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Essay Formatting


When your school and/or your professors demand a certain type of format, you have to stick to it or your efforts will go in vain. The language of your paper should be formal, yet simple, but you also have to pay attention to all requirements about the page format and all other details, such as the spacing, titles, margins, etc.

The basic five-paragraph essay format

Most papers you will need to complete throughout college will require an introduction, three main points (the paragraphs that constitute the body of the essay), and a conclusion. Depending on the requirements and the depth of the topic, you may need to elaborate more than three points and prolong the paper beyond the basic five-paragraph structure.

When writing the introduction, you should think about the points you are going to present in the paper and decide what you are going to prove. That will be the thesis statement that needs to be clear and authoritative. In the essay’s body, you should discuss the main points and make sure that the discussion is kept clean and focused. Explain each argument and base your stand upon verifiable academic sources. Finally, make sure to wrap things up with a relevant conclusion that restates the thesis and approves of all arguments you have made throughout the paper.

Common styles of formatting

The basic structure of a paper is not difficult to understand and get used to, but students really struggle when they need to apply a particular citation style according to the requirements of their professors. These are the three main format styles required for academic papers:

1. APA (American Psychological Association) citation and format style

This style is typically required for papers in social sciences, where the emphasis is placed on the date the cited work was created. Thus, the date of the source is placed right after the name of the author.

2. MLA (Modern Language Association) citation and format style

This format style is adequate for works from the areas of liberal arts and humanities. Here the most important part of the cited source is the authorship, so the name of the author is the first information that appears in the citation. That part is similar to the APA style, but the MLA style requires other details to be mentioned as well, such as an indication of the publication medium. The year of publication is listed after the author’s name, the work title, the city of publication and the publisher.

3. Chicago Manual of Style

This is the most widely used citation style in works that belong to the arts and humanities. When used in history papers, the emphasis is placed on presenting the origin of the particular information. The citations in CMS style usually require the same details provided in APA citations, but presented in a different order.