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APA Writing Guide: Formatting for Graduate Students

Writing Center

The Liberty University Writing Center is available to provide writing coaching to students. Residential students should contact the  On-Campus Writing Center  for assistance. Online students should contact the  Online Writing Center  for assistance.

General Rules

Liberty University has determined that graduate students will use APA 7’s formatting guidelines for professional papers. To assist you, Liberty University's Writing Center provides a template paper and a  sample paper .

For professional papers, the following four sections are required: 

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you format your paper:


Title Page: When setting up the professional title page, please note the following elements should be present on the page:

Abstract Page: The abstract page includes the abstract and related keywords.

The abstract is a brief but comprehensive summary of your paper. Here are guidelines for formatting the abstract:

Keywords are used for indexing in databases and as search terms. Your keywords should capture the most important aspects of your paper in three to five words, phrases, or acronyms. Here are formatting guidelines:

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Research Paper Guidelines | Graduate School | SIU

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Standards for the preparation of research papers are established by the graduate faculty at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and the administration of the Graduate School. All revisions are subject to the approval of the Graduate School. EdD students submitting a capstone report to the Graduate School should follow the guidelines for research papers. Guidelines for Preparation of Dissertations, Theses, and Research Papers A research paper may have chapters or may be a continuous document (without chapters). If you are unclear as to whether you are completing a thesis or a research paper, please consult with your advisor.

Each department has selected one or more preferred style manuals , and all students within the department are to use one of those styles. 

Submission Site:

Mr. John Russell [email protected] 618-453-4529 Student Services Building 325

General Instructions

Filing of Research Papers with the Graduate School

Submit electronically through  OpenSIUC . A Microsoft Word document is preferred, Adobe pdf documents are acceptable.

Approval Form.  All research papers submitted to the Graduate School must have an original approval form signed by the student's committee, and generally the department chair. This must be submitted to the Graduate School.

Human Subjects . All copies of research papers submitted to the Graduate School that need the human subjects approval as defined by the Human Subjects Committee must file a copy with the Graduate School.

Deadline Dates for Submission.  The dates are posted at the Graduate School for both deadlines to apply for graduation and the submission of papers. These deadlines are firm dates and no extensions will be given.

Organization Of Material

Download the Research Paper Template to use for your research paper. It contains all of the required formatting.

Organizational format should be as follows:

If a research paper is to be copyrighted, an extra page must be inserted after the title page.  The copyright statement is to be centered on the page as follows:

Copyright by (your name) 20__

All Rights Reserved

Charts, Tables, and Figures

MAPS.  Oversize maps may be included as a supplemental file.  

APPENDICES.  List of terms, definitions, questionnaires, and other supplemental information which is useful, but not essential, to the body of the research paper may be included in an appendix.

MARGINS. Margins are flexible within the appendix but keep in mind that the left binding edge will cover approximately 1 inch of data. Page numbers need to continue within the appendix with the same font and the same position on the page as in the text. The Graduate School consultants can advise you about this if needed. 

COLOR.  Color is permitted.

ADDITIONAL FILES.  You may upload multimedia files (video or audio files). Follow instructions at  OpenSIUC .

Formatting Guidelines



The following guidelines are for the pages preceding the text, i.e. Abstract, Acknowledgments, and Table of Contents.

This recent guideline revision supersedes all previous editions. Take this into consideration as you review previous research papers from the library or your department.

Roles And Responsibilities

The Graduate Student's Responsibility

The Advisory Committee's Responsibility

The Research Paper Consultant's Responsibility

Departmental Style Manual

Each department has selected one or more preferred style manuals and all students within the department are to use one of those styles.

*APA:  American Psychological Association Publication Manual

*MLA:  Modern Language Association Handbook for Writers of Research Papers


Submission site -  OpenSIUC


KEYWORD: Be Consistent

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Research Paper Format | APA, MLA, & Chicago Templates

Published on November 19, 2022 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on January 20, 2023.

The formatting of a research paper is different depending on which style guide you’re following. In addition to citations , APA, MLA, and Chicago provide format guidelines for things like font choices, page layout, format of headings and the format of the reference page.

Scribbr offers free Microsoft Word templates for the most common formats. Simply download and get started on your paper.

APA |  MLA | Chicago author-date | Chicago notes & bibliography

Table of contents

Formatting an apa paper, formatting an mla paper, formatting a chicago paper, frequently asked questions about research paper formatting.

The main guidelines for formatting a paper in APA Style are as follows:

Watch the video below for a quick guide to setting up the format in Google Docs.

The image below shows how to format an APA Style title page for a student paper.

APA title page - student version (7th edition)

Running head

If you are submitting a paper for publication, APA requires you to include a running head on each page. The image below shows you how this should be formatted.

APA running head (7th edition)

For student papers, no running head is required unless you have been instructed to include one.

APA provides guidelines for formatting up to five levels of heading within your paper. Level 1 headings are the most general, level 5 the most specific.

APA headings (7th edition)

Reference page

APA Style citation requires (author-date) APA in-text citations throughout the text and an APA Style reference page at the end. The image below shows how the reference page should be formatted.

APA reference page (7th edition)

Note that the format of reference entries is different depending on the source type. You can easily create your citations and reference list using the free APA Citation Generator.

Generate APA citations for free

The main guidelines for writing an MLA style paper are as follows:

Check out the video below to see how to set up the format in Google Docs.

On the first page of an MLA paper, a heading appears above your title, featuring some key information:

MLA heading

Page header

A header appears at the top of each page in your paper, including your surname and the page number.

MLA page header

Works Cited page

MLA in-text citations appear wherever you refer to a source in your text. The MLA Works Cited page appears at the end of your text, listing all the sources used. It is formatted as shown below.

The format of the MLA Works Cited page

You can easily create your MLA citations and save your Works Cited list with the free MLA Citation Generator.

Generate MLA citations for free

What can proofreading do for your paper?

Scribbr editors not only correct grammar and spelling mistakes, but also strengthen your writing by making sure your paper is free of vague language, redundant words, and awkward phrasing.

grad school paper format

See editing example

The main guidelines for writing a paper in Chicago style (also known as Turabian style) are:

Format of a Chicago Style paper

Chicago doesn’t require a title page , but if you want to include one, Turabian (based on Chicago) presents some guidelines. Lay out the title page as shown below.

Example of a Chicago Style title page

Bibliography or reference list

Chicago offers two citation styles : author-date citations plus a reference list, or footnote citations plus a bibliography. Choose one style or the other and use it consistently.

The reference list or bibliography appears at the end of the paper. Both styles present this page similarly in terms of formatting, as shown below.

Chicago bibliography

To format a paper in APA Style , follow these guidelines:

The main guidelines for formatting a paper in MLA style are as follows:

The main guidelines for formatting a paper in Chicago style are to:

To automatically generate accurate Chicago references, you can use Scribbr’s free Chicago reference generator .

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Caulfield, J. (2023, January 20). Research Paper Format | APA, MLA, & Chicago Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved March 2, 2023, from

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/images/cornell/logo35pt_cornell_white.svg" alt="grad school paper format"> Cornell University --> Graduate School

Formatting requirements.

Requirements for format and final production of the dissertation and thesis, as specified below, meet UMI standards and American Library Association (ALA) suggestions for preserving archival copies of the dissertation and thesis.

1. Language

The dissertation or thesis must be written in English.

2. Page Size and Specifications

Margins should be at least 1 inch with page numbers at least 3/4 inch from the edge of the page. The templates use 1.6 inches for the left margin and 1.1 inches for the right.

Document must be double-spaced with the exception of quotations as paragraphs, captions, lists, graphs, charts, footnotes/endnotes, bibliographic entries, items within tables, and lists in appendices.

Exceptions may include the following:

Tables should be consecutively numbered.

Figures should be consecutively numbered.

MLA, APA, & CMS: How to Properly Format Your Papers

Knowing the styles and when to use them.

In academic writing, how you present your information (technically) is often seen as important as the ideas you are putting forth. Proper citing, quoting and referencing of source material allows you to convey your breadth of research in a language commonly shared by others in your discipline. Giving others a chance to review and compare your work under these established guidelines enables your instructors to better see the work on its own merits, opposed to getting sidetracked by technical inefficiencies.

You MUST follow the rules like every other student: this is not an area where you want to stand out for doing things your own way. Writing for any academic purpose carries with it certain expectations and formatting consistencies, and a failure to properly understand how or why you cite your sources in a specific way can have negative effects on your written projects and communications.

The Big Three: APA, MLA, and CMS

There are three main "Schools of Style" used to properly format an academic paper, referred to as APA, MLA, or CMS.

While these formatting methods will share many characteristics such as margins and spacing, how they attribute references to source materials is the main differentiator.  For example, APA lists "references" while MLA calls the same thing "works cited" - a small but important distinction that might actually affect your grade.

Typically, you are going to use one style for most of your classes and communications, but there is certainly the possibility that you'll need to know how to use any one of these three common styles. The good news is it is not hard to get up-to-speed on any one of them and use them properly.

Get the Latest Updates Regardless of which style you are using, it is imperative to get the most recent version of the guidelines to ensure your paper is as accurate as it can be. Each of the sources have updated their guidelines multiple times over the years, so working with the current standards is goal one.

APA and MLA are the most common styles to use, but CMS is not unheard of - just not as common for undergrads. CMS is commonly used in traditional book publishing and academic publishing situations, so if you are doing post-graduate writing, it is good to know.

The main thing that seems to be changing in the rules for all of them is about the proper attribution of web-related sources, so you are going to want to re-check that you are working from the most recent versions of whichever style guide you need.

Beware the Pitfalls

The common mistakes being made in properly styling citations and references might be as simple as not downloading the most recent updates; however, it may also be a case where students are simply not understanding how to infuse referencing properly.

He continues: "While some common APA formatting errors may be issues due to changes in updated guidelines (APA 5 vs. APA 6), there are other, perhaps more common instances where a student fails to properly reference the source materials within writing assignments. This is particularly true when citing content from the Internet. Understanding how to properly reference and cite source materials adds power to any student paper, because the papers can be used to show a proper understanding and blending of source ideas - a critical concept in higher learning."

"Some of the changes to the guidelines seem very dubious and meticulous," he continues, "but standards are there so an evaluator can assess the weight of the material without bias. Many of my students might complain about it, but the ones that succeed are the ones who are actively trying to use citing resources to their own argument's advantage."

Common MLA Mistakes APA students are not the only ones who have common mistakes in formatting - as evidenced by the following insight offered from Dr. Margaret Walters of Kennesaw State University , where she and her students have used primarily MLA guidelines in their writing, editing and literature classes. Dr. Walters has taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate level writing courses at Kennesaw State University for over 15 years.

Dr. Walters said, "The most common problems I see with MLA style occur in the writing, meaning the text itself, not the bibliography or Works Cited...though there are often some problems to address there, too. In the text, the most common problems are:

Dr. Walters continued: "In the Works Cited, the most common MLA-related problems are:

"Students get it right most of the time," Dr. Walters states. "I think the underlying problem is an unwillingness to use the style sheets, handouts, or even the MLA handbook.  If they use the resources offered, most students are not going to struggle to meet the guidelines."

Get More Help

Both Dr. Walters and Professor Long advise students to use strong and verifiable resources to make your formatting job easier. Both instructors advise checking out the OWL (Online Writing Lab) Resources offered by Purdue in addition to the links to the sites listed above.

The writing center at your own university may hold lots of great information and people to help you understand what to do in each situation you face. Not every situation calls for the same style guide, so checking with the experts on your campus is always a smart idea.

For a quick reference, you can also use the handy visual aids created by Capital Community College on MLA and APA styled papers: ( ) or look at the MLA vs. APA comparison chart created by the University Writing Center at Appalachian State University .

The Bottom Line

The reality is, depending on your discipline, there may be only one type of style that you need to use, ever. However, this is not saying the rules for how to properly cite resources and references is not going to continue to change and evolve over time. You will be held responsible for being current.

As a student or in post-college academic writing, you want your work to shine and to always show your best efforts. This means checking on the rules to properly style and format your papers. Use the links and information above to help ensure you are forever properly dotting your I's and crossing your T's according to the latest and greatest rules.

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How to Write a Research Paper for Grad School Application

28 FEB 2022

Most doctoral programs require applicants to submit a research sample and though they are not typically required for graduate school applications, they can help take your application from average to outstanding. 

I know the task of writing a research paper for this kind of application may seem intimidating at first. How can an undergraduate or masters student hope to submit work that will measure up to a PhD program’s standards? First, try to re-envision your research sample as a window on your curiosity: your chance to get professors genuinely excited about how you think. In this blog on how to write a research paper for graduate school applications, you’ll learn how to select, position, and revise your early-career ideas.

Selecting Your Draft

The form and function of your research sample will vary widely depending upon your field. Undergraduates in STEM are far more likely to have early-career publications and to be involved in group lab research than are humanities and social science students. If you are contributing to a research team or already have a publication of your own, consult with your supervising professor about if and how you might use this work as your research sample. Don’t submit any account or draft of an unpublished group project without your professor’s permission, and try to write at least one research paper that is entirely your own, as a back-up option. 

Writing a Research Sample  

Now, let's turn our attention to unpublished, single-author research papers, focusing on humanities research samples as a paradigm.

The first step to writing your research sample is to think realistically about what kind of paper you can edit to make a self-contained, insightful argument within the page limit. Use these questions to narrow down your options.

Positioning Your Ideas

Once you have selected a handful of stand-alone essays or a portion of your thesis to revise, pause to position your ideas. What I mean by “positioning” is pairing your personal statement and research samples so that they point towards a consistent set of interests and methodological approaches within your field of study. 

If you’re applying to a program that only requires one research sample, then you should select a stand-alone essay or portion of your thesis that is solidly within your subfield of interest. Then, draft a paragraph of your personal statement clearly explaining how this research sample illustrates your engagement with this subfield. For guidance on how to begin this personal statement exercise, check out our previous post on How to Write a Personal Statement for Grad School . If you can’t write a paragraph making this connection, then you’re probably working with the wrong research sample draft—choose another, and move on to the process of revising your paper.

Suppose you’re applying to a program with two research samples (e.g., Harvard's English Department). In that case, you should select one sample solidly within your subfield and a second to demonstrate your interest in a different topic or methodology. Use your second sample to demonstrate the breadth of your curiosity but also to draw out subtle patterns in your ways of thinking. There should be something in common between your two papers for you to draw out in your personal statement: a method of research, a kind of primary source, an ideological agenda, etc. If you can make a clear connection between your research papers in your personal statement, then you’re on your way to positioning yourself as a coherent yet versatile scholar. And you’re ready to begin revising!

Revising Your Research

Once you’ve selected your research paper draft, you should begin the revision process by rereading it and taking notes in the margins: tracking where your argument is clearest and most exciting versus moments when it seems dull or loose. Then, reread any comments that your work has already received from professors. If you don’t have any comments, consider asking a professor mentor to review your work or signing up for a session with a CRI mentor . You might also ask a peer in your field to read your paper and tell you when they are most confused and/or most convinced by your writing. This combination of your own notes and other readers’ initial feedback will help you determine what parts of your essay to cut, rewrite, or expand.

Last Minute Advice

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to editing research, but I’ll conclude with some general advice to keep your revisions on track:

If you ever feel stuck or bored of your revisions, then put down your paper for a day or two. Do not force yourself to slog through revisions—forced edits usually do more harm than good. Remember, you can always return to your work later, with guidance from a friend, colleague, or CRI mentor !

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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

The graduate school, formatting of the title page.

The title page of your ETD should follow the specific layout and wording used here (although “Thesis” should be replaced with “Dissertation” if you are a doctoral candidate, and “Master of Science” should be replaced with your own degree type if you are not earning an MS).

Title page example

The final title of the student’s thesis or dissertation should appear on this page. The title should be identical to the title on the approval sheet and in TRACE in every way, including capitalization. The title may not contain any characters that cannot be found on a typical English language keyboard. Use word substitutes in place of these characters, including but not limited to: formulas, symbols, superscripts/subscripts, and Greek letters.

Students should place the title of the document centered at the top of the page, the degree statement centered in the middle of the page, and student’s name and month and year of graduation centered at the bottom of the page. The student’s name must appear as he/she is registered at The University of Tennessee. There should not be a comma between the month of graduation and year of graduation (for example, “May 2011” is correct while “May, 2011” is not). The only possible graduation months are May (Spring), August (Summer), and December (Fall).

The title page is assigned the page number “i”, but this should not be visible on the page. For how to set up your page numbers, you may wish to get instruction from Microsoft .

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