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Research Paper Style

There are a number of research paper styles used by academics and students. The choice of research paper style is limited by the field of research as well as by the requirements of the institution. You need to use a specific style of referencing that people are familiar with and that answers the following questions:

  • What parts of your paper are from external sources?
  • Where can the reader find these sources?

Style guides are meant to make papers easier to read because they impose consistency and don’t interrupt the flow of the body text. For this reason, some research paper styles allow you to work references into your sentences.

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If your research paper deals with the humanities or history, you will probably use either the Modern Language Association (MLA) or the Chicago/Turabian Notes style.

MLA research paper style uses in-text references that are connected to a complete list of sources at the end of your paper. The complete list has all the necessary information for finding a source, while the in-text citation provides the minimum information for the reader to identify the source in the list. This is usually the author’s last name and a page reference.

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Chicago/Turabian Notes style uses footnotes, but the details vary depending on whether or not you include a bibliography. If you do have one, then your footnotes can all be shortened to author(s), title, and page reference. If you do not have one then the first reference to a source must be in full form.

If your paper deals with the natural, physical or social sciences then you will probably use the Chicago/Turabian in-text style or the American Psychological Association (APA) style.

In the first case, you use endnotes in place of a bibliography to document your full sources, and the in-text citations consist of the author’s last name and the publication date.

APA style requires a complete source list at the end of your research paper that is called ‘References’. Start each new entry on the list with a hanging tab. The list must include: authors (list them all if 7 or fewer), date of publication, title, publication information. The in-text references consist of the author and publication date. They do not have to be in parentheses, but can be worked into the text. However, if you quote directly you must give a page reference.

This is a very brief guide to possible styles. It’s important to know the details of the system you will use, as there are different rules for print and online sources, and for the different source lists. Always use a current research paper style guide.

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