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 you’re 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 ‘you’, you may not refer to yourself as ‘I’. It’s 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 “persuades” 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 is depends on how much of it is analysis, how much is 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 is 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 people’s 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.
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 http://www.referencepointsoftware.com/ or write to:
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Reference Point Software is not associated with, endorsed by, or affiliated with the American Psychological Association (APA) or with the Modern Language Association (MLA).
Being able to write an essay is a vital part of any educational system, but simply listing ideas in a linear fashion may not always be enough. A lot of institutions will require a certain format that your paper must follow; prime examples would be the MLA, the APA, and the Chicago formats. That is precisely what this article is aimed to teach: proper essay formatting, a distinction between MLA format, APA format, and a Chicago style format. The application of these could range from high school to college essays, and they stand as the standard of college essay formatting.
Table Of Contents
Tips for Writing an Academic Paper
There isn’t one proper way of writing a paper, but there are solid guidelines to sustain a consistent workflow. Be it a college application essay, a research paper, informative essay, etc. There is a standard college essay writing format that you should follow. For easier access, the following outline will be divided into steps:
Choose A Good Topic
No matter how many times this is uttered in the classroom, a lot of students still struggle with picking out a good topic. The topic you choose should be specific enough so you can explore it in its entirety and hit your word limit if that’s a variable you worry about. With a good topic that should not be a problem. On the other hand, it should not be so broad that some resources would outweigh the information you could squeeze into one paper. Don’t be too specific or you will find that there is a shortage of information, but don’t be too broad or you will feel overwhelmed. Don’t hesitate to ask your instructor for help with your essay writing.
Start research as soon as possible
Before you even begin writing, make sure that you are acquainted with the information that you are working with. Find compelling arguments and counterpoints, trivia, facts, etc. The sky's the limit when it comes to gathering information.
Pick out specific, compelling resources
When you feel acquainted with the subject, you should be able to have a basic conversation on the matter. Pick out resources that have been bookmarked, saved or are very informative and start extracting information. You will need all you can get to put into the citations at the end of your paper. Stash books, websites, articles and have them ready to cite. See if you can subtract or expand your scope of research.
Always have a plan. This might be the most important phase of the process. If you have a strong outline and you have a particular goal in mind, it’ll be easy to refer to it when you might get stuck somewhere in the middle of the paper. And since you have direct links from the research you’ve done beforehand, the progress is guaranteed to be swift. Have a list of keywords if applicable that will surely boost the informational scope. With keywords specific to the subject matter of each section, it should be much easier to identify its direction and possible informational criteria.
Before you jot anything down into the body of your essay, make sure that the outline has enough information to back up whatever statement you choose to explore. Do not be afraid of letting creativity into your paper (within reason, of course) and explore the possibilities. Start with a standard 5 paragraph structure, and the content will come with time.
Before you know it, the draft is done, and it’s ready to be sent out for peer review. Ask a classmate, a relative or even a specialist if they are willing to contribute. Get as much feedback as you possibly can and work on it.
Before handing in the final draft, go over it at least one more time, focusing on smaller mistakes like grammar and punctuation. Make sure that what you wrote follows proper essay structure.
What is an Essay Format: Structure
Be it an academic, informative or a specific extended essay - structure is essential. For example, the IB extended essay has very strict requirements that are followed by an assigned academic style of writing (primarily MLA, APA, or Chicago):
- Title Page
- Abstract: comprised of 3 paragraphs, totaling about 300 words, with 100 words in each.
- Paragraph 1: must include research question, thesis and outline of the essay’s importance.
- Paragraph 2: Key resources, scope and limits of research, etc.
- Paragraph 3: Conclusion that you’ve already reached in your essay.
- Table of Contents (with page numbers)
- Research question
- Works cited (bibliography)
- Research question is required
- Bibliography (Works Cited)
This outline format for an extended essay is a great example to follow when writing a research essay, and sustaining a proper research essay format - especially if it is based on the MLA guidelines. It is vital to remember that the student must keep track of their resources to apply them to each step outlined above easily.
How to Write an Essay in MLA Format
To write an MLA format essay, one must follow a basic set of guidelines and instructions. This is a step by step:
- Font: 12pt Times New Roman
- Double spaced everywhere
- No extra spaces, especially between paragraphs
- Heading: Example of the heading on the first page of the essay (upper left corner)
- Your name (John Smith)
- Teacher’s / Professor’s name (Margot Robbie)
- The class (Depends on course/class)
- Date (20 April 2017)
- Margins: One-inch margin on the top, bottom, left and right.
- Page Numbers: Last name and page number must be put on every page of the essay as a “header”. Otherwise, it would go in place of the text.
- Title: There needs to be a proper essay title format, centered and above the first line of the essay of the same font and size as the essay itself.
- Indentation: Just press tab dude (1/2 inch, just in case)
- Align: Align to the left-hand side, and make sure it is aligned evenly.
It’s important to remember that the essay format of MLA is usually used in humanities, which differs from other types of academic writing that we’ll go into detail later. For now, feast your eyes upon an MLA sample essay format:
Essay in MLA Format Example
MLA vs. APA
Before we move on to the APA essay format, it is important to distinguish the two types of formatting. Let’s go through the similarities first:
- The formatting styles are similar: spacing, citation, indentation.
- All of the information that is used within the essay must be present within the works cited page (in APA, that’s called a reference page)
- Both use the parenthetical citations within the body of the paper, usually to show a certain quote or calculation.
- Citations are listed alphabetically on the works cited / reference page.
What you need to know about the differences is not extensive, thankfully:
- MLA is mostly used in humanities, while APA is focused more on social sciences. The list of sources has a different name (works cited - MLA / references - APA)
- Works cited differ on the way they display the name of the original content (MLA -> Yorke, Thom / APA -> Yorke T.)
- When using an in-text citation, and the author’s name is listed within the sentence, place the page number found at the end: “Yorke believes that Creep was Radiohead’s worst song. (4).” APA, on the other hand, requires that a year is to be inserted: “According to Yorke (2013), Creep was a mess.”
Alright, let’s carry over to the APA specifics.
How to Write an Essay in APA Format
The APA scheme is one of the most common college essay formats, so being familiar with its requirements is crucial. In a basic APA format structure, we can apply a similar list of guidelines as we did in the MLA section:
- Font: 12pt Times New Roman
- Spacing: Double-space that bad boy.
- Margins: One Inch margins on all sides.
- Page Numbers: Insert a header at the top left of every page that includes a shortened title of your essay, below 50 characters including punctuation. Slap a number in there too (top right corner).
- Title Page: Title of the paper, author’s name, institutional affiliation. Additional information may be required, such as course title, instructor name and date.
Note that some teachers and professors maybe have deviations to some of the characteristics that the APA format originally requires, such as those listed above.
The usage of Chicago style is prevalent in academic writing that focuses on the source of origin. This means that precise citations and footnotes are key to a successful paper.
Chicago Style Essay Format
The same bullet point structure can be applied to the Chicago style format.
- Title Page
- Chicago style title page is all about spacing.
- down the page should be the title, with regular text. If longer than one line, double-spaced.
- Next, in the very middle, center your full name.
- Down the page - course number, instructor’s name and the date in separate double-spaced lines.
- Margins: Use one-inch margins apart from the right side.
- Double spaced everywhere.
- No extra spaces, especially between paragraphs.
- Font: Times New Roman is the best choice (12pt)
- Page Numbers
- Last name, page number in the heading of every page on the top right
- Do not number the title page. The first page of text should start with a 2.
- Footnotes: The Chicago Style format requires footnotes on paraphrased or quoted passages.
- Bibliography: The bibliography is very similar to that of MLA. Gather the proper information and input it into a specialized citation site.
Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team
Ace Tutor, from EssayPro
The article accurately describes each kind of format style and is a great guide to each type of commonly used reference. One thing in particular that I would like to re-emphasize is that an essay without structure is not an essay at all. My advice is to follow your outline incredibly closely. If you have the urge to veer off the topic at some point in the essay, you always have an opportunity to include it in footnotes or endnotes of your essay (and in fact, it will make your work look more professional and well-researched).
Another comment that I’d like to make concerning essay format is that sometimes professors have their desires and preferences. You should always double-check with your instructor on specifics of formatting. Don’t worry about seeming unprofessional; in fact, you will come off as more considerate and attentive. Some referencing styles have small adjustable elements; for example, MLA format doesn’t require a title page, but your professor might want you to include one. If you clarify this with your teacher, then I guarantee they will think higher of you than of your peers.
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