How To Make A Paper Look Good

Find the right college paper format for you and learn what it will take to earn your degree.

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Writing papers is common in college. You will most definitely write at least a dozen term papers, and even a thesis, while at school. And while the content of your paper is meant as proof-positive that you understand the concepts you were taught in any given course, paper formatting is equally important. You may be wondering why paper formatting is so important. It’s simple: following the proper format will show instructors that you’re paying attention to the smallest detail. Perhaps more integral is that should you go into a field that requires more papers, you will have already been introduced to the way professional papers are formatted. What you should know is that some instructors are known for knocking down a grade for improper formatting. Some professors will even fail students for not following directions. So in addition to learning how to write a research paper, you should take a quick look at this list to learn about how to make sure your formatting is on point. One quick look and an overview of your paper may save you time and stress. So it's quite worth your while to keep reading.

1. A Proper Heading

Like most college papers, a heading is always needed. Depending on your instructor and their guidelines, this might differ from course to course, but some general things are included. Your name, your instructor’s name, the course name, and the date are always required. Depending on your instructor and their guidelines, this might differ from course to course, but some general things are included: Your name, your instructor’s name, the course name, and the date are always required. While this might not seem like such a major thing to leave out or forget, some instructors are strict on having the proper heading, which is always found on the upper left-hand corner of the first page. In fact, instructors have been known to fail students on a paper they’ve done good work on simply for forgetting the heading. Why is it important? The instructor teaches several courses, each with a dozen or more students. Keeping papers straight is a heavy-duty task that’s made more complicated if a student forgets to put their course number or their name on it. So, by all means, do not forget the heading.

2. Mind Your Margins

Margins are something even the most detail-oriented student can forget. Think about it: when was the last time you checked the margins in Word or Pages? You probably didn’t even know you could change them. But by keeping a one-inch margin around the entire page, students make it easier for their instructors to read and mark their papers. It’s also a good way to make sure that you’re paying attention to the guidelines set out by your instructor, so double-check your paper before turning it in.

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3. An Original Title

Original titles tell your instructor what your paper is about. This is important if you’re doing a literary criticism, defending a piece of legislation, or discussing history from alternate points of view. There are several more examples, of course, but you get the idea. Make sure you come up with an original title and that you present it in a central position at the top of your page. Alternatively, some instructors will ask for a cover page, which means that your original title is found on the cover page and not at the top of your paper. Please refer to your course’s syllabus to make sure you understand where the title page is meant to go.

4. Font, Size, and Space

As a general rule, all college papers are typed in Times New Roman, a default font that can be found in every word processing application. The font is almost always double-spaced and in 12-pt font because it makes it easier for your instructor to read. This is an important formatting rule that you’re going to want to make sure you follow. Again, some instructors are known to mark down a paper for not following formatting rules, and you want to avoid that as much as possible. If this guideline is not mentioned in your syllabus, check with your instructor before submitting your paper.

5. Double Check Works Cited

Some courses will require research papers. This means you will have to create a “Works Cited” section or page to go along with your paper. For research papers, not having a properly formatted “Works Cited” page could result in a failing grade, so please don’t dismiss this guideline. Citing a work that was the source of evidence or research in your paper is easy enough to do. You simply indicate within your paper any direct quotes, statistics, or other information you’ve gleaned from other papers, websites or books, and then list all your sources on the “Works Cited” page. This page lists all of your sources in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. You will need to check the MLA format, the citing format all colleges use, to make sure you are doing it correctly. While we’re on the subject, research how to properly cite a work within your paper. This is generally done by indicating a source with the author’s last name, the work that was cited, and the page number the concept or quote can be found. Again, refer to MLA format or your instructor for more guidelines.

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