Text Size
Thursday, March 23, 2017

Formatting Your Paper

Formatting a Research Paper or Project

See a sample paper .

All the formatting information on this page is based on the MLA format. If your teacher has required you to use APA instead, click here to see the different requirements for that style.

Margins, font size, etc.

  • Your margins should be 1” on each side.
  • Use a standard 12 point font, such as Times New Roman, Courier, or Arial. 
  • Indent the first line of each new paragraph by about 5 spaces.
  • Do not justify the right hand margin to make it even.
  • Double-space everything throughout your entire paper.
  • Print in black ink only on standard size and standard weight white paper.
  • DO NOT include a “cover” or any illustrated cover sheet unless your teacher specifically tells you to do so.


Every page in your paper should be numbered in the upper right corner with an Arabic numeral. To create page numbers in Word, click View, then Header and Footer. Format the page number so that it’s in the same font as the rest of the paper, and so that it’s aligned with the right edge of the Header box. Type your last name and then insert the symbol for page number.

Your page number should look like this:

Parker 4

Where Parker is your last name and this is the fourth page of the paper.

The pages of your paper should appear in this order:

  1. Title page, if required
  2. Abstract, if required – APA only
  3. Text, or Body, of the paper
  4. Works Cited page (References page in APA)
  5. Appendixes, if needed. Each one begins on a separate page.

Title page

MLA prefers that your paper be submitted without a title page. Instead, you will set your margins to 1” and your paper to double-spaced, and begin to type at the first line:

Your name
Your teacher’s name
The name of the course
The date
The title of the paper (centered)

Do not underline your title or put it in quotation marks or type it in all capital letters.

Here is a sample MLA first page:

Parker 1

Peter Parker

Mrs. Duncan

U.S. History 1

April 15, 2009

The Development of the Atomic Bomb

        The first detonation of an atomic bomb on August 1, 1945 followed years of research in the United States, England, the Soviet Union, and even in the laboratories of Nazi Germany.  Even before the detonation took place,


Note: If your teacher asks for a separate title page, prepare it in exactly the same way, but begin a new page before you begin to type the text .

APA specific requirements

If you are using the APA format, a separate title page is required.

  1. Set your margins to 1” and your spacing to double space.
  2. Do not right justify the margins. Do not break a word at the end of line. (If necessary, begin a new line and type the complete word there.)
  3. Open the document header, and type the running header (the first two or three words of the title) and page number that will appear on every page in your paper at the right.
  4. Close the header and press the enter key several times. You should be about one-third away from the top of the page. 
  5. Center your text. Type the full title of your paper, using upper and lower case letters. Do not underline.
  6. Press enter once and type your name.
  7. Press enter again and type Fair Lawn High School.

Here is a sample APA title page:

Growth Patterns 1



Growth Patterns in Albino Soybeans

Peter Parker

Fair Lawn High School


Preparing an abstract

APA requires an abstract, which is a single paragraph summary of the main points in your paper.

  1. The abstract follows the title page and precedes the body of the paper, and is numbered in sequence as page 2.
  2. At the top of the page, type the word Abstract, using upper and lower case letters, centered, at the top of the page.
  3. Type the abstract as a single paragraph. Use block format (that is, do not indent at the beginning of the paragraph.)
  4. The abstract should be a 100-200 word summary of the paper..


  1. A quotation that is fewer than 40 words long should be typed within the body of the text. Enclose in quotation marks.
  2. A quotation that is longer than 40 words should be in its own block of double-spaced text. Do not use quotation marks. Do not indent the beginning of the paragraph or block.
  3. When a period or comma comes just before closing quotation marks, place the punctuation before, not after, the quotation marks. Other punctuation (for example, a question mark) comes after the closing quotation marks unless it is part of the quotation.
  4. To indicate an error in the original quotation, use the Latin word [sic], as in MLA, but enclose it in brackets and italicize it.

Italics or Underlining?

  • Most items that are underlined in MLA are italicized in APA. Italicize:
    1. title of books and periodicals
    2. genera, species and varieties
    3. a technical term the first time it is used (not subsequent uses of the term)
    4. letters used as statistical symbols or algebraic variables
    5. the volume number in a References list (example:  2:16-23)

When your research is not presented as a paper

Most of the same rules apply to your research project, regardless of the format in which it appears. You always need to do careful research, to document your work completely, and to use correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Only the requirements of the format will be different.

As with a written research paper, you must always be aware of the requirements your teacher has given you. Unless your teacher tells you otherwise, you can follow the general guidelines below for your PowerPoint or Web-based research project.


PowerPoint is primarily a visual medium. This means that your content will only be communicated to your viewer if it looks good. It’s important to make sure that the way your work looks reflects the content you’re trying to communicate.

  • Your presentation should begin with a title slide, or with an introductory slide followed by a title slide.
  • Select colors and fonts and layout patterns that aren’t too complicated, and that are in keeping with the subject of your presentation. For example, if your presentation is about a very serious subject, don’t use bold, crazy colors or silly fonts.
  • Be consistent in your use of backgrounds. Don’t change the color and style for each slide.
  • Make sure you select fonts that are easy to read from a distance and from close-up.
  • Don’t use more than two different fonts in your presentation. If you need more variety for emphasis or some other reason, stick to these same two fonts and use bold or italic variations.
  • Don’t fill up whole slides with text. Balance text and images on each slide.

How to Document Your Work in PowerPoint

You’ll need the same information for citing your sources, and you’ll still use MLA form. There are several ways to show your documentation; whichever system you use, be consistent, and use the same one throughout your presentation. If your teacher prefers one system over another, use that one.

Method A – References in Text

At the bottom or end of each slide, include a reference in text exactly as you would in a written paper.
At the end of your presentation, you will have a slide, or a series of slides, that show the complete citation information for all the sources you used, just like a Works Cited page.

Method B: Hyperlinks

This method is more complicated. You will begin by making an individual slide for each one of your sources.
On each of the information slides in your presentation, write the word “Source” or something similar. Then make this word a hyperlink so that when your viewer clicks on it, it will change to the slide that provides the full course information.

Method C: Works Cited on Each Page

At the bottom of each page, using a smaller font, provide the complete citation for your source, just as you would on a Works Cited page. But you won’t need a Works Cited slide for this presentation, because the information is on each individual slide instead. You may have to repeat the information on more than one slide.

Webpage or Website

A webpage or website is an interactive medium. This means that what makes web content different from other presentation formats is that you can click on links and go from page to page, or from place to place within a page. It’s also a visual medium, so if your page is hard to read or navigate, it won’t be of much use to your viewer. Just like in a PowerPoint presentation, it’s important to make sure that the way your work looks reflects the content you’re trying to communicate.

  • Your page should not be wider than the average computer screen. Also, it’s better to break up your work into multiple shorter pages than it is to keep it as one very long page.
    Select colors and fonts and layout patterns that aren’t too complicated, and that are in keeping with the subject of your presentation. For example, if your presentation is about a very serious subject, don’t use bold, crazy colors or silly fonts.
  • Don’t use fonts that are too small to read on the screen.
  • Don’t use more than two different fonts in your presentation. If you need more variety for emphasis or some other reason, stick to these same two fonts and use bold or italic variations.
  • Don’t fill up whole pages with text. Balance text and images on each page.
  • Don’t use more than one animated element on each page.
  • Use a heading at the top of each page.
  • Keep your backgrounds simple, and make sure that the colors of your fonts don’t clash with the backgrounds.
  • Make sure that all your links work before you hand in your assignment.

How to Document Your Work on a Webpage or Website

You should document your web-based work in the same way you document a written paper. Use references in text and provide a Works Cited page as part of your project. However:

  • If you include an illustration or graph or chart within the body of a page (as you should on a webpage, although not in a written paper), include the full citation just below that illustration.
  • Because you have the luxury of providing links, you can link directly to each Internet source from your Works Cited page. Clicking on the link will take your reader to the specific page cited.
  • Depending on the nature of your web-based project, you can also provide links within the context of your work. This kind of link provides its own documentation, and needs nothing further. Clicking on the link takes the reader to the specific page cited, and not to the site in general.

Additional Information  

Creating an Appendix for Charts, Graphs, Illustrations, Tables of Data

Sometimes you’ll refer in the body of your paper to map, or to a chart that shows some kind of statistics, or to the full text of a law or other document. Never include these things in the body of your paper. They take up too much room, and usually provide much more information than you need in that place at that time.

Perhaps you have found a graph that shows how many nuclear weapons each major country owned in 1950, 1960, and so on, up to 2000. But in your paper, you’re only comparing the United States and the Soviet Union. The line in your paper might look something like this:

Before 1950, only the United States and the Soviet Union possessed nuclear weapons. By 1960, the Soviet Union owned 35% of the world’s nuclear arsenal, while the United States owned 41%. (See Appendix A.)

At the end of your paper, following the body and the Works Cited page, you’ll include the full chart or graph that gave you these statistics, and at the top of the page, you’ll type the heading Appendix A. If you need more than one chart or graph, label each one Appendix A, Appendix B, and so on. These appendices are not always necessary, and may not be needed for the kind of paper you’re working on. They’re especially useful in papers written for science courses, where they can be used to display the results of any experiments that you’ve done.

At the bottom of the page on which the chart or graph appears, you will need to provide the citation for the source you used for the material. See the example in the sample paper if you’re unsure how to do this.

The pages in your appendices should be numbered in order as they appear. The appendices come after the Works Cited page.

Using quotations in your paper

It can be very difficult to use quotations correctly in your paper so that they fit in the way you want them to and say what you want them to say. Most high school research papers don’t need to use quotations at all, and they’re fine that way. Don’t feel that you should use quotations in a research paper unless your teacher tells you that it’s a requirement of the assignment.

Exception: Literary papers, such as those you write for English class about works of literature, usually do require the use of quotations.

If you do use a quotation, follow these guidelines:

  • Use a quotation to highlight a point. You may have to show exactly how a law was written, or to show the exact words from a line in a poem to explain what the poem means. You may want to quote the exact words that a famous person said at a critical moment in history.

For example:

When President Roosevelt addressed the nation by radio and said “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” most people felt comforted, and knew that the President would lead them through the worst times of the Depression.

  • Don’t quote lines from your source just because you’re having trouble paraphrasing them. This is not how quotations should be used. If you need help paraphrasing, ask for help.

Bad example:

The men who fought in World War II were “very brave and dedicated to their purpose,” and should “rightfully be called The Greatest Generation.”

Good example:

The men who fought in World War II and who have come to be known as “The Greatest Generation” served with bravery and dedication.

  • Use the exact words from the quotation as you found it in your source. If you need to make any changes, follow these rules:
    • If you want to use only part of a quotation and you need to leave out some words, use three dots, like this … in place of the words you took out. This is called an ellipsis.

An example of the original quotation:

The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.

Albert Einstein, 1946

An example of the quotation used in a sentence, with ellipsis:

Even Albert Einstein, whose theories had helped make the atomic bomb possible, was opposed to its use. In 1946, he said that “the unleashed power of the atom has changed everything …” and that it would cause our society to “ … drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

  • Sometimes a quotation needs a little help from you to make it clearer. If you need to add something, enclose it in brackets like these [ ]. This shows that the material inside the brackets was added by you.

For example:

When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.

Albert Einstein, 1949.

Maybe you’re not sure what “courting” means. You had to look it up and you think it won’t be clear the way it is. You might write it in your paper like this:

In 1949, Albert Einstein explained his theory of relativity by saying “When you are [dating] a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.”

  • Sometimes you will find a spelling error or another mistake of some kind in a quotation. You want to include it exactly as you found it, but you also want your teacher to know that you didn’t make the mistake yourself.

For example:

In 1946, Einstein rephrased his famous 1921 statement “God is subtle, but he is not malicious” by saying “God is slick, but he ain’t mean.”

You didn’t say ain’t, Einstein did. Will your teacher believe this? Only if you add the word sic in brackets at the site of the error. It should look like this:

In 1946, Einstein rephrased his famous 1921 statement “God is subtle, but he is not malicious” by saying “God is slick, but he ain’t [sic] mean.”

  • Quotations have to be typed in a special way.
    • A short quotation (fewer than four lines long) is enclosed in double quotation marks [“] and is usually part of a sentence; it’s always part of a paragraph, as in the example above.
    • A long quotation is four lines long, or longer. This is typed as a separate block, set apart from the paragraph before it and from the paragraph that follows it. Don’t put quotation marks around a long quotation.
    • You can indent the whole thing by highlighting it and clicking the indent icon, or going to format paragraph. When you start a block quotation, indent the first line as if you’re starting a new paragraph. The whole block quotation is double-spaced, just like the rest of the paper.

For example:

Einstein was interested in more than his scientific theories. He was concerned that people would use them for personal gain or power, instead of using them to help people. He said that

Concern for man himself was his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors, concern for the great unsolved problems of the organization of labor and the distribution of goods – in order that the creations of our mind shall be a blessing and not a curse to mankind. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations. (Einstein 6)

Using quotation marks

  1. Use single quotation marks for quotations that appear within quotations.
  2. If a quotation itself ends with a question mark, or other punctuation, reproduce that within the closing quotation marks.
  3. Commas or periods that separate quotations from the following text are included within the closing quotations, but other punctuation is not.

Churchill asked Roosevelt, "Will you be at Yalta?"




"I certainly will," responded Roosevelt.

Was there any doubt as to Stalin's "intent"?