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Welcome to the Purdue OWL

Text Formatting

❶This chapter provides detailed guidelines for using the citation and formatting conventions developed by the American Psychological Association, or APA. These scenarios can be in various forms, one such being case studies and research-based papers.

General Formatting Guidelines

13.1 Formatting a Research Paper
MLA General Format

It is often a good idea to include a map labeled as a Figure showing the study location in relation to some larger more recognizable geographic area. Someone else should be able to go to the exact location of your study site if they want to repeat or check your work, or just visit your study area. Describe your experimental design clearly. Be sure to include the hypotheses you tested, controls , treatments , variables measured, how many replicates you had, what you actually measured , what form the data take, etc.

Always identify treatments by the variable or treatment name, NOT by an ambiguous, generic name or number e. When your paper includes more than one experiment, use subheadings to help organize your presentation by experiment.

A general experimental design worksheet is available to help plan your experiments in the core courses. Describe the procedures for your study in sufficient detail that other scientists could repeat your work to verify your findings. Foremost in your description should be the "quantitative" aspects of your study - the masses, volumes, incubation times, concentrations, etc.

When using standard lab or field methods and instrumentation, it is not always necessary to explain the procedures e.

You may want to identify certain types of equipment by vendor name and brand or category e. It is appropriate to report, parenthetically, the source vendor and catalog number for reagents used, e. Always make sure to describe any modifications you have made of a standard or published method. Describe how the data were summarized and analyzed. Here you will indicate what types of descriptive statistics were used and which analyses usually hypothesis tests were employed to answer each of the questions or hypotheses tested and determine statistical siginifcance.

Here is some additional advice on particular problems common to new scientific writers. The Methods section is prone to being wordy or overly detailed. This is a very long and wordy description of a common, simple procedure. It is characterized by single actions per sentence and lots of unnecessary details. The lid was then raised slightly.

An inoculating loop was used to transfer culture to the agar surface. The turntable was rotated 90 degrees by hand. The loop was moved lightly back and forth over the agar to spread the culture. The bacteria were then incubated at 37 C for 24 hr.

Same actions, but all the important information is given in a single, concise sentence. Note that superfluous detail and otherwise obvious information has been deleted while important missing information was added. Here the author assumes the reader has basic knowledge of microbiological techniques and has deleted other superfluous information. The two sentences have been combined because they are related actions. In this example the reader will have no clue as to what the various tubes represent without having to constantly refer back to some previous point in the Methods.

Tube 4's A was measured only at Time 0 and at the end of the experiment. Notice how the substitution in red of treatment and control identifiers clarifies the passage both in the context of the paper, and if taken out of context. The A of the no-light control was measured only at Time 0 and at the end of the experiment.

The function of the Results section is to objectively present your key results , without interpretation, in an orderly and logical sequence using both text and illustrative materials Tables and Figures. The results section always begins with text, reporting the key results and referring to your figures and tables as you proceed.

Summaries of the statistical analyses may appear either in the text usually parenthetically or in the relevant Tables or Figures in the legend or as footnotes to the Table or Figure. Important negative results should be reported, too. Authors usually write the text of the results section based upon the sequence of Tables and Figures. Write the text of the Results section concisely and objectively.

The passive voice will likely dominate here, but use the active voice as much as possible. Use the past tense. Avoid repetitive paragraph structures. Do not interpret the data here. The transition into interpretive language can be a slippery slope. Consider the following two examples: The duration of exposure to running water had a pronounced effect on cumulative seed germination percentages Fig.

The results of the germination experiment Fig. Strategy for Writing the Results Section. Frequently asked questions FAQs. What are the "results"? When you pose a testable hypothesis that can be answered experimentally, or ask a question that can be answered by collecting samples, you accumulate observations about those organisms or phenomena.

Those observations are then analyzed to yield an answer to the question. In general, the answer is the " key result". The above statements apply regardless of the complexity of the analysis you employ. So, in an introductory course your analysis may consist of visual inspection of figures and simple calculations of means and standard deviations; in a later course you may be expected to apply and interpret a variety of statistical tests.

You instructor will tell you the level of analysis that is expected. For example, suppose you asked the question, " Is the average height of male students the same as female students in a pool of randomly selected Biology majors? You would then calculate the descriptive statistics for those samples mean, SD, n, range, etc and plot these numbers. In a course where statistical tests are not employed, you would visually inspect these plots.

Suppose you found that male Biology majors are, on average, Differences, directionality, and magnitude: Report your results so as to provide as much information as possible to the reader about the nature of differences or relationships.

For eaxmple, if you testing for differences among groups, and you find a significant difference, it is not sufficient to simply report that "groups A and B were significantly different". How are they different? How much are they different? See also below about use of the word " significant. Organize the results section based on the sequence of Table and Figures you'll include. Prepare the Tables and Figures as soon as all the data are analyzed and arrange them in the sequence that best presents your findings in a logical way.

A good strategy is to note, on a draft of each Table or Figure, the one or two key results you want to addess in the text portion of the Results. Simple rules to follow related to Tables and Figures: The body of the Results section is a text-based presentation of the key findings which includes references to each of the Tables and Figures. The text should guide the reader through your results stressing the key results which provide the answers to the question s investigated. A major function of the text is to provide clarifying information.

Key results depend on your questions, they might include obvious trends, important differences, similarities, correlations, maximums, minimums, etc.

An abstract does not need to be provided in every paper, but an abstract should be used in papers that include a hypothesis. A good abstract is concise—about one hundred to one hundred fifty words—and is written in an objective, impersonal style.

Your writing voice will not be as apparent here as in the body of your paper. When writing the abstract, take a just-the-facts approach, and summarize your research question and your findings in a few sentences. Note how it sums up the major ideas in his paper without going into excessive detail. Write an abstract summarizing your paper. Briefly introduce the topic, state your findings, and sum up what conclusions you can draw from your research. Use the word count feature of your word-processing program to make sure your abstract does not exceed one hundred fifty words.

Depending on your field of study, you may sometimes write research papers that present extensive primary research, such as your own experiment or survey. In your abstract, summarize your research question and your findings, and briefly indicate how your study relates to prior research in the field. APA style requirements also address specific formatting concerns, such as margins, pagination, and heading styles, within the body of the paper. Review the following APA guidelines.

Begin formatting the final draft of your paper according to APA guidelines. You may work with an existing document or set up a new document if you choose. Depending on the length and complexity of the paper, its major sections may also be divided into subsections, sub-subsections, and so on. These smaller sections, in turn, use different heading styles to indicate different levels of information. In essence, you are using headings to create a hierarchy of information. The following heading styles used in APA formatting are listed in order of greatest to least importance:.

Visually, the hierarchy of information is organized as indicated in Table A college research paper may not use all the heading levels shown in Table For a brief paper, you may find that level 1 headings suffice.

Longer or more complex papers may need level 2 headings or other lower-level headings to organize information clearly. Use your outline to craft your major section headings and determine whether any subtopics are substantial enough to require additional levels of headings.

Working with the document you developed in Note Include your title and at least two to three major section headings, and follow the formatting guidelines provided above. If your major sections should be broken into subsections, add those headings as well. Use your outline to help you.

Because Jorge used only level 1 headings, his Exercise 3 would look like the following:. Throughout the body of your paper, include a citation whenever you quote or paraphrase material from your research sources.

What Will I Learn? Your in-text citations provide basic information about your source; each source you cite will have a longer entry in the references section that provides more detailed information. In-text citations must provide the name of the author or authors and the year the source was published.

When a given source does not list an individual author, you may provide the source title or the name of the organization that published the material instead.

When directly quoting a source, it is also required that you include the page number where the quote appears in your citation. This information may be included within the sentence or in a parenthetical reference at the end of the sentence, as in these examples. The page number appears in parentheses after the closing quotation marks and before the period that ends the sentence.

Again, the parenthetical citation is placed after the closing quotation marks and before the period at the end of the sentence. Here, the writer chose to mention the source title in the sentence an optional piece of information to include and followed the title with a parenthetical citation. Note that the parenthetical citation is placed before the comma that signals the end of the introductory phrase.

Another variation is to introduce the author and the source title in your sentence and include the publication date and page number in parentheses within the sentence or at the end of the sentence. As long as you have included the essential information, you can choose the option that works best for that particular sentence and source. Citing a book with a single author is usually a straightforward task. Of course, your research may require that you cite many other types of sources, such as books or articles with more than one author or sources with no individual author listed.

You may also need to cite sources available in both print and online and nonprint sources, such as websites and personal interviews. APA is just one of several different styles with its own guidelines for documentation, formatting, and language usage. Depending on your field of interest, you may be exposed to additional styles, such as the following:.

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Log In Join for Free. Support for Science Buddies provided by:. Page Margins 1" on all sides top, bottom, left, right 1" on all sides top, bottom, left, right Font pt.

Times Roman or Courier. For figures, however, use a sans serif font such as Arial. Leave one space after a period unless your teacher prefers two. Title Page Only if your teacher requests one.

Instead, on the first page, upper left corner place on separate lines, double-spaced: Your name Teacher's name Course name or number Date Underneath, center the title using regular title capitalization rules and no underline.


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This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (8 th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page. MLA style specifies guidelines for formatting manuscripts and using the English language in writing.

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A research paper heading is the information that goes at the top of every page on a reference project. Generally, research paper headings help professors to stay organized as they read through dozens of reports from their students.

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A research paper does not normally need a title page, but if the paper is a group project, create a title page and list all the authors on it instead of in the header on page 1 of your essay. If your teacher requires a title page in lieu of or in addition to the header, format it . A college research paper may not use all the heading levels shown in Table “Section Headings”, but you are likely to encounter them in academic journal articles that use APA style. For a brief paper, you may find that level 1 headings suffice.

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A research paper written in APA style should be organized into sections and subsections using the five levels of APA headings. APA recommends using subheadings only when the paper has at least two subsections within a larger section. The paper or chapter title is the first level of heading, and it must be the most prominent. Headings should be styled in descending order of prominence. After the first level, the other headings are subheadings—that is, they are subordinate.