How To Write A Research Paper Using The Right Format

There are several different types of format that are used when writing academic papers. Generally it depends on which subject or field of study you are following as to which format you are using


  • IEEE format is used in electrical engineering.
  • MLA is mostly used in the liberal arts and humanities
  • Chicago style is often used for History papers.
  • The APA style is mostly used for academic papers in the fields of sciences.

There are several other formats used, most of them are used in technical work, but the BIG message here is FIRSTLY make sure you know which format you are supposed to be using. If you are not sure which format you should be using, check with your professor.

For most students, using APA will be the most familiar. The APA style has adapted over quite a period of time, which means that you should take time to find out if there have been any new adaptations to which ever format you are expected to use for your work.

Format does not just apply to the way you reference and cite your work. Format goes a lot further. Check out the format you should be using for:

  • Margins and Indentations (there are very specific guidelines)
  • Font size and type.
  • Spacing (most academic work is produced double spaced).
  • Citations and References have to be formally acknowledged. There are specific rules for the information that you have to provide even if you have cited and referenced work that you have found on the internet.
  • Use of Footnotes

Your work also has to be written in a specific voice; usually it is a formal voice and not the voice that you would use on blogs, or in emails.

You will also find that there are specific instructions on the use of:

  • Running Heads and Short Titles
  • Pagination
  • Use of figures and graphs.

The paper will follow the usual presentation plan

  • Title Page
  • Abstract
  • Body
  • References
  • Appendices

In APA format the Abstract is usually between 150 – 250 words. Different formats have different word counts - so do check to make sure you are using the correct amount. Some formats require you to use fewer words.

Do remember that any query you have about the format you are using, check with your Lecturer or Professor.

If all else fails, there are some websites that actually offer (for a fee) to reference and format your work for you.