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How to Format a College Paper

As a college student, one of the activities you’d be regularly involved with as part of school work is essay writing. This skill, if developed well, has shown to have benefits even post-school. Whether it is a thesis, research, or an assignment, any paper will need to meet certain criteria. A very particular one among them is the ability to make it unique and interesting to read. This is where paper formatting comes in.

It is no longer enough to pen your thoughts and facts in a doc. Knowing how to format the paper properly to meet your lecturer’s desired style is essential. It shows your lecturer that you’ve been paying attention to the requirements. Here’s how to go about styling your paper.

Paper Format

Depending on which type of style your university prefers, the method of formatting your research paper matters. Many universities use the MLA style of formatting, and we will base our discussion on how to prepare your essay based on this. Several other methods, like APA formatting, are available to use your paper on, which could be challenging. Many students spend a couple of days in libraries writing or using Paperell for the acceleration of this type of work.

General Guidelines

To begin with, it is essential that you follow the general guide on how to present your thoughts, arguments, and facts. No one is willing to read through your presentation if it is not done in an easily readable form.

  • Type your document in a standard 8.5 × 11 laid out sheet. A computer will be preferred.
  • Use a clearer font family (for example, Arial). Many people are slowly replacing the use of Times New Roman in academic settings. When using MLA, the fonts should be clear enough and distinctive from each other. Recommended font size is 12. Also, don’t forget to double-space everything.
  • After a period, use only one space, except it is specifically required by your tutor.
  • Margin size should be 1 inch (2.54 centimeters) in all areas.
  • Use a header for the page numbers in the top-right corner (this is optional, especially if your lecturer does not request it).
  • The use of italics is recommended for spaces where there are longer words.
  • All endnotes should be included on a separate page before the parenthetical citation section.

Formatting the First Page of your Paper

It is important to make the first page of your essay as interesting and factual as possible. This is necessary to remove all forms of boredom, especially when discussing a less controversial topic. How you introduce your research papers and outline the content goes a long way to prove your worth. Here are some ideas to guide you.

  • Unless requested, do not create an entire page just for the title. You can do this if the assignment is a group task. If this is the case, it contains the names of all members, separating each by a line. The rest of the page should be formatted according to MLA guidelines.
  • In the top-left corner, put your name, your supervisor, your course name, and the date. Don’t forget to use double-text spacing.
  • There should not be any use of italics or quotation marks, too. The title of the paper should be capitalized (Upper Case). Avoid writing all the words in a capital style.
  • When citing other literary sources in the title, quotation marks are allowed. There should be a double space in the first line of the text and heading.

Section Headings

To make your academic work look more presentable to a reader, some writers use headings to separate sections. There’s a different method if you are to work with the APA styling technique. These subtitles could be in the form of chapters or named parts of a book. Here are some ideas for the headings based on the paper type.


The best recommendation when using an MLA format is to use diverse sections to divide the essay. When separating these points, you could use Arabic numbers with a period, space, and the name of the section. For example:

  1. Ancient Egyptian Times

This makes your research look neat, and gives a quick summary of what to expect the upcoming discussion to be based on.


There is a determined template for books when using MLA. If you’re stuck with only one heading level, you could use identical sections heading. For instance, if you decide to use short phrases to name a layout, let it be the same all through.

This specific style can be varied based on what you want. If not phrases, it could be complete sentences. A mixture is not allowed. Consistency should be the keyword for the headings and subheadings throughout the book. If there are different levels for the headings, a key or a legend to help your reader should be provided. The style should be at the discretion of your professors.


However you’re preparing your essay, it is important you know which style your school or teacher prefers. It is a good idea to ask for clarification if they forgot to mention it in class. You can always reach out for help and get assistance whenever you encounter roadblocks, too. One of the common styles is MLA formatting, commonly used in schools. The APA style is still another good example.

Whatever style is chosen, ensure that it allows you to express your ideas in a readable manner. No one wants to pay attention to a piece that is too hard to read.