Guidelines for writing Term Papers, Essays and Research Reports

Term papers, essays and research reports all have a variation in format according to the Department
and the Instructor. Following is basic information on mechanical elements, plagiarism, formatting
a report and some other hints. The use of an accepted style guide (APA, MLA, etc.) is necessary as
there are few general rules which apply to all reports.

Mechanical Elements
Punctuation, quotations, abbreviations, documentation of sources, construction of tables, headings,
citation of references and statistics are presented using one of the various styles; APA, MLA, Chicago,
Turabian. Our English classes at
Pierce College use the MLA style. You may use either the APA or MLA

APA (American Psychological Association) Style

Social and behavioral scientists frequently prepare their reports usingAPA's editorial style rules
and guidelines outlined in a reference book called the Publication Manual of the American
Psychological Association. The APA Publication Manual or the Internet (
should be consulted regarding the mechanics of report writing. If you are planning on attending
graduate school, it would be advisable to purchase a copy of the APA Manual.

When directly quoting from a work, you will need the author, year of publication, and the page number for
the reference (preceded by "p.").  Example; According to Smith (2000), "Students had some difficulty using
APA style" (p.199).

An example of citing a reference from a book using APA style follows;
Conklin, John E. (2001). Criminology.
Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Note: Additional lines for the same reference are indented three spaces.

Spacing after punctuation: As word-processing software results in proportional spacing, the APA now
calls for one space to appear after all punctuation marks. Exceptions are there is no space after internal
periods in abbreviations (
, p.m.) and no space after the colon in ratios (2:1).


Plagiarism is using another persons ideas, wording, phrasing, etc. as ones own without acknowledging
the source of the information. Credit must be given to someone else's ideas, opinions, theories, facts,
statistics, graphs and drawings which are not common knowledge.

A common misconception is by changing several words or the order of the sentences, one is avoiding
plagiarism by not presenting a "exact copy" of the original writer's work. If the writer's work is
original material and not common knowledge, you can use your own words to paraphrase. However,
you must acknowledge the source of the information. If the information you present is common
knowledge, the original source does not need to be cited.

Common knowledge is found in numerous places and known by many people. An example is George
W. Bush was elected President of the
United States in 2001.

Basic aspects of standard report formats
Reports should have a logically structured form:
(a) title page which includes the title of the paper, your name, course, and date.   
     APA Style: The page header contains the title of the paper and is flush left.  
                         The page numberis flush right at the top of the page.
     MLA Style: The page header contains the authors name and page number flush right at the
                           top of the page.
(b) an introduction states the subject of the paper, the goals and how you will go about it.

(c) body of report or developmental sections.
(d) a conclusion sums up the findings and supports your analysis.
(e) references should not include any publication not cited in your report. The references
     should begin on a separate page and all entries must be single-spaced and double spaced
     between entries, listed alphabetically by last name and senior author, and chronologically
     for two or more titles by the same author. For unusual references, include all information
     needed to enable the reader to identify and locate the source.

MLA (Modern Language Association) Style
Two handbooks are available which contain the authoritative explanation of MLA style. High school and
undergraduate college students should consult the Fifth edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of
Research Papers. Graduate students should consult the Second edition of the MLA Style Manual and
Guide to Scholarly Publishing. Additional information can be found on the Internet.  

When quoting from a work, MLA style follows the author-page. method of in-text citation.  Example;
Smith stated that "students have difficulty with MLA style" (275).
If it often found that students have difficulty with MLA style: (Smith, 275).

An example of citing a reference from a book using MLA style follows;
Conklin, John E. Criminology. Needham Heights: Allyn & Bacon, 2001.

Note: Additional lines for the same reference are indented 1/2 inch farther than the first line.

Spacing after punctuation: MLA style calls for single spacing after all punctuation marks. It is
indicated on the MLA website that two spaces are acceptable unless an instructor requests one space.


MLA Citation Style


Title of Book

Title of Article

Title of Periodical


Place of Publication



Other Information



Book Article or Chapter

James, Nancy E. "Two Sides of Paradise: The Eden Myth According to Kirk and Spock."

     Spectrum of the Fantastic. Ed. Donald Palumbo. Westport: Greenwood, 1988. 219-223.



Okuda, Michael, and Denise Okuda. Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future.

     New York: Pocket, 1993.


Journal Article

Wilcox, Rhonda V. "Shifting Roles and Synthetic Women in Star Trek: The Next Generation."

     Studies in Popular Culture 13.2 (1991): 53-65.


Newspaper or Magazine Article

Di Rado, Alicia. "Trekking through College: Classes Explore Modern Society Using the World of

     Star Trek." Los Angeles Times 15 Mar. 1995: A3.


Encyclopedia Article   (well known reference books)

Sturgeon, Theodore. "Science Fiction." The Encyclopedia Americana. International ed. 1995.

Encyclopedia Article   (less familiar reference books)

Horn, Maurice. "Flash Gordon." The World Encyclopedia of Comics. Ed. Maurice Horn.

     2 vols. New York: Chelsea, 1976.


Gale Reference Book   (and other books featuring reprinted articles)

Shayon, Robert Lewis. "The Interplanetary Spock." Saturday Review 17 June 1967: 46. Rpt. in

     Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Sharon R. Gunton. Vol. 17. Detroit: Gale Research, 1981.



ERIC Document

Fuss-Reineck, Marilyn. Sibling Communication in Star Trek: The Next Generation: Conflicts

     between Brothers. Miami: Speech Communication Assn., 1993. ERIC Document Reproduction

     Service ED364932.



Lynch, Tim. "DSN Trials and Tribble-ations Review." Psi Phi: Bradley's Science Fiction Club. 1996.

     Bradley University. 8 Oct. 1997 <>.


Newspaper or Magazine Article on the Internet

Andreadis, Athena. "The Enterprise Finds Twin Earths Everywhere It Goes, But Future Colonizers

     of Distant Planets Won't Be So Lucky." Astronomy Jan. 1999: 64- .

Academic Universe. Lexis-Nexis. B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Lib., Brookville, NY. 7 Feb. 1999


Literature Resource Center

Shayon, Robert Lewis. "The Interplanetary Spock." Saturday Review 17 June 1967: 46.

     Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Sharon R. Gunton. Vol. 17. Detroit:

     Gale Research, 1981. 403. Literature Resource Center. Gale Group. B. Davis Schwartz

     Memorial Lib., Brookville, NY. 16 Oct. 2001 <http://>.

Headings: Headings help in organizing your paper and assist when the topic changes.

Main Heading
Main headings are flush left on the page.
Each word is capitalized and the heading is underlined.
The first line of text under a main heading is indented 5 spaces.

Secondary Heading
           Secondary headings are indented 5 spaces.
           Each word is capitalized and the heading is underlined.
           The first line of text under a secondary heading is indented 5 spaces.

Tertiary Heading
                       Tertiary headings are indented 10 spaces.
                       Each word is capitalized and the heading is underlined.
                       The first line of text under a tertiary heading is indented 5 spaces.

Spacing: Double spacing is required for all reports, except indented block quotations, references
cited, notes, captions, and headings.

Quotations and periods and commas: In the
United States, periods and commas go inside quotation
marks regardless of logic.

Quotations: Quotations longer than 40 words should be set off from the text in single spaced block
quotations. Brackets [ ] should be used to indicate your own insertions.

When a quotation is used as a part of your sentence, it should begin with a lower case letter.
This is the case even if the original is a complete sentence beginning with a capital letter.

Hyphenation: Do not break or hyphenate words at the end of lines to keep the paper justified to the
right. If using hypenation, divide words only between syllables. One letter divisions are not proper.

Ellipsis: Ellipsis (. . .) indicate an omission of words or letters or an incomplete statement, etc.

Margins: One inch margins are required around the edges of each page. Do not use
extra-wide margins, leave extra spaces between paragraphs and headings, or
using large size type fonts to lengthen a paper or do the opposite to compress it.

Paragraph: The last line of a paragraph should not be typed as the first line of a new page.
A minimum of two lines should be carried over to the next page. This also applies
to a heading and the first line of a paragraph. Begin the heading and paragraph on
the next page.

Use transitions between paragraphs such as "On the other hand," "Still," "Also," "Nevertheless,"
"However,". These help the reader get from one thought to another and smooth the reading process.
Also, use past, present and future tense when appropriate, but make sure the verb tense is consistent
within paragraphs.

Page numbering: Each page is numbered consecutively, including title page and reference page.

Font: Reports must be typed using a 12 point font size and a clearly readable font such as Times New Roman.

Paper: The report should be typed on one side of 20 lb. or greater 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper.  Securely fasten the  

paper together using a stapler.

Grading: A strong "A" paper will;

a) follow APA or MLA format and other formats referenced here.

b) be virtually free of spelling and grammatical errors.

c) list at least one reference other than the textbook.

d) analyze an opposing view through logical thinking.

e) be well articulated and presented.

f) follow the Term Paper instructions in the syllabus.

Take care of yourself by getting what you deserve. After working hard on your paper, you can relax
by getting a pizza and watching a ball game or going to the movies. Congratulations!