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SPARK: Citations & Formatting

A resource for students wanting to improve their academic and research skills.

Citations & Formatting

An important element of every academic paper is an appropriate means to cite the sources that you have used in your paper.

The precise format (footnotes, endnotes, in-text citations) for citing sources would typically be expected to follow one of the styles that have become standard within disciplines (e.g., APA style or MLA style). For a more detailed discussion of these conventions see the Creating Bibliographies module.

When some instructors specify a particular formatting style, they are simply referring to the citation method. However, many other aspects of a paper’s format are also specified by these standard formatting styles, such as margins, line spacing, title page, etc. It is important to clarify whether these features must also follow the standard format.

Review the section below for a general formatting plan that could be used if your instructor has not required any particular set of conventions. Refer to the 'Essay Formatting' document located in the 'Resources' tab for additional help in formatting essays according to APA, Chicago or MLA style.

General Formatting Plan

General Formatting Plan

  • Margins should be 2.5 to 3.0 cm on each side.
  • All text should be in a standard 12-point font such as Times New Roman, for example, and double spaced.
  • If used, a title page should include your name and the title of the essay.
  • Pages should be numbered with the title page included as page 1. Reference pages should also be numbered.
  • Either by means of footnotes, endnotes, or in-text citations, clearly indicate within the body of the paper those portions taken from sources you have consulted in preparing the paper. In a separate section at the end of your paper give a full reference for each source that you have cited. These references should be placed in alphabetical order according to the last name of the first author of each source.
  • Headings and subheadings may be used to indicate major sections and subsections of the essay; however, subheadings should be clearly distinguishable from headings (e.g., section headings might be centred on the page and written in all caps, while subheadings could be justified to the left margin with only the first word capitalized).