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Research Paper Formatting Tips & Tricks

This guide has 'how-to" information about formatting MLA and APA research papers.

Formatting Basics -- Word

Both MLA and APA require the font be Times New Roman and 12pt. These can be set very simply.

1) Select Times New Roman from the Font drop down box.  Example of selecting font

2) Select 12 from the Font size drop down box.  Example of setting the size of the font

Here is an example of the font and size as selected. Example of font settings

From your Word document, 1) click on Page Layout from the menu, 2) click on the Margins icon, and 3) click on the desired margins or custom margins to set your own. MLA and APA both use 1" margins by default.

screen cap of setting margins in MS Word

Both MLA and APA require double spacing.

1) Click on the little arrow next to the paragraph section of the home ribbon. Example of clicking on the paragraph arrow

2) Select Double from the Line spacing drop down box.  Example of double space select


3) Check the settings for Spacing Before and After to ensure that they are set to 0.  Example of setting space before and after to 0

4) Click on the OK button. OK button icon

MLA Research papers require page numbers in the upper right corner. Many instructors ask for your last name followed by the page number.

1) On the first page of the paper, select the Insert tab. insert tab image

2) Select Header from the Header & Footer section of the Insert ribbon. image of header choice 

3) Select Blank. image of blank header selection

4) Type your last name and click the spacebar.

5) Click on Page Number image of page number selection

6) Select Current location and Plain for number type. This inserts the page number on the current page and to each page as you add to your paper. image of the current location plain number selection

7) Select the Home tab and set the text to align right.

8) Select the Header Footer Tools tab at the top of the Window. image of the header footer tools tab

9) Click the red x in the corner to return to editing your paper. image of close header and footer icon

Create a Hanging Indent Using Microsoft Word

1) After you have typed and centered Works Cited at the top of the page, press the Enter key.

2) Click on the Left Align icon    left align icon

3) Click on the Arrow to the right of the Paragraph section   paragraph arrow

4) From the interactive window click on the Special drop down box and select Hanging Special - Hanging example

5) Click OK OK button

6) Start typing your citation. When you reach the end of the line the program will indent the second line automatically. When you finish your citation the program will start the next citation at your left margin.

Keep entering your citations in alphabetical order by first element and you're done. EASY!