Formatting a graduate research paper: introduction to basic formatting styles


Formatting for a graduate research paper is incredibly important now and in the future. The goal of these styles is to create formatted procedures to organize the material contained in scientific pieces of work and broaden the understanding of scientific content. In academic settings, standard styles and formats allow for an efficient manner in which professors, colleagues, and other so-called academics can understand you content and quickly check in to your sources and citations. Two of the most accepted and implemented styles are APA and MLA formats. Let’s take a look at each one.

American Psychological Association (APA)


  • APA style is made up of a set of rules and guidelines that need to be adhered to in order to provide the reader with constant and concise content.
  • Guidelines for length, tone, and headings (format.)
  • Punctuation and accepted abbreviations.
  • How to compute figures, graphs, and tables.
  • Preferred manner in which to cite references and any other areas of a manuscript.
  • Typically used for scientific and research studies.
  • Numbering pages is required, along with a shortened title of the paper, to be located in the upper-right hand corner of each page.

For those of us with in the academic field of Humanities or Liberal Arts, you will probably find yourself using not APA, but a style just as widely used and accepted.

Modern Language Association (MLA)


  • While APA has its emphasis on citing research, MLA format shows the proper way to cite books, anthologies, literary volumes and other sources closer towards multimedia and information along those lines that require more in-depth descriptions.
  • If you are using MLA, as opposed to APA, you will be using verbs in the present tense.
  • Your citations will be listed alphabetically in what the MLA refers to as the bibliography.
  • In terms of format, you will need to use center alignment measuring an inch down from the top of the page.
  • The names of writers and other contributors are to cited in the bibliography by last name, first name, and then the middle initial.
  • Citations used within the text are placed inside parentheses, with just the source’s last name and the page number.
  • Double-spaced lines are another hallmark of MLA, and when citing sources do not use any extra line breaks.
  • Footnotes are used, but not to the extent and importance they possess if you are using the APA format.

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