Research Paper Format: Guide to APA, MLA & Chicago Styles

All academic essay papers, including the thesis, dissertation, and coursework, among many others, require appropriate referencing or citation. The format of academic paper can be in the form of Chicago, MLA, or APA. It all depends on your study area and the professor’s or institute’s guidelines.

The appropriate research paper format is a significant element in academic writing as it helps students evade the issues of plagiarism, which can attract tough penalties like losing marks. Also, these citation styles are crucial in any academic material as it helps the writer credit or references their work by mentioning original authors.

While there are many different citation styles, it is significant for students to learn and have great knowledge of how to cite using any of the given styles. Keep reading through this write-up to know how you can cite your academic papers appropriately.

Academic paper format: common questions and answers

Before we highlight the whole concepts of APA, MLA, and Chicago styles, let’s answer the common questions as part of understanding academic paper requirements.

How many paragraphs should a research paper have?

A well-presented academic paper should have a clear structure, including the introduction, main body, and conclusion. Each of these sections should present the ideas in a clear and easy-to-understand manner. Generally, a standard research paper will have about three to five body paragraphs and the introduction and conclusion paragraphs. It depends on the research nature or the type of academic paper itself.

What is the appropriate academic paper layout?

The appropriate layout of the paper varies depending on the citation style you need to use. Chicago, MLA, or APA styles all have the paper layout guidelines you should follow as described below

The paper layout for an APA paper

When citing your paper in the APA style, use the format of your paper as follows:

  • The font- It should be a standard one like Arial with size 11 or Times New Roman with size 12
  • The margins should have 1 inch
  • The line spacing options should be double
  • Every paragraph should be indented to ½ inch
  • Include a running head on each page when submitting for publication

How to format an MLA paper

In MLA formatting guidelines, you will need to set your paper by following the concept below:

  • Make sure you capitalize headings
  • Use a formal font like Times New Roman with a size 12
  • Remember to include ½ inch indentation on each paragraph
  • Include a double spacing option
  • Set the margins to 1 inch

Formatting a Chicago paper

In Chicago, also known as Turabian formatting guidelines, the requirements include the following:

  • Add page numbers in the bottom center or top right on each page
  • Include a 1-inch margin or more
  • The font should be standard, like the New Times Roman with a size 12
  • Use double spacing options
  • Include an ½ inch indentation in each paragraph

What is the appropriate research paper paragraph structure?

The paragraphs in a research paper play a significant role in helping the writer present ideas and concepts in a logical manner. Besides, these paragraphs help the reader understand the flow of the paper. Therefore, an appropriate structure for each paragraph should include:

  1. The topic sentences

The topic sentence act as a transition in an academic paper. Besides, it prepares the reader to understand what the paragraph is all about.

  1. Supporting sentences

The supporting sentence includes a strong supporting and detailed explanation of the topic sentence. Make sure you include evidence and examples under supporting sentences as a way of backing up your claims.

  1. Conclusive sentences

Here, you simply sum up the ideas you have discussed in the paragraph. Make sure you give an insight into the relevant facts and how they are related to the main topic. Also, include closing remarks or transition phrases that prepare the reader to read the next paragraph.

Research template for students

A research paper template is a simplified and pre-defined guide that helps students follow when writing an academic paper in a given format. Below, we include outlines for APA, Chicago, and MLA outlines.

The APA format outline

Once you lay out your APA research paper using the formatting guidelines explained above, prepare your APA outline as follows:

First page: Include your name, your tutor’s name, the title of the paper or course, then the date of the paper.

Next, arrange the headings and sub-headings using alphanumeric numbering for easy understanding.

The Chicago style outline

While creating a Chicago-style outline, make sure your ideas follow each other in a hierarchical and consistent manner. While numbering, you can use both numbers and alphabets, as long as they are consistent.

The MLA format outline

The MLA outline follows the alphanumeric or decimal numbering, where you simply highlight important details in a professional vocabulary using the page layout as described before.


Have you been struggling with formatting your paper in APA, MLA, or Chicago styles? Make this article your reference point for a simplified understanding.