian are the most used research paper formats. The format to choose majorly depends on the discipline and whatever your teacher prefers.

It is essential that you use high-quality, 8 ½ X 11 paper. Indenting style in-text citations depends on the format type (double line spacing is common). Writing research papers can be so strenuous that one may elect to take the buy a research paper route to academic excellence.

Formatting an APA Paper

*APA format stands for the American Psychological Association, format style. Research paper format in APA style guideline requires writers to use:

  • New Times Romans font 12 or Arial font 11
  • Double line spacing
  • Capital letters for non-article words (upper and lower case)
  • A one-inch page margin
  • A ½ inch indent for every new paragraph
  • A running head on every page provided they submit the paper for publication

For APA papers, the research paper title page must contain a page number, paper title, institutional affiliation, instructor's name, and submission date. The key components of the APA style citation include:

  • The author's name and publication date are in-text and on the reference list page
  • The reference source determines how the reference page must be written
  • Irrespective of the reference source, the referenced source must be italicized
  • For online sources, the website link must be stated
  • For journal and textbook citations, the author's name is written first, the date of publication in brackets, the source title, and the reference page must be included.

Most APA paper formats include a cover page, abstract, introduction, background, methodology and result, conclusion, and appendices.

You will mostly be required to use this style if you major in psychology or another social sciences discipline.

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Formatting an MLA Paper

Learning how to format a research paper in MLA for your project is essential, especially if your research paper outline is centered on literature and language. Created by the Modern Language Association as a check against plagiarism, this research paper format type enjoys wide acceptance in the arts and humanities.

Differentiating this formatting style from other forms is essential due to its similarities. Mixing them is easier than you can imagine.

MLA research paper format includes:

  • First page numbers (double-spaced)
  • Headers
  • The works cited page

Generally, writers must use:

  • Simple, readable fonts, especially Times News Roman font size 12
  • Lines double-spaced throughout, and stick with 1-inch page margins (double line spacing too)
  • Page numbers on the upper right hand corner (separate lines)
  • Every new paragraph must be indented with ½ inch
  • Typical title case applies (Capital letters for major words)
  • The first page above the title must contain some key information, including your full name, supervisor's name, institutional affiliations, course name, and submission date.

Each page contains a page header that comprises the full title case page number and your surname. The in-text citation must be included wherever a source is referenced in-text citations.

MLA formatting style also requires a work cited page that appears at the project's end. This page contains a list of all referenced sources, and works cited. It features a 0.5-inch hanging indent and is formatted with double space lines.

The work cited page differs from the closely related bibliography reference page layout. While a bibliography page displays sources consulted to gain in-depth knowledge, the work cited page displays all cited pages.

This explains why the work cited page is usually longer and more comprehensive than the commonly used bibliography page. It is best to consult your MLA handbook for good examples and guidelines on how to write a research paper in this style.

Formatting a Chicago Paper

The Chicago formatting standard is unique in its peculiar format. While the Chicago manual also requires a readable font like Times News Roman and font size 12, it doesn't require a title page.

You can either use a larger-inch margin or stick a separate page with 1-inch margins as obtained in other formatting styles.

Chicago style requires:

  • Double line spacing.
  • Page numbers should be on either the bottom center or the upper right hand corner of the page.
  • While the Chicago style doesn't generally require a title page, you can include one.
  • Writers can use two citation reference styles: footnote citations and bibliography and author-date citations, including a reference style. It is inadvisable to mix the two citation reference styles. Choose one and stick with it to the end.

Like all other term paper formatting styles, the reference page citation page must be at the right margin or end of the background section of the paper. If you are using the Chicago formatting style, you must supply the author and titles, including book, newspaper, or journal article titles.

You are also required to include publication details, including the publisher's name title page numbers, name, publication date, and publication city. Finally, the URL of online sources and page number must be well stated.

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Formatting ASA Research Paper

Created by the American Sociological Association, sociological students commonly use this style. The acceptance of scholarly sociology articles published in the ASA journal depends on following the ASA formatting style.

  • You must write the author's name to cite books, starting with their last name. The year of publication, title, publisher country, and publisher name follow.
  • Students are required to cite eBooks the same way textbooks are cited. The difference is the date the eBook was retrieved and the retrieval link must be included.
  • The same thing applies to journal articles. Just quotation marks must accompany them, followed by the journal issue and the referenced page.
  • A similar rule applies to magazine articles.
  • Students are generally required to use Times News Roman font size 12 with double-spacing throughout the paper.
  • Each page must contain a page number, which must appear in the upper right-hand corner.
  • The abstract page must not exceed 200 words, while margins should be a minimum of 11/4 inches on each side.

You may want to check this sociology research paper formatting outline as an excellent template for your ASA academic paper format. Footnotes and end notes are essential parts of this formatting style. You must ensure that the footnote contains the entire citation.

Formatting a Turabian Research Paper

Developed by Kate Turabian based on the Chicago formatting style, with which it shares many similarities. It features bibliography citations and notes, also referred to as footnotes in the in-text reference:

  • The bibliography citation is reserved for the last page and contains all referenced textbooks, journals, and other referenced sources
  • While writers are not restricted to a specific font, it follows common sense to choose a legible font
  • Writers are mandated to maintain a 1-inch margin on all sides
  • The title page must contain the main title, course name, and submission date at the bottom

Although initially designed to be used by history students for their academic papers. Other disciplines are steadily co-opting the Turabian. It essentially differs from the Chicago style in its approach to scholarly writing.

While the Chicago format focuses on educational books, the Turabian style focuses on academic papers.

If you are looking for a research paper format, or are in need of help with your research paper, then you may want to consider working with an essay writing company. Such companies can provide a range of services including guidance in writing, editing, formatting, and more.

A professional essay writing company can offer both comprehensive support for your research paper, and provide custom-written content for your academic needs.

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Specific Guidelines for Writing a Research Paper

Writing a research paper can be a daunting task, but with a little planning and organization, it can be a rewarding experience. To help with the process, we've compiled a list of steps to ensure success in future research.

  • Choose Your Topic

First, choose a topic for a research paper that interests you, is relevant to your field of study, and has plenty of detailed information available. It's important to be passionate about your topic, so you stay motivated throughout the writing process.

Once you've chosen your topic, begin researching and gathering information. Use a variety of sources, including books, articles, and websites, to gather as much information as possible.

  • Create an Outline

With an outline, you can organize your thoughts and ensure that your paper makes sense. Your research paper outline should include an introduction section, body, and conclusion, as well as any subheadings or sections you plan to include.

Each section or separate page should be clearly labeled and flow logically from one to the next. Be sure to use subheadings to break up your text to make it easier to read.

  • Hook the Reader

It's not enough to simply present your findings in a dry and academic manner – you need to engage your readers and keep them interested. To do this, start with a strong and attention-grabbing thesis statement (by clearly defining your research question) to set the tone for the rest of your paper.

Use clear and concise language, and incorporate interesting and relevant examples that illustrate your points.

  • Proofread Your Paper

Once your paper is written, take the time to revise and edit it. Read through everything carefully, checking for typos, grammatical errors, and inconsistencies in your formatting, as well as clarity and coherence.

Make sure that your paper meets the requirements and guidelines set forth by your instructor or professor.


One of the goals of academic scholarship is to sharpen attention to detail. This is best achieved through strict compliance with the formatting mentioned above. You can only rise through the academic ranks and file by the number of publications in reputable journals. No journal worth its onion will accept your paper for publication if it is not well cited.

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