Research paper styles vary according to the formal style guide chosen by the instructor of the course. Often, a certain formal style guide is the preferred one due to the discipline that the course is a part of; in other cases, it may be due to the personal preference of the instructor, or a policy put in place by the university. In any case, most formal styles have several basic categories of requirements in common, although they each approach these requirements differently.
Formatting refers to the appearance of the paper. The type of font, the size of font, the measurements of the margins, the spacing between the lines, and the types and arrangements of the various section headings used in the paper all reflect its formatting. Some styles may require a table of contents that is arranged in a certain manner, while others have different requirements for that.
The manner in which sources are cited in the text vary a great deal between different types of styles, but all have some sort of rules addressing citations in order to avoid the appearance of plagiarism. For some styles, including the page number of the source is important; in others, it is not. Some require that the year be noted, others do not. Some are parenthetical citations (the citation appears in the body of the text in parentheses) while others favor footnotes or endnotes instead.
As with citations, reference page rules can vary a lot according to the different rules imposed by the style. The order of the information being presented can be different from style to style, as well as the conventions related to titles of works, articles, stories, and other types of pieces. Some may require underlining, while others may favor italics.
Title page layout and the information to be included are both often defined by the formal style that the instructor has indicated that the student should use while writing their paper. The date, course number, name of the paper, student’s name, instructor’s name, and other pertinent information may or may not be required depending on the style being used. Some styles require a running head related to the title, while others require the author’s name to be present in the header or footer of each page.