Complete Guide on College Papers Format

A college paper is an academic assignment where students are required to analyze a topic, express their opinion on some issue or overview a specific subject. Writing a college paper may be challenging even if you know the subject well. There are many instructions to follow, in particular on formatting. It’s essential to know how to create a title page or, if sticking to MLA format, how to head a college paper properly.

In this article, you will find answers to these and many other questions that will help you effectively manage college paper formatting. Keep reading to learn how to head a college paper.


Why Paper Format Matters

Your college paper shows how well you understand the topic and if you can express your thoughts clearly. Every educational institution requires a single format for academic papers. It makes the works look identical and prevents students from using fancy styles. The format helps the Professor easily follow content as the text is well-structured without any distracting elements.

They focus on the topic as nothing in the paper style and formatting impedes understanding. It’s easier for a professor to grade papers in a consistent format. They can quickly detect specific things like citations, page numbers, dates or names, etc. That’s why you should make sure you know how to head a college paper and what format your educational institution and a professor require before starting writing. Proceed with the article to learn how to head a college paper.

College Paper Formats

When you have got no instructions on formatting, then it’ll be useful to know standard paper formats. The most popular are MLA, APA, Chicago, and Harvard. Here we’ll briefly outline them to make you well aware of possible formatting styles for your paper.

  • The American Psychological Association has a format that is perfect if you are writing a research paper. APA is widely used in social sciences, not only by students but researchers and scientists.
  • Arts and History college papers are mostly written using the Chicago formatting style. Pay attention to the format variant your Professor requires, as it may have footnotes or in-text references.
  • The Harvard format is most popular among Australian students. They use it for different subjects for a clear structure and simple formatting rules.
  • The Modern Language Association style has many editions, and they try to keep up with the latest trends in academic writing formatting.

Standard Paper Format

There are basic elements every college paper formatting should include. Read standard paper format rules that will make your work highly valued by the Professor.

  • College paper length: the average size of a college paper ranges from five to seven pages.
  • Margin sizes: a college paper, as a rule, has 1-inch margins from all sides. However, there are cases when professors set specific requirements.
  • Title page: this paper element differs among styles. Check official paper samples to make the right title page. MLA does not have a title page, and a writer should include in the heading their name, instructor’s name, course, and date. APA or Chicago papers have the same data on the title page.
  • Headers and footers: this section includes page numbers and paper titles. Some styles require a shortened paper title, some require writing every title word capitalized, etc.
  • Fonts: use standard fonts like Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial with a readable 12 size. Consider your instructor’s requirements and avoid fancy font styles.
  • Page layout. Your college paper should have paragraphs’ indentation and left-justified text. Make your formatting neat and clean, remove redundant spaces, and pay attention to other small details.
  • Headings formatting: a proper paper structure is represented by structured headings and subheadings. Put your headings at the center of the line. But every style has specific headings formatting rules.
  • Body: make your text readable following basic college papers format rules. So you should mind word capitalization, punctuation, text font, and size. Left justify your text, indent paragraphs, and pay attention to required spacing. Mind using one space between words.
  • References: Every style has its rules here as well. You have to include the same bibliographical details but in a different way. Do not mix styles and organize your references properly.

How to Head a College Paper

It is crucial to note that a college paper heading differs from a high school paper title. As a rule, a college paper heading consists of a group of data placed at the top. It is an integral element of the academic paper that is essential for its quality. Heading your college paper properly shows your diligence and attention to detail. If you do not follow simple heading rules, your paper will look unprofessional. Once you learn the heading format, you will do it automatically. Let’s find out simple rules on how to head a college paper.

H3: Heading Format

There are essential tips on your college paper format that will make it academically correct.

  • You can use MLA style for your college papers.
  • The heading should be placed in the upper left-hand corner of the page.
  • Use a 12-point font to make it readable.
  • You should use one of the recognizable font styles, including the Times New Roman, Arial, Modern, Palermo, and Lucina.
  • All the lines should be aligned at the left margin.
  • Double-space each line of the heading.

H3: Initials

You should write your first and last names on the first line. Then place your Professor’s name on the next line. Use his first and last name preceded by the word Professor.


After the initials, on the third line, you put your course name. This line also should be left-aligned.


H3: On the fourth line, write the date you submit your essay. You should stick to MLA formatting and put the day in the numeral, month, and the year in written formats.


Before writing the title, double space after the last line of your heading. You should place it at the center of the line. It’s recommended to use the Case style for titles. Make sure there’s a one-inch indent below the top margin.

Finally, if you want to know how to head a college paper the best way, pay attention that the heading is in a formal style. There are no grammatical mistakes. Use spell check to ensure good paper quality and legibility.


How to Use References in College Papers

References are an integral component of academic work, from college to grading papers. They influence your overall mark and make the work look well organized. You give credit to the authors and demonstrate what high-quality sources were used to support your ideas. Besides, references are crucial to check for plagiarism as they indicate resources you used in the paper, including citations, summaries, and paraphrasings.

A reference list has several characteristics, including:

  • It’s placed at the end of your college paper on a separate pageю
  • It’s organized alphabetically by author’s last nameю
  • Each entry includes the bibliographic information (author, year, title, publication place, number of pages, URL).

Listing rules for a website differ from rules for listing books or articles. So make sure you know listing rules for different sources types.

Firstly, decide which citation style to use and define the type of your information source. There are different citation styles of reference lists. It often depends on the educational institution, program, and sometimes the course. APA is often used in business programs, MLA – arts programs, and AMA-medical programs. They define how you format your in-text references. You should always consult your Professor to find what citation style they expect to see in your reference list.

Common Paper Formatting Mistakes

Students usually make the same paper formatting mistakes which are important to remember if you want to know how to head a college paper. So we collected them here for you to remember them and try to avoid them in your work.

  • Incorrectly set margin. Consider using the left margin to 1.5 inches and all others to 1 inch.
  • Using different font styles and sizes throughout the work. So it’ll be better to always use a readable Times New Roman font.
  • Leaving single lines at the bottom of the top of the page.
  • Emphasizing a word with italics, boldfacing, underlining, or quotation marks.
  • Capitalization of common nouns.
  • Incorrect long dashes formatting with spaces between the words it is separating.
  • Inconsistent spelling and capitalization of sources cited in the text and the list of references.
  • Not proofread paper with many typos that deteriorate the work quality but could be easily corrected if checked before submitting.


Writing high-quality content and expressing thoughts coherently is a requirement not only for academic papers from professors; these are also essential for other types of works for different professions and organizations, like writing a white paper. The ability of a student to focus on detail and consistently represent elements in a long written work plays a crucial role in success. So knowing paper formatting is necessary for every student. Learn the basic rules on how to head a college paper, and you will easily format your college and then other types of papers automatically.

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Jared Houdi
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