Every paper is a little different, but almost all of them contain the same basic parts with a few extras when needed.
Your title is often the very first thing that your reader will see, so it needs to count. A good title should be concise, clear, and reflect your paper’s content. As a rule of thumb, papers that you write for the sciences (biology, nursing, chemistry…) should have titles that clearly explain what you intend to discuss. Papers written for the humanities (History, Sociology, English…) can have titles with a touch of creativity.
APA & MLA Titles
The APA format gives paper titles their own page at the very beginning of the document as well as a line at the start of the paper’s body.
The MLA format includes the title at the beginning of the paper directly before the paper’s body. It does not have a separate title page.
An abstract is a short summary of your paper that is placed before your paper’s body. They are often used in papers written for scientific or academic audiences. Abstracts should be between 150 - 250 words. They can end with a list of keywords associated with the paper. While abstracts are formally a part of the APA format, some professors may require an abstract in other formats - like MLA.
There are two types of abstracts: informative and descriptive. An informative abstract details the major points of the paper including the paper’s conclusion and recommendations. A descriptive abstract is much shorter and only reveals the paper’s purpose, methods, and scope.
Table of Contents
Tables of Content are helpful when a report or paper is longer than a few pages or contains numerous sections. It is included before the body of your paper but can come before or after your abstract depending on your instructor’s preference.
The table of contents includes a list of the major sections of the paper accompanied by the page on which each section starts. In APA, the Table of Contents should include all level 1 and level 2 headings.
After all of the introductory material is taken care of, you can finally jump into the body of your paper. This is what most people refer to when they talk about a “paper”. It is the largest part of a paper and it contains the ideas and material that you actually want to get across to your reader.
While the previous parts of your paper are fairly static from one paper to the next, the paper’s body changes with each new paper. And, it will look different depending on the type of essay you are writing. However, there are a few basics all papers should include: an introduction, a thesis, supporting arguments, and a conclusion. The body of your paper will also include any citations you’ve created for your research material. Remember, it is vital that you cite every piece of research to avoid plagiarism.
References/Works Cited Section
This is an alphabetized listing of all of the research materials you used in the body of your paper. This is called the References page in APA and the Works Cited section in MLA.
If you are using PERRLA Online or PERRLA’s Microsoft Word Add-In, we will automatically format all of this information for you.
Annotations are notes that you add to your paper’s References. They usually explain what the reference is, why it is useful for your paper, and how you intend to use it. Each reference’s annotation will immediately follow it in the References or Works Cited section.
An appendix is an optional added section at the very end of a paper. It contains information that is useful but cannot be easily inserted into the body of the paper. If there are multiple appendices, they should be labeled as Appendix A, Appendix B, etc.
There are a number of reasons to add an Appendix.
- Adds detailed information useful to the paper without interrupting the reader
- Include data, charts, and figures
- Include forms or schedules used for paper research