Posts Tagged ‘writing tips’

8 Common College Essay Formats and Their Citation Styles

As a college student, you will be required to write dozens of papers on different topics. Depending on the subject youΓÇÖre studying, you will use some essay styles more than others. This article gives a short description of the most commonly used forms of college essays and the citation styles that you will need to use for each.

1. The Expository Essay

The expository essay explains something, or describes, or presents information and is used to inform the reader. Your professors will ask you to write this type of essay to help you learn more about the subject, to test your ability to research your topic effectively, and to prove your understanding of the subject. When you write an expository essay, remember that it is an impersonal style of writing and that while you may refer to the audience as ΓÇÿyou,ΓÇÖ you may not refer to yourself as ΓÇÿI.ΓÇÖ ItΓÇÖs a factual essay, so your opinion is not required. Expository essays require citation. The typical citation styles for these essays are MLA or APA formatting or Harvard modes.

2. The Persuasive Essay

As the name implies, a persuasive essay ΓÇ£persuadesΓÇ¥ the reader to a point of view. Not only will you need to understand the subject, but you must take a position on it, too. You prove your point by using logical, well-founded reasoning. To accomplish this, you must choose a side, as well as discuss alternative opinions. Persuasive essays require citation. Most persuasive essays use the MLA formatting style unless otherwise requested by your professors.

3. The Informal Essay

Compared with the other forms of essay writing, the informal essay is written more for the enjoyment of personal expression. It is written to communicate subjectively in a more relaxed, conversational, and expressive style than other types of essay. It can be informative or persuasive and can include personal opinion. However, it must still have a strong structure. No citation styles are required.

4. The Review

The aim of a review is to analyze and present a piece of work, such as a book or a film, and evaluate its overall effects and validity. Though your subjective opinion does play a significant part, a review must still maintain certain objective standards. You will be required to prove any assertions you may make. How formal your review depends on how much of it is analysis, how much is a summary, and how much of it is your opinion. The more you include your opinion, the less formal the review will be. You will use citations if you include any reference material, and will likely need to use the MLA formatting guidelines.

5. The Research Essay

The purpose of a research essay is to analyze a perspective or argue a point of view about a narrow topic. It involves locating or creating extensive quantities of objective source material and sifting through it to find appropriate research that supports your ideas. This will lead you to a greater understanding of your subject, which you will demonstrate in your essay as you interpret and evaluate the material and make your point. Normally a research essay must utilize either footnotes or endnotes or a reference list and may also require a bibliography. Citations are almost always required when writing a research essay. The usual forms of citation styles for research papers are MLA or APA formatting.

6. The Comparison and Contrast Essay

The object of a comparison and contrast essay is to explore and expose the similarities and dissimilarities between two or more ideas or things. You will be expected to use your critical faculties and your powers of analysis to describe what the ideas or things have in common and what makes them different to each other. Scholarly research and specific referencing are not normally required for this type of essay, so citation is not required.

7. The Literary Essay

There are similarities between a review and a literary essay insofar as they are both evaluative. However, a literary essay goes into the structure of the subject being reviewed in more depth than a review. The literary essay is used to explore the meaning and construction of a piece and evaluate specifics such as theme, character, style, tone, and subtext. You must take a viewpoint on the work you are writing about and use critical analysis to demonstrate how the details of the work support your viewpoint. You may use your own interpretation of the piece or a mixture of opinions and references to other peopleΓÇÖs critiques of the work. In such cases, you will include citations, applying either MLA or APA formatting.

8. The Cause and Effect Essay

Cause and effect essays are concerned with how and why things happen, and the effects that happen as a result, such as the causes of water pollution and its effects on the community, or the effects of children eating too much-refined sugar and its effects on health. A cause and effect essay must be written in a factual tone and be impersonal. Removing the first person gives more authority to the essay. Your choice of sources will have a bearing on the validity of your paper, so choose them carefully. You will include citations, following the MLA or APA formatting styles.

For more information about APA or MLA formats contact us today

David Plaut is the founder of Reference Point Software (RPS). RPS offers a complete suite of easy-to-use formatting template products featuring MLA and APA style templates, freeing up time to focus on substance while ensuring formatting accuracy. 

Reference Point Software is not associated with, endorsed by, or affiliated with the American Psychological Association (APA) or with the Modern Language Association (MLA).

What Is A Running Head?

There are various formatting styles that your professors will require you to apply to your college papers, from MLA to Chicago, Turabian, APA, and more. When you write reports or other social science papers, you will use the APA format, developed by the American Psychological Association. One seemingly small formatting guideline set forth by the APA that can cause some confusion is the running head.

What is the running head?

If you arenΓÇÖt familiar with this header, itΓÇÖs a shortened version of the title of your paper that appears at the top of every page along with a page number. It helps to identify and organize the proper order of your paper and will assist the reviewer if youΓÇÖre submitting your paper for a blind review.

Shortening a title can seem like a simple task, especially in an age when the truncated text on Twitter has become a common language for many college students. However, itΓÇÖs also an opportunity for losing points on your paper due to formatting errors or weak word choices for your header.

How do you write a great running head?

ItΓÇÖs likely that the title of most of your papers will be more than the 50-character limit for a running headset by the APA. If your title is less than the limit, you will include the full title in the header. If it exceeds the limit, make sure you choose words that best summarize the primary focus of your paper.

For example, letΓÇÖs say youΓÇÖre writing a paper titled, ΓÇ£Contributions to the Research and Development in Clinical Nursing Practice.ΓÇ¥ This has a total of 74 characters. So how would you shorten its length and still make it relevant? One possible suggestion could be ΓÇ£CONTRIBUTIONS TO DEVELOPMENT OF CLINICAL NURSING.ΓÇ¥ At 48 characters, it falls within the acceptable APA limits while providing a synopsis of the focus of your paper. But donΓÇÖt feel like you have to use as many characters as allowed. Two or three words is satisfactory, so in the above example, ΓÇ£CONTRIBUTIONS TO CLINICAL NURSINGΓÇ¥ is sufficient.

Formatting Software

Even though you now have an understanding of what a running head is and how to condense it, you still need to verify that you adhere to the formatting guidelines for proper spacing, justification, capitalization, and so forth. You could manually edit your paper and double-check it to make sure that it meets the latest APA formatting standards. However, this can take quite a bit of extra time. Would you rather spend your time formatting your paper or focusing on the quality of your content?

Your other option is to make a small investment in a big time-saver and point-saver by using formatting software. Not only will the software guarantee that your headers are correctly formatted, but it will format other aspects of your paper, including citations, footers, tables, and other references.

For more information about APA or MLA formats, contact us today.


David Plaut is the founder of Reference Point Software (RPS). RPS offers a complete suite of easy-to-use formatting template products featuring MLA and APA style templates, freeing up time to focus on substance while ensuring formatting accuracy. 

Reference Point Software is not associated with, endorsed by, or affiliated with the American Psychological Association (APA) or with the Modern Language Association (MLA).

A vs. An before an abbreviation

We all learned that you use an “a” before words that start with consonants and “an” before words that begin with vowels.

But what about abbreviations? Should you use an “a” or an “an” before abbreviations?

The accepted rule is to use the choice that matches how the abbreviation is pronounced rather than how it is spelled. For example, HIV begins with a consonant but is pronounced ─üch-╦î─½-╦êv─ô. In other words, HIV is pronounced as starting with a long “a,” which is a vowel; therefore, it should be proceeded by “an.” The following sentence illustrates the correct usage:

An HIV positive patient was transferred to the nursing unit.

Here is an example of an abbreviation that begins with a consonant and is pronounced as a consonant; therefore, it is preceded by “a”:

A BID order for the drug was written last evening.

For more information about MLA or APA style writing software, contact us online here.


What Is the MLA Style Format?

With various formatting styles for writing a college paper, and switching between formatting styles for your different courses, itΓÇÖs easy to get confused about what the proper MLA style format guidelines you should apply actually are.

The MLA style format is one of a number of documentation and formatting styles that are used in writing scholastic papers. The majority of academic and research fields agree that every quote, reference and borrowed material within a scholarly paper should be credited to the source. However, documentation styles and conventions vary due to the different needs of the wide variety of different scholarly disciplines.

The MLA style format is generally quite a bit simpler, more straightforward and more concise than most of the other documentation styles. A hallmark feature of the MLA style is the usage of the parenthetical citation, which is linked up with an entry on an alphabetical list at the end of the paper. (This list of references is called the “Works Cited” page.)

“MLA” stands for the Modern Language Association of America. This is a long-standing, highly reputable organization in existence since 1883. The MLA style format is primarily used within the humanities, and in particular for papers on the topics of literature and language arts.

The MLA style has been widely utilized by many schools, universities, academic departments, professors and instructors for the past fifty or more years. MLA guidelines are also used by more than 1,100 scholarly and literary journals, academic newsletters and magazines. The MLA style format is also the favored formatting style used by numerous university and commercial presses. The Modern Language Association of America’s guidelines is implemented all throughout the continent of North America as well as other countries such as Brazil, China, India, Japan, and Taiwan.

The main considerations of formatting a paper in MLA style are as follows:

  • Document settings should employ 1-inch margins. The written content should be double-spaced using 12-point type.
  • There should be a Page Header on the upper right corner of every page. The Page Header should include the author’s name and the correct page number.
  • Include a Title Block on the first page, which should be comprised of the assignment information as well as an informative and creative title.
  • The paper should include Citations wherever applicable, crediting the sources used directly in the paper. Each Citation should be placed in the sentence near the idea you are paraphrasing or quoting or at the end of the sentence, with no comma between the author and page number. Also, the punctuation following (comma or period) belongs outside of the closing parentheses.
  • The paper should include a Works Cited list at the end, sorted alphabetically by author. (If the author is not known, sort by publisher, or if necessary, by title.) Each listing should include the author (or other identifier) with the last name, comma, then first name followed by a period. List the title in quotes, period. The publisher, publication city and year should follow the title.
  • Optionally include a Bibliography page after the Works Cited list. Format the Bibliography like the Works Cited list — alphabetically (as opposed to in the order of items cited.) The Bibliography should include ALL works used to create the paper, even if not cited directly in the paper.

Following the MLA style can feel tedious at times. Fortunately, our formatting software is available. This is a great option for those who want to streamline the paper-writing process and be able to rest assured that they are formatting their papers correctly.

David Plaut is the founder of Reference Point Software (RPS). RPS offers a complete suite of easy-to-use formatting template products featuring MLA and APA style templates, freeing up time to focus on substance while ensuring formatting accuracy. For more information, log onto or write to:
info @

Reference Point Software is not associated with, endorsed by, or affiliated with the American Psychological Association (APA) or with the Modern Language Association (MLA).