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Research Paper Format: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

Research papers are very common academic assignments and bother students regardless of their major. It is a task that demands much time, devotion, and deep knowledge of academic rules and standards. A student needs to be able to follow a correct research paper format, find and use high-quality sources, and spend hours or even days writing a draft. Then, they also have to work on formatting; otherwise, a reviewer will dismiss the paper or deduct an unreasonable number of points. In other words, research papers require strict compliance with rules.

Nevertheless, writing a good research paper is a significant skill for a student, and it is crucial that one learns how to complete such a task before graduating. But by far not all students know how to format a research paper. This is when EssaysExperts.com can offer its helping hand. We are a team of writers and editors with years of experience in creating all sorts of academic papers. We know what a professional research paper format is like and are ready to shed light on its intricacies in this article. 

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What a Research Paper Is All About

A research paper is an academic piece that explores a topic in depth. A secret to a well-written research paper is data. It might be primary data collected through experiments or empirical evidence gathered through observation. Or it might be secondary data that a student collects in reports, journal articles, books, and other professional publications. The better the data is, the more insights into the topic one can find. However, such reliance on data elevates the requirements for a research paper format. A student needs to know how to format a research paper, cite and reference sources, and use various formatting styles (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.). 

A Basic Research Paper Outline

Now, let us have a look at a basic research paper outline. Like an essay, a research paper consists of three major parts, namely:

  • An introduction. It is the first part of the paper itself, but it is the last one to work on. The section should present the topic and catch a reader’s attention with a hook, highlight its importance, limit the scope of the study, and introduce the main argument.
  • A body. It is the core of the paper. Since research papers are rather lengthy (starting from 2,000 words), the body should consist of several sub-sections. Each should be devoted to a single aspect of the topic and start with a sub-heading. Also, all sections should be clearly connected with the main argument.
  • A conclusion. This part should not introduce any new information to the paper but rather sum up all the key points of the piece. A student needs to restate the main argument, summarize supporting claims, and highlight future implications if relevant. 


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Professional Research Paper Format: A Complete Overview

If you are to work on a scientific study, the research paper structure will be more complex than the one above. Also, you will need to create an abstract. So, let us have a look at the elements of a more comprehensive research paper format: 

Element Description
A title A title should succinctly and accurately depict the topic of the paper. It will appear on the title page and the first page of the paper itself if you are writing a research paper in APA style.
Abstract An abstract is the first and often the only part of the research that people read. They use it to understand what the piece is about and whether it meets their needs. In approximately 150-250 words, an abstract should present the study, its objectives, and the main argument. Then, it should explain what specifically was being investigated, how it was done, and what the results were.
Keywords After the abstract, one has to list the keywords that are relevant to the research. These are necessary to facilitate the search and categorization of the study in databases. Usually, five to seven words are provided.
Introduction The next element of a research paper format is an introduction. It should present the topic and explain the significance of studying it. There is a need to state the objectives that a researcher pursues and articulate the gap in knowledge that the study is to bridge.
Literature review This section can be either a separate part of the paper or be joined with the introduction. It shows how deeply the topic is already studied and what other scholars have to say about it. This is where the gap in knowledge becomes visible. The section must be abundant with citations of sources.
Methodology This element of the body should explain how exactly a researcher studied the topic and which methods they used. Be it an experimental study, a study based on a questionnaire, or research using secondary data, a writer has to describe what they did to arrive at the results.
Results and Discussion This section is the most important in any research paper. Firstly, it should summarize all the results that the scholar obtained. If necessary, they should be complemented with tables and graphs. Secondly, the section should interpret the results, e.g., explain their meaning, highlight patterns, compare to other studies, describe theoretical and/or practical implications, etc.
Conclusion A good conclusion reminds the objectives of the study, sums up the results and their meaning, and suggests the scope of future research on the same topic. The section should not contain any new data.
References “References” is a list of sources that a writer cited when creating their piece. Regardless of whether you work on a Chicago research paper or an MLA research paper, this list should be complete, properly formatted, and clear. All sources must be retrievable and relevant.
Acknowledgment Optionally, a writer may add an acknowledgment note to their research paper and thank others to any guidance or resources that they offered.

We hope that this small guide on how to format a research paper turns out to be useful for you. But if you still face issues with writing or formatting your research piece, you have an option to get qualified help at EssaysExperts.com. We will assist you in choosing between research paper formats and completing the task successfully. 

Why Correct Research Paper Formatting Matters

Writing a research paper without using sources is not an option. Books, journal articles, dissertations, research papers of other scholars, etc., are required for studying any topic comprehensively. But missing or improper citations of these sources is a risk of being accused of plagiarism. Moreover, if formatting is largely wrong, it might be perceived as disrespect to the institutional rules and standards. The deduction of points or even the rejection is possible if a piece has inaccurate formatting. As a writer, you need to be aware of the following formatting styles:

  • APA format
  • ASA format
  • AMA format
  • MLA format
  • CBE format
  • CGOS format
  • Chicago format
  • Harvard format
  • MLA format
  • Turabian format.

Of course, googling something like “How to cite a research paper” or copying the formatting of sample research papers are the options of how one can handle format issues. But such methods are not reliable. In reality, a student has to either learn to use a needed formatting style or resort to professional formatting help. 

How to Write a Research Paper in APA Format

APA is probably the most widely used formatting style in academia. Although your institution might have some specific rules regarding formatting in this style, the basic standards for creating an APA research paper are as follows:

  • There is a need for a title page with the title of the paper, writer’s name, name of the institution, course number and name, professor’s name, and date. In the case of a professional research paper, an author should add a running head too.
  • APA allows the use of Times New Roman (12-point), Arial (11-point), Calibri (11-point), and Georgia (11-point).
  • One-inch margins should be set on all sides of a page.
  • A research paper should include an abstract of no more than 250 words and keywords.
  • A generic in-text citation in APA includes a contributor’s name and a date, e.g., (Johnson, 2020).
  • A research paper in APA should be double-spaced.

You may want to check an APA research paper template to see what the piece should look like. But mind that your school might have some special rules regarding formatting, and they overrule general guidelines.

Research Paper Format in MLA

If you to write a research paper in MLA, you should check the rules of the style in the latest edition of the MLA handbook. Currently, students should respect the following guidelines:

  • One-inch margins are required on all sides of a page.
  • There is no need for a title page unless it is specifically required by your institution. Instead, there should be a header with an author’s name, professor’s name, course name and number, and date.
  • The title of the piece should be centered.
  • MLA has guidelines regarding the styles of section headings and subheadings. So, make sure to use italics, bold font, underlining, etc. correctly.
  • You can use any font as long as it is easy to read, but Times New Roman (12-point) is recommended.
  • A generic in-text citation in MLA contains a contributor’s name and a page number, e.g., (Johnson 101).
  • A research paper in MLA should be double-spaced.

How to Format a Research Paper in AMA

If you are familiar with APA and MLA, AMA would not be too complicated for you. Here are the basic rules you should know:

  • Similarly to other styles, there is a need for 1-inch margins and an indentation of 0.5 inches with each new paragraph.
  • The text of a research paper should be double-spaced and flushed to the left.
  • In-text citations are signaled with superscript numbers, e.g., “As Johnson states1.”
  • A title page is required. It should include the work’s title, author’s name, and institutional affiliation.
  • A research paper in AMA should come with an abstract of 250 words max. and 3-10 keywords.
  • The recommended font is Times New Roman (12-point).

Unlike in APA and MLA, in AMA research paper format, references are listed numerically in the order in which they appear in the paper. It might be a bit time-consuming to format in-text in such a way, but it distracts a reader less. 

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Referencing vs. Citing

When it comes to the use of sources, many students confuse key terms. So, let us get things straight once and for all. When a student uses a statement from another document and gives credit to an author, it is a citation. Citations can be direct or indirect. For instance, a paper cites Augustus Clarke, an author. An indirect citation would start with phrases like “Clarke explains” or “Clarke states” and the summary of Clarke’s ideas in the writer’s own words. In contrast, a direct citation or a quote would be the exact Clarke’s wording inside quotation marks. A citation is often confused with a reference. The latter is a record of the sources used in citations. The list of references usually comes at the end of a research paper and is labeled as “References,” “Works Cited,” or “Bibliography.” Both citations and references are required in a research paper. 

Tips on Types of Sources to Use in Your Research

Not all sources are good enough to be cited in a research paper. Some institutions forbid using certain types of sources completely. Clearly, you can cite a research paper of another scholar, a peer-reviewed journal article, a book, a dissertation, and other sources that are based on verified facts (from clinical trials, academic studies, surveys, etc.).

As for online sources, it is generally accepted that if these are not university libraries or published research papers, they should not be used as research paper reference material. However, the internet is a fantastic resource for finding valid source materials. For example, you may find references at the end of a Wikipedia article that you can then explore and potentially cite.

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Help with Research Paper Formats from a Strong Team

You may not know the correct way to cite a research paper or format it, and it is fine for an inexperienced writer. Also, it is fine to get help when an important task arises and a grade is at stake. If this is the case for you, you are welcome to place an order with EssaysExperts.com. We are a team of experienced professional writers who are excellent in writing academic papers including term papers, research papers, and dissertations. Our writers:

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Writing a good research paper is crucial to any student’s academic career. But it is not easy to choose a correct research paper format, write its sections, and then spend hours polishing the formatting. It is a relief to know that there is a trusted professional company that you can hire to help you write a fantastic paper with less effort on your part. For academic papers created according to academic standards, hire a professional writer at EssaysExperts.com!

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