Saturday, December 17, 2011
Formatting College Papers
The only time your professor will notice something about your paper's format is when you don't bother following standard college level formatting, or you do something creative--teachers interpret this as strange or just plain wrong. This tells the professor you cannot follow instructions and leaves them wondering what other instructions you didn't bother following. The last thing you want to do is get your professor in a bad mood when he or she has a red pen in their hand.
There are two basic styles of papers used in college classrooms; one is the APA style (American Psychological Association), and the other is MLA (Modern Language Association). The APA style is used in science classrooms, so if you're going for a Bachelor of Science degree, you'll most likely being using this format (click here for a sample APA paper). If you plan on receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree, you'll most likely be using MLA (click here for a sample MLA paper). Most professors will let you know what style they want you to use, and most think you already know what they are talking about when they refer to MLA or APA style.
Since I teach English composition, my students always use MLA - although I will let science majors use APA, so they can get plenty of practice.
Some general rules of thumb:
* Use plain white paper
* Use 1-inch margins
* Use the normal heading (see sample and note that some teachers modify headings for different assignments)
* Make sure your last name is contained in the page number on EACH page
* Double space
* Typefaces: Ariel is fatter than Times New Roman, so it uses up more page space
Some pet peeves:
* Type up and print (or email) all out-of-class work. Do NOT turn in any handwritten assignments.
* Do NOT use extra spaces between headers and titles, titles and the first paragraph, and between paragraphs
* Do NOT use text messaging language ANYWHERE
* Capitalize "I" (no i - see above about text messaging)
* When you think you are done, go back and read the paper's instructions, then modify or correct any deficiencies or mistakes
Once you start writing college papers, these rules will become second nature. Run off the sample paper(s) and keep them in the front of your notebook so you can refer to them if needed.