Paper writing help: getting to know different formatting styles


There are a handful of key formatting styles you may be asked to use while you are in school. Each has a specific set of guidelines for how your sources are to be cited inside of the text, and in the reference page at the end. They also have different requirements for headings, subheadings, and a cover page. You can review a style guide to get more information on the requirements.

MLA


This is common for literature based papers. It requires the following sections:

  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Conclusion
  • Works cited

Chicago


This is common for social sciences and other general education courses. It requires the following sections:

  • Cover page
  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Conclusion
  • Notes

APA


This is common for science and behavioural science papers. It requires the following sections:

  • Cover page
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Body
    • Literature review
    • Methods
    • Results
    • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Appendix

No matter the format style you use, you will need to ensure your paragraphs are properly written. When you are writing a paper, your organization and structure are key to presenting a good argument. Having one paragraph for your introduction is just as important as having one for your conclusion. But what about in the middle?

It can be difficult for students to recognize when they should start new paragraphs. But a good rule of thumb is that a new paragraph should be started with you are starting a new point or idea. New ideas need a new paragraph. If you have an extended idea which spans over many paragraphs, each new point you present within that extended idea needs a separate paragraph. If you are going to contrast ideas or information, you need to start a new paragraph. Separate paragraphs will serve to contrast different points in your argument, different sides in a debate, etc…

Make sure you have all of the paragraphs you need for the specific style you are required to use for your paper.

Look over your paper physically and see if the paragraphs balance out. Check that you have the different sections as required by the formatting guide you are asked to use. If, for example, you are writing a research paper that is just a literature review, in APA format, you won’t need the methods, results, and discussion sections. But if you are writing a report about an experiment you conducted and the findings therein, you will need all of the sections.

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