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Academic writing secrets: how to format your papers

High school papers usually only require the most basic formatting. That’s because in high school, instructors are focused more on ensuring that students are prepared to write in a basic academic fashion, and they must also make sure they understand basic research strategies. In college, however, students are expected to have some basic writing and research skills already, and so professors begin to address some of the other important aspects of academic writing. One of these important aspects is formatting.

Academics and Formatting

There are many different formal style guides available. These have been developed to suit different purposes. Some may be designed in such a way that they are more suitable to particular disciplines, or more streamlined for particular types of papers. In any case, the goal teaching students to use these formats is not to force them to memorize the requirements, but to teach them to format their papers according to their purposes. Whether writing professionally, preparing written documents for a career, or becoming a scholarly writer and submitting papers to academic, peer-reviewed journals, learning to properly format a paper according the requirements given based on the circumstances is very important.

Style Guides

The best resource for learning to format your paper is, of course, the style guide for the style assigned by your professor. In addition to using the style guide to set up your paper, you’ll also want to explore software options. For example, many popular software programs have applications which can make creating reference lists, in text citations, foot notes, and end notes a very simple and straightforward process.

Format as You Go

One of the common mistakes students make is writing their paper and then trying to impose formatting on it. While this obviously can work it usually ends up taking a long time and they are prone to missing details and making mistakes in formatting as a result. The best way to go about formatting your paper is to set up a template that fits the format before beginning the paper, and then making sure it’s correctly formatted from the beginning. Add the required style of citation correctly as you go, and you’ll find there’s far less risk of making a mistake or leaving out a necessary source when you’re finished. It takes a few minutes in the beginning, but it may save you hours in the end.


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