APA is a set of essay writing guidelines that was developed by the American Psychological Association from which it derives its name. This format is used when writing essays in the social sciences, business and even nursing and provides the rules on the general format of APA essay papers including how to use citations in the body of the text, the use of foot notes and how to write the references page at the end of the essay.

Overview of APA

According to Purdue University a typical essay written in APA format should be double spaced and typed using the Times New Roman font size 12. Every page should also include a page header or running head at the top left of every page. The header title is written in capital letters and a page number inserted to the right most corner of the page. The page header is often a summarized version of the paper’s main title and does not exceed 50 characters, punctuation and spaces included.

Purdue University suggests that an APA essay’s content should be divided into four main parts, the title page, the abstract, the main body and then the references page respectively. The title page contains the title of the essay, the name of the author and the institution the author is affiliated with. The title should be types in both capital and lowercase letters and centered halfway through the title page.

The abstract is written on a new page and is meant to give a brief outline of the main points of the essay comprising of the topic, research questions and objectives as well as methodology and results. It should be a minimum of 150 words but not exceeding 200. Keywords can also be included, indented to the right and italicized.

In the main body, when making a reference to research from another author, we include in-text citations. This means that, the author’s last name and the date that the research was published is written in the text and enclosed in parentheses. A period separates the author and the date. The full citation should also appear in the references page at the end of the essay.

In summary, APA styling uses double spaced and 12 pt. Time Roman font, divided into four sections. Referenced content should be followed by the authors last name and date of publication also shown in the references page.

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Guideline to Chicago Writing Standards

The Chicago writing standards find employ among those in history, the arts, literature at their affiliated disciplines. This guideline draws upon the 17th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style to format research papers, footnotes and end-notes, and the bibliography. The Chicago Manual of styles has two methods of citation; the notes and bibliography system which is dominantly used and the author-date system which differs slightly and is preferred for social sciences.

Notes and Bibliography Citation

This standard of writing is preferred for writers in the humanities because it is flexible enough to allow additional comments on the references. This style of citation uses footnotes, end-notes, and bibliography to reference intellectual material.

Footnotes and Endnotes

Each time you reference a source, either directly quoted, paraphrased, or summarized, include a note. A note inserted at the end of the page with the referenced content is a footnote while endnotes are a compilation inserted at the end of every chapter or where the document ends.

In both cases, a superscript number at the end of the quoted, paraphrased, or summarized content is used to link the note to the corresponding bibliographic reference information.

A written work with an accompanying bibliography can exclude the complete citation details in the notes. Where the bibliography is excluded, the first note in each citation should contain complete references to the author, title, and details of publication.

Subsequent citations of the same source of a work accompanied by a bibliography need only include, the author’s surname a shortened title (if word count exceeds four), and page number(s). Works that do not have a bibliography should repeat the complete citation for each new chapter.

Each consecutive citation of the same source can be substituted with the word “Ibid.” ( From Latin ibidem meaning ‘in the same place’).

For notes and bibliography citations, the footnote or endnote is numbered correspondingly with a full-size font.

The Bibliography

The bibliography is an alphabetical compilation of the referenced sources in the work written. It is placed on a stand-alone page at the end of the document before the index. While it includes cited sources, it may also display additional sources for further reference on the content of the work in question.

The citation entries are cited alphabetically on a last name basis. Where the author is not named, the title or a short description may be used.

As mentioned earlier where bibliographic information has already been included in the notes, the bibliography may be omitted.

The Elements of a bibliography

Author names: are inverted, the last name is written first followed by the first name and separated by a comma.

Source titles: book titles and journal titles are written in italics while articles, poetry, and chapter titles are written within quotation marks.

Publication details: including the year the source was published are written after the name of the journal or publisher.

Punctuation:  punctuating the bibliography mainly includes the separating of all the sources’ main elements using periods.

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Guideline to MLA Formatting Standards

The MLA Style is derived from the Modern Language Association from which it gets its name. It is used when citing sources in the arts such as cultural studies, humanities, and language arts. There are several iterations of the MLA formatting style, but here, we shall focus on the 8th edition of MLA formatting outlining the format of MLA research papers, citations in-text, and works cited.

General format of Research Papers

  • Text typed should be double spaced using a legible font like Times New Roman which clearly distinguishes between regular and italicized font. Font size should be 12 pt.
  • The first line of a paragraph should be indented one a half-inch from the left margin. The “Tab Key” automatically does that for you. Additionally, all sides of your paper should be set to a 1-inch margin.
  • Your headers and accompanying page number should be inserted at the top-right of your document, half an inch from the top, and aligned to the right margin.
  • Use italics when stating the titling longer works or when deemed necessary, for emphasis.
  • Unless requested, there is no need for a stand-alone title page.
  • Your name, your instructor’s, the course, and date should be listed on the upper left corner of the first page. Be sure to double space this part.
  • The Title should also be double spaced and centered. I should not be placed in ‘quotation marks’, underlined, or italicized. Also, use Title Case for your title.

In-text citations

MLA in-text citations are written in the author-page format enclosed in parentheses. The author’s last name is used followed by quoted or paraphrased page number (s). The corresponding completed reference is included in the Works Cited page. The author’s name may be mentioned in a sentence or enclosed in parentheses after paraphrasing or quoting their work. On the other hand, the page number(s) must always be in parentheses.

Works Cited Page

  • Should begin on a new page, after the research paper with a 1-inch margin on all sides. Include the header and page number like the preceding pages.
  • The ‘Works Cited’ title should be centered while the complete citations should begin from the left margin, double spaced with no spaces in between. Any subsequent lines of the citations should have a hanging indent.
  • Citation of one page and a span of pages should be abbreviated “p.” and “pp.” respectively.
  • List citation entries alphabetically using authors’ last names, then first and middle names or initials respectively. Titles like Dr., Sir, and degrees like PhD, MA should be excluded. However, suffixes like Jr. and senior are included.
  • When citing different works from the same author, list titles alphabetically then use three hyphens instead of the author’s name for every subsequent entry after the first.
  • Where the author appears both as the only author of an entry and first author in a group, write the former then the latter.
  • Works with unknown authors are alphabetized by titles. Shortened titles are used for in-text citations.

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Guidelines to Harvard Writing Standards

Harvard writing standards are mostly used in disciplines associated with the humanities, philosophy, and behavioral sciences. The Harvard Writing Standards system uses the author-date format and a stand-alone references page.

General format

  • Work should be typed on paper with 1-inch margins all around in Times New Roman or Arial fonts. A font size of 12 pt. is recommended.
  • Place your title before the main text of your work and aligned centered on the page. Except for the prepositions within your title, all words should be capitalized. The title’s text should not be bolded, italicized, or underlined.
  • On the right-hand corner of the header, insert your last name and a page number separated by a space.
  • Typed text is flush with the left margin while the first sentence of each paragraph is indented by half an inch. Each line of text is separated by double spacing.


  • Use subheadings to partition your work. Subheadings are Level 1 or Level 2 headings which divide the whole work into sections and divide sections into sub-sections respectively.
  • Level headings resemble the work’s title in format and a new line of text after the heading is indented by half an inch from the left margin.
  • Level 2 headings, like Level 1 headings are capitalized. They are aligned to the left margin and are also italicized. The first line after these headings is indented by half an inch as usual.

The Title Page

  • This is the first page of your work before the main text and is also known as the cover page.
  • The title should be upper-case, centered, and 1/3 of the way down the page.
  • Your name and course should be centered 2/3 of the way down the same page and after that, your tutor’s name, institution name, and then date.


  • In-text citations are made up of the author’s last name/surname and the publication’s date separated by a space and enclosed in parentheses. Where no date is given, the acronym n. d. is used.
  • For direct quotations, use quotation marks and add the page number within the parentheses, separated from the year of publication by a comma like this (Surname 1990, p.1). For websites, include the paragraph number using a “para.” prefix.
  • When the author’s name is used in a sentence, enclose only the year of publication and page or paragraph number in parentheses.
  • For authors mentioned in a secondary source, cite the original author but mention that said author is “cited in” the source being used, enclosed in parentheses. In the references list, provide information only for the author in parentheses.
  • References should be alphabetized based on the first letter of the entry.
  • Each reference entry begins on a new line, flush with the left margin with no indents and separated from the next by double-spacing.
  • Capitalize book, chapter, and web article titles’ first letters; as for journals and newspapers, capitalize all the main words.
  • All authors of the same work must be listed in entries.

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