A writing style is the way in which a researcher chooses to present their research work. There are different styles of writing. Research papers can be academic papers from different disciplines. Some disciplines require the use of specific styles of writing though most of them are not specific on the styles of writing. Other than writing academic papers, these writing styles are applied in writing essays and other articles. An essay is different from an academic paper in that it (essay) is a short and not detailed as is required of an academic or generally a research paper. Some of these writing styles are discussed below.

MLA (Modern Language Association) STYLE

The MLA style of writing can be used in writing research papers and essays in many disciplines though it is commonly used in literature works.


In writing of a paper using the MLA style, double spacing is normally employed and the text written in a 12pt font using the times new roman. Generally, all writings are done using the standard paper margin of an inch from any side of the paper. A new paragraph is spaced five times while quotations are spaced ten times. In this spacing, tab key can be used instead of continuously pressing the space bar. Numbering is done at the right top corner (unless otherwise instructed). In this writing style, the titles are normally numbered in italics while tables and other information in the text like graphs, images are numbered in Arabic.


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Title page -Unless on request, this type of writing does not necessitate the writing one. If needed the writer’s name is listed at the top left-hand side of the paper then next comes instructor’s name, then subject or discipline of the study and finally the date the work is done. These are all on different lines separated by double spaces. Normally, the title of the research is aligned at the center of the page right above the text. If the title is long such that it takes more than one line, the different title lines are separated by double spaces. The paper title is normally written in Title Case and italicized, or placed in quotation marks. if the title is a question, it is recommended to end it in a question mark otherwise full stops are not used.

This writing format also recommends the use of headers. Page numbers are positioned as headers and aligned to the right. Apart from the page number, the header also consists of the writer’s last name which come before the page number (unless otherwise instructed).


In text referencing

When referencing a book in particular, citations are used in brackets. for a single author the last name is used then the page the referenced text is found on. For example (Magdalene 3). If the author of a certain referenced text is not known, a shortened piece of the text is written in place of the author. If it’s a short piece of text, its normally quoted or written in italics/underlined incases where it is a long text. In cases where a reference text has 2 or 3 authors, all their names are included. When citing works written by 3 people and above, 2 methods can be used:

1. Using the surname of the 1st person in the list, then writing “et al.”

2. Listing all the authors involved e.g. Bruce, Robert, Mall and Morphy (42-56) have stated that…


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For different works from a specific person, each topic in this work is included in brackets. For multiple citations i.e. when there is more than one reference from one sentence in the writing, the multiple writers are included and their names separated by a semi colon. e.g. (Boniface 4; Chrispus 2). If in the writing, there are different books of the same person, citations should show clearly the source of the reference. For a reference with more than one volume, the author and the volume used for the research are indicated e.g. as Bruce (vol 5) states…


A reference book has 3 different sections: author, title and publication details. Each of these

sections is punctuated with a full stop. The publication details are: city/ state where the material

was published: publishing company and year the material was published. A title can either be

italicized or underlined. E.g. Jones, Bruce. Chemistry: The A-Z information on heavy metals. New York: Oxford UP, 2000. For a book with an editor, the initials ‘ed’ are included after editor’s name and then a period.

For a newspaper reference the format is: Author’s details. “Title of the article.” (In “”) newspaper

title publishing details: category and pages on which the article starts followed by a plus (+)

which shows that the article continues in following pages. For a magazine, the format is: details

of author. “Title of the article.” Magazine title publishing details: pages

For a personal interview: interviewee details. Interview details which give the sort e.g. if it’s done through the telephone. Day. For a multivolume work, if more than one volume has been used for the research, the number of books is given say like 7vols and where the writer has used any of these volumes, the volume used is indicated say like vol.7. This comes after the name of the editor. E.g. Bruce, L.N. The Adventures of L.N. Bruce. Ed. Brown H. 7 vols. New York: Oxford UP.1800-22.


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APA (American Psychological Association) STYLE

A research paper written in the APA format has the following features:

The cover page- on this page, topic of the research is aligned at the center of the page. This writing style normally recommends the use of 12 words or less as the title. Below a topic, a writer’s details are given which include their names with the middle given as an initial/s and titles e.g. Mr. are not used. Topic of discussion, instructor’s details then date of submission are given after the writer’s details each on a separate line with double spacing between the lines.


This begins on a different page and includes a header. First, the word “Abstract” is aligned at the center of the page without any form of formatting.

The abstract gives a summary of the key things that the research is based on. It normally contains a brief summary of the research paper enabling the reader to easily figure out the research questions, participants, methods, results, the obtained data. Conclusions and recommendations therefore easily knowing the paper’s purpose. These details are given in brief in the abstract. Possible outcomes of the research and future research that may be connected with the findings is also included, which may be helpful to future researchers in a similar field. The details in this part are given in one paragraph with the line spacing being double, not exceeding 250 words and not less than 150 words.


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The details of the Author, date the material was published are written immediately following the cited text and are placed in parenthesis. E.g. (Bruce, 2010)

When writing a quote directly as it appears in the source, the details of the author, surname only, date the material was published, in parenthesis, quote (using quotation marks) and page number (preceded by "p.") are given. E.g. According to Bruce (2000), "Most people found physics challenging”(p. 121).

a direct quote can also be given in the following format: quote (Author, year, page number)E.g. He stated, " Most people found physics challenging " (Bruce, 2000, p. 21)

For direct quotations longer than 40 words, quotation marks are not used instead the quote is indented five spaces from the margin with the format: Author (year) Quote (it is started in a new line), the page (in brackets).

Incases where a known firm/company is a reference, it’s mentioned during first time of citation. E.g. According to the National Environment Management Authority (2000),… and if it’s has a commonly used or known short form, this shortened form is bracketed in its 1st citation and then used solely in other citations. E.g. First citation: (National Environment Management Authority [NEMA], 2000), Second citation: (NEMA, 2000). Incases where the originators of the cited material have identical surnames, in addition to giving the surnames, initials are also given.


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In a reference list where there are two and above reference material from one person in a given year, small letter

alphabets are given together with the year in the in-text citations. E.g. A Research by Bruce (1999a) showed that…


Their page is labeled "References" with the word aligned center and without any formatting.

When writing references, different sections are punctuated by a period.

For a single author reference, the last name is written first, (time the book was published), topic, Place where the material was published and then the publisher. For a second or subsequent edition, the edition number and the initials Ed (e.g. 4


ed.) is written after the title of the book. For a reference book with two authors, the authors are listed using the surnames with initials of other names. In place of the word ‘and’, the & is used. Between 3 and 7 writers, they are listed using their surnames, with their different names separated by commas, and the seventh is preceded by &.


A research paper in the Harvard writing style contains the following:

Title page which contains the research paper topic, writer’s name, organization, submission details i.e. date, & the person the report is to be submitted to. After the title page comes the abstract which should be 150-200 words or if in longer reports, it can be ½ – 1 page and should be single spaced. It provides the purpose of the report in brief giving a brief explanation of the


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major information. It should be in an impersonated tone and informative.

The Table of contents is derived from the headings and subheadings of the report’s sections, and is used to identify and locate different areas using their page numbers. The Introduction is written after the table of contents and it relates the topic to the wider field, giving the background information, the purpose of the study, scope ( briefly explaining the report). The body of the report gives all the literature about the research. After the literature, Conclusions and recommendations are given. The conclusions are factors arising from the study while recommendations arise from the conclusions. They can be recommendations from the study or recommendations for further study. The most important come first. The references/ Bibliography are written after the conclusions and recommendations. Unlike in other writing styles where the references come last, in the Harvard style, the glossary and appendices come after the references respectively. The glossary gives an explanation of the newly used, specialized terminologies or those that are not common. The appendices section consists of any additional information e.g. graphs.



When making in text citations, only the writer’s surname , date the material was published and pages referenced from is cited. Where there are more than two authors, citations include names of these authors firstly while in other citations of the same reference, only the 1st author’s name and the “et al” are included. E.g. a study (Bruce, Chrispus and Kent, 2010) shows…. In other citations (Bruce, et al., 2010)

In case primary reference i.e. work by an author in secondary reference i.e. another article or book, both sources are acknowledged in the reference. E.g. Bruce (Kent, 2010) states that… or Bruce’s work in 2000 (cited in Kent, 2010) states that…. Or Kent (2010), in reporting Bruce’s

2000 work states that….


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When giving an in text citation of several references at the same point, the authors’ names are alphabetically written separating them by use of commas. References to personal communications are given in initials, the name, pers. comm. and the date. E.g. (J.N Bruce, pers. comm., 2010) . . .


In writing references at the end of the paper, the author’s surname is given first, followed by the year of publication. (in brackets). Then the title of the publication, place of publication, then publisher. It can also be the publisher first, then place of publication depending on ones preferences. The titles of a publication are given in italics (or underlined if handwritten), while the titles of articles and small pieces of work which are taken from larger pieces of work are given in single quotation marks. Each section is punctuated with a comma.

For web pages as references, the format is: Author(s). (date of publication) Title of document

[Online] publisher. Available from:


(date accessed). E.g. Department for Pure and Applied Sciences. (2010)

The benefits of studying science

[Online] Available from:


(accessed 20/09/2010)

the format for online image references is: Author last name and Initial(s). (year) Title or description of image

[Online image]. Available at: URL (date accessed). Incase of personal emails, the format is: Sender surname and Initial (sender’s e-mail address), day month year the email was sent. Re: subject of the email


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. Mail Recipient’s name ( mail recipient’s e-mail address).

For cd-roms, the format is: Author/Editor, year of edition. Title of the material [CD-ROM]. Place

of publication: Publisher.

When using quotations, the source of the quotation can either be recognized in the text or in a footnote. The quote is usually enclosed in single quotation marks if it’s a short one. If it’s a long quotation (more than 30 words), instead of using quotation marks, the quotation is indent five spaces from the paper margin or alternatively it can be italicized and the source bracketed at the end of the quote.



The oxford writing style has the title page which includes the title or the research, the name of the author, the name of the person the work is to be submitted to, the title of the discipline of study and its code, the name of the institution and the date of submission. All these are written in different lines one after the other. the table of contents comes after the title page and it shows all the sections and subsections in the paper and their page numbers. The main parts i.e. tables, Introduction, Body, Conclusion, appendices and bibliography are written in the upper case and the rest in the lower case. The list of abbreviations, tables and figures comes after the table of contents. The introduction is written after this list and this presents the main points of the text. It summarizes the main points and ideas in the paper thereby giving the reader a brief know-how of what is contained in the paper. The body which is the main part of a research paper has different sections each describing one main idea. In this section all the information is explained in details. After giving all the information regarding the research, conclusion are made. These conclusions are given regarding the findings of the research and the writer can also give recommendations based on the results and conclusions. Appendices are also given which may include questionnaires, graphs and they mainly give any additional information. The bibliography comes last of the paper and gives the reference materials used and is normally in alphabetical order.


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In Oxford Referencing, the basic format to cite a book in a bibliography and footnote is as follows: The Author’s surname and initials, the full title (in italics), the edition, if other than the first, the name of the publisher, the place of publication, and the year of publication. E.g. Bruce, J., Mechanical Engineering, 4th edition, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2010. To cite journals in an Oxford bibliography, the following format is used: the author, the title of the article (in single quotation marks), the title of journal (in italics), the volume number, the copy number, the year of publication and page numbers. E.g. Bruce, J., ‘Mechanical Engineering’,

A good Engineer,

vol 5, no. 4, 2010, pp.51-2.

To cite electronic sources, the following format is used: author, title of article(in italics), name of website, volume, number, date, date retrieved, URL (underlined). E.g. Bruce, J., Mechanical

Engineering,                                                                                                                                                                                              O

xford Online, vol. 3, no. 4, 2009, retrieved 20 September 2010, <




A research paper written using the Chicago writing style includes:

Title Page which consists of the title of the research paper, the name of the writer, the discipline, the instructors name and the date of submission. Normally in this writing style page numbers are given as headers located at the top and aligned on the right. This header includes the last name of the writer, page number with the title page being 1. after the title page comes the abstract which gives brief information about the research. The table of Contents comes next. A


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research paper written in the Chicago style has 5 different chapters:

1. Hypothesis. This is a statement that may include predictions and proposes possible explanations to an issue or phenomenon.

2. Literature Review. Gives all the information regarding the research.

3. Methodology. This cites the different methods that will be used to get results, their importance and preference over other methods. Depending on the discipline, it gives the ways of data collection and methods of analysis.

4. Data Analysis Section. This employs the methods given in the methodology to achieve results based on the data collected.

5. Summary. A brief overview of the research. Discussion – in this section the writer discusses the results and gives recommendations based on these results.

The references and bibliography come last after the recommendations.




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In text citations are denoted by a number after the citation (given as a superscript) and the reference information given as a footnote at the page bottom preceded by the number used to denote the citation in the text. The 1st footnote gives the full bibliographic information in the

format: No. Author,                                                                                        Title (Place of Publication: Publisher,

Year), Page. Subsequent footnotes are in the format: Author, page. In the first line, footnotes

are indented 5 spaces. For a chapter in a book the first footnote has the format: Author,

“chapter title,” in

Title of the book,

ed. Name of the editor, pages (Place of Publication: Publisher, Year).

When citing articles in a text, the format is: No, “Title of the article,” Title of Journal vol no, issue

no (Year): Page.

References format

Author. Title of the book. Place of publication: Publisher, Year of publication. For an edited book with its editor being the author, the initials ed are placed after the name of the author.

For articles in a text: Author. “Title of the article.” Title of Journal vol no, issue no (month year):

Pages. For electronic resources: Author. “Title of the Page.” Title of the site. url


The turabian writing style has the following features: Cover page/ Title page. All the information on the cover page is centered, double spaced and in upper case. It contains: the name of the institution, title of the paper, the purpose of the study, the word ‘By’ which precedes the name of the writer (all these separated by double spaced lines), the city and the state and finally the


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month and the year the research is conducted in. It is usually the 1st page but the page number is not indicated.

Table of contents which is its titled CONTENTS comes after the cover page, the Introduction, the Body of the paper, Conclusion and References

The text in this kind of a paper is normally double spaced and in 12 pt Arial font. Pages before the text are numbered in lower case roman and aligned at the center at the bottom of the page. Starting with the first page in the main contents of the text, all other pages are numbered Arabically and page numbers aligned at the top right of top center of the page. Pages with major headings are numbered at the bottom center.

Referencing format

For book references: Author. Date of publication. Title of the book (underlined or italicized).

Place of publication: Publisher.

For periodicals and magazines, only names, the first word of the article and any word after a colon are capitalized. The format is: Author. Date of publication. Title. Name of the periodical which can be underlined or italicized vol number: page number.

The first line is in line with the left paper margin and subsequent lines indented five spaces.



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The Vancouver writing style has the following feature: the Title page, Abstract, Introduction, Methods used in the research, Body, Results, Discussion and Conclusion, Acknowledgements. In the acknowledgement section, the writer gives a statement of gratitude to people who might have been of great help during the research period. This may include people like family members, friends, instructors etc. the references come last after the acknowledgements.


In text referencing

In text citations are given super script numbers and numbered is consistent with the way they are given in the text.

References format:

Book: Author. Title. Place of publication: Publisher; Year. For a reference book with two or more authors, the authors’ names are separated by a comma.

Print periodical: Author. Article title. Periodical title. Year; vol (issue/no): pages.

For an electronic reference: Author. Article title. Periodical title. Year; vol (issue/no): pages.

URL. Published [date]. Updated [date]. Accessed [date].

For a website: Author. Title of item. Name of website. URL. Published [date]. Updated [date].

Accessed [date].


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