A research paper culminates detailed investigations, studies, and analyses about a particular subject or topic. The format of a research paper not only makes it easier to read and comprehend and provides a standardized way to present findings. Research must be presented, coherently, and standardized to ensure its findings are accessible, credible, and impactful. 

This guide will delve into formatting a nursing research paper, ensuring researchers can confidently display their insights within the established conventions.

What is the Format of a Research Paper?

A research paper is a comprehensive document presenting an in-depth investigation into a particular subject or topic. A research paper’s format is a structured way of presenting this investigation.

This standardized paper structure allows for clear communication of ideas, facilitates ease of reading, and ensures that critical details are included. Here’s a breakdown of the commonly accepted format for most research papers:

  • Title: This is often the first point of contact between the reader and the research. The title should be precise yet comprehensive enough to convey the central theme or subject of the research.
  • Abstract: A research abstract provides a concise summary of the entire paper. Usually ranging from 150 to 250 words, it gives an overview of the research question, methodology, results, and conclusions.
  • Keywords: These are significant terms or phrases associated with the research topic. Keywords assist in the discovery of the paper in databases, ensuring that other researchers can find your work when they search for related topics.
  • Methodology: This section provides a detailed account of how the research was conducted. It can include aspects such as the research design, sample population, data collection methods, equipment used, procedures followed, and the type of analysis conducted.
  • Results and Discussion Section: Here, the outcomes of the research are presented. It’s where the data is displayed (often using tables, figures, and charts), interpreted, and discussed in relation to the original research question and the literature in the field.
  • Conclusion: The conclusion section wraps up the paper by summarizing the primary findings, discussing their implications, and suggesting areas for further research or practical applications of the findings.
  • Acknowledgment (optional): In this section, the author can express gratitude to those who contributed to the research. This might include institutions that provided funding, mentors, or colleagues who offered support or feedback.
  • Appendices (if applicable): Supplementary material, like raw data, detailed methodologies, or additional charts, can be included in the appendices for your research paper, ensuring that the main text remains clear and focused.

Research Paper Format Style

The format and style of writing a research paper are of immense importance. It ensures consistency easy navigation, and lends credibility to the document. Different disciplines and publications often require specific styles, each with unique layout guidelines, citations, and overall structure.

The choice of format style can greatly influence the presentation of the content and how readers engage with the paper. Over the years, various format styles have been developed, refined, and adopted by different academic disciplines. 

Formatting an APA Research Paper

The American Psychological Association (APA) style is one of the most commonly used formats for writing research papers. The guidelines provided by the APA help in ensuring clarity, consistency, and credibility. Here are the specifics of formatting a research paper according to the APA standards.

  • Opt for a conventional font, such as Times New Roman at 12 pt or Arial at 11 pt.
  • Ensure the margins of your page are set to 1 inch on all sides.
  • Implement a double-spacing approach throughout your text.
  • For publication submissions, include an APA running head on each page.
  • Start every new paragraph with a ½ inch indentation.

In APA-styled research papers, the title page should encompass the page number, title of the paper, affiliated institution, instructor’s name, and the submission date. Key elements that define APA citation style are:

  • The author’s surname and publication date are required within the text and on the reference page.
  • How the reference page is crafted hinges on the specific reference source.
  • Regardless of the source type, the referenced material’s title should be emphasized in italics.
  • Digital sources should clearly mention the URL.
  • When citing journals or textbooks, the sequence generally follows with the author’s surname, followed by the publication date in parentheses, then the title of the source, culminating with the inclusion of the reference page.

A standard APA paper structure typically incorporates components like a cover page, an abstract, an introduction, a background, a research methodology and results section, a conclusion, and, if necessary, appendices.

Formatting an MLA Research Paper

Understanding the MLA format for your research project is crucial, particularly if your research pertains to literature and language. The Modern Language Association developed this format as a safeguard against plagiarised content, and it’s predominantly adopted in the arts and humanities disciplines.

It’s vital to distinguish the MLA style because it closely resembles other styles. Confusing one with another is not uncommon. The core components of MLA research paper formatting are:

  • The initial page with specific numbering (consistently double-spaced)
  • Distinct headers
  • A designated ‘works cited’ section.

For most of their writing, authors should:

  • Opt for clear, legible fonts, with Times New Roman in font size 12 being a popular choice.
  • Ensure double spacing throughout the text and maintain 1-inch margins all around.
  • Place page numbers in the top right corner.
  • Begin every new paragraph with a ½ inch indentation.
  • Utilize standard title capitalization (Major words should be in capital letters).
  • Directly above the title on the first page, essential details such as the researcher’s name, supervisor’s name, affiliated institution, course title, and submission date should be evident.
  • Each page should have a header, including the page number in standard title capitalization and the researcher’s surname. In-text citations should accompany direct references from sources.

The MLA style mandates a ‘works cited’ page after the project. This page enumerates all the sources referenced and cited. A 0.5-inch hanging indent and double-spaced lines characterize it.

The distinction between the ‘works cited’ page and the bibliography is worth noting. While a bibliography lists all materials consulted for in-depth understanding, the ‘works cited’ page exclusively lists sources directly cited in the paper.

As a result, the ‘works cited’ page often provides a more extensive and detailed list compared to the general bibliography. To ensure accuracy in applying this style, it’s recommended to refer to the MLA Handbook for illustrative examples and comprehensive guidelines.

Formatting a Chicago Research Paper

The Chicago style of formatting stands out with its distinct characteristics. Although it recommends using easily readable fonts like Times New Roman at a font size of 12, there’s no mandate for a title page.

While some might opt for broader margins, the commonly accepted practice remains the 1-inch margin, consistent with other formatting standards.

Features of the Chicago style include:

  • Consistent use of double spacing.
  • Placement of page numbers at either the bottom center or the top right corner.
  • An optional title page; it’s not a stringent requirement but can be incorporated if desired.
  • The Chicago style offers writers two referencing choices: footnote citations and a bibliography or the author-date citation method with its corresponding reference list. It’s crucial not to intermingle these two systems. Decide on one method and consistently apply it throughout your paper.

As with other academic paper formats, references should align with the right margin or appear after the main content. For those adhering to the Chicago style, it’s essential to detail the author’s name and the title, whether from a book, newspaper, or journal article.

Additionally, it’s imperative to provide publication specifics such as the publisher’s name, publication date, and city of publication. For digital references, ensure that the URL and, if applicable, the specific page number are mentioned.

Final Thoughts

Formatting a research paper is not just about making it look neat or following a set of rules for the sake of it. It’s about ensuring clarity, consistency, and credibility. Each format style serves its purpose in guiding the presentation of your findings in a clear and consistent way with academic standards. The key is to understand the requirements of each style and apply them correctly to your research paper.