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       Research paper guidelines will often vary from institution to institution and from instructor to instructor within the same institution.  It is therefore critical that a student entering a course, in which a research paper will definitely be required, understand the research paper guidelines to be followed.  Often, an instructor or professor will provide research paper guidelines for students, but these often refer to length, number of resources, and the citation formatting style.  For the inexperienced student, these research paper guidelines do not tell the “whole story,” and a student often struggles with the very process of constructing an academically-solid research paper.

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       Generally, there are two types of research paper guidelines available to students, and they should utilize both.  The first will take a student through the entire process of creating a worthy research work – selection and refinement of a topic, conducting appropriate research, categorizing and synthesizing that research, creating an outline, writing a first draft, revising and editing the draft, and, ultimately, writing the final draft. 

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     The second guideline will focus on formatting in-text references and creating a bibliography.  Most instructors and institutions will require MLA (Modern Language Association) or APA (American Psychological Association) format styles.  They are similar in many ways, but do have unique differences that must be noted and included in the work.  Other, less used styles include Harvard, Turabian and several graduate program-specific formats.  MLA and APA formats also include the size and font of print, spacing, margins, page number placement, etc.  A guide that encompasses all of these styles, with good examples to follow, will be an invaluable resource tool for all students from high school forward.

       When it comes to understanding term paper guidelines, students may have to seek additional help from their professors or from writing centers. It also often helps if students are able to submit a draft of the report to the professor before the final draft is due so that professors can approve any formatting guidelines.

       If students still have issues or questions, then most campuses offer a writing center that will provide assistance; many instructors and professors will be happy to clarify any guideline that is not fully understood. Do not hesitate to see such assistance if anything is unclear.  It is far better to “get it right” the first time than to face the embarrassment of a lowered grade or a re-write.

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