Learn the Standard Essay Format: MLA- APA- Chicago Styles

The ability to write an essay is an essential part of any student’s education. However, it is not simply a matter of listing ideas in a linear fashion. Many institutions will demand that your paper adhere to a specific format; prime examples would be a basic essay format such as MLA, APA, or Chicago. This article explains clearly the differences between the MLA, APA, and Chicago formatting styles. These can be used for anything from high school to college essays, and they are the industry standard for college essay formatting. GradeOffice — an essay writing service that will make a difference!

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What is the Structure of an Essay Format?

Structure is essential when writing an academic, informative, or specific extended essay. For instance, the IB extended essay has very strict standards that must be followed by an assigned academic writing style (primarily MLA, APA, or Chicago):

  • Title Page
  • Abstract: consists of three paragraphs totaling about 300 words, each with 100 words.
  • Paragraph 1: must provide a research question, thesis, and an outline of the significance of the essay.
  • Paragraph 2: The scope and limits of research, as well as its key resources, etc.
  • Paragraph 3: Conclusion that you’ve already completed your essay.
  • Table of Contents (with page numbers)
  • Research question
  • Thesis
  • Introduction
  • Arguments
  • Sub-headings
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix
  • Works cited (bibliography)
  • Introduction
  • The research question is required
  • Body
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography (Works Cited)

This extended essay outline format is a good sample to follow when writing a research essay and maintaining a thorough research essay format – particularly if it is based on MLA guidelines. It is critical to remember that the student must keep track of their resources in order to easily apply them to each of the steps listed above.

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How to Complete an Essay Using MLA Format

A basic set of guidelines and instructions must be followed when writing an essay in MLA format. Here is a step-by-step procedure:

  • Font: 12pt Times New Roman
  • Spacing:
  • Double spaced everywhere
  • No extra spaces, especially between paragraphs
  • Heading: Sample of the heading on the first page of the paper (upper left corner)
  • Your name (Angela Smith)
  • Teacher’s / Professor’s name (Malcom Robin)
  • The class (According to the course/class)
  • Date (20 April 2017)
  • Margins: One-inch margin on the top, bottom, left and right.
  • Page Numbers: Every page of the essay must have a “header” with the author’s last name and page number. Otherwise, it would replace the text.
  • Title: There must be a proper essay title format, which should be centered and above the first line of the essay, in the same font and size as the essay itself.
  • Indentation: Just press tab (1/2 inch, just in case)
  • Align: Align to the left-hand side and ensure that it is evenly aligned.


MLA guidelines

It’s important to keep in mind that the MLA essay format is typically used in the humanities, which varies from other types of academic writing discussed later. For the time being, take a look at an MLA format essay sample:

Sample of an Essay in MLA Format

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Before we get into the APA essay format, it’s important to understand the difference between the two types of formatting. Let’s start with the similarities:

  • The formatting styles are similar in terms of spacing, citation, and indentation.
  • All of the information used in the essay must be evident on the works cited page (also known as a reference page in APA).
  • Both use parenthetical citations within the body of the paper, usually to show a specific quote or calculation.
  • On the works cited / reference page, citations are written alphabetically.

Fortunately, what you need to know about the differences isn’t complicated:

  • MLA style is most commonly used in the humanities, whereas APA style is more commonly used in the social sciences. The sources are labeled differently (works cited – MLA / references – APA).
  • Works cited vary in how the name of the original content is displayed (MLA -> Yorke, Thom / APA -> Yorke T.)
  • During in-text citation and the author’s name appears within the sentence, include the page number at the end: “Yorke believes Creep was Radiohead’s worst song. (4)” The APA, on the other hand, needs a year: “According to Yorke (2013), Creep was a mess.”

Let us now move on to the APA style guidelines.

How to Complete an Essay Using APA Format

Because the APA scheme is one of the most commonly used college essay formats, understanding its requirements is critical. We can use a similar set of guidelines in an APA format structure as used in the MLA section:

  • Font: 12pt Times New Roman
  • Spacing: Use Double-spacing.
  • Margins: One Inch margins on all sides.
  • Page Numbers: Insert a header at the top left of each page with a shortened title of your essay that is less than 50 characters long (including punctuation). Indicate a number in there as well (top right corner).
  • Title Page: The title of the paper, the author’s name, and the institution’s affiliation are all required. Additional details, like the course title, instructor name, and date, may be necessary.


It should be noted that some teachers and professors may deviate from some of the APA format’s original requirements, such as those listed above.

Sample of APA Format Essay


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Chicago Style

The Chicago style is commonly used in academic writing that concentrates on the source of origin. This means that exact citations and footnotes are essential for a well-written paper.

Chicago Style Essay Format

The same bullet point format can be used in a Chicago essay.

  • Title Page
  • The spacing on a Chicago style title page is crucial.
  • The title should be at the bottom of the page, followed by regular text. If you have more than one line, double-space it.
  • Then, in the very center, write your full name.
  • Down the page, in separate double-spaced lines, write the course number, instructor’s name, and the date.
  • Margins: Use one-inch margins on all sides except the right.
  • Spacing
  • Everything is double spaced.
  • There should be no extra spaces, especially between paragraphs.
  • Font: The best font to use is Times New Roman (12pt).
  • Page Numbers
  • Last name and page number in the top right corner of every page
  • The title page should not be numbered. The first page of the text should begin with a number two.
  • Footnotes: Footnotes are required on paraphrased or quoted passages in the Chicago format.
  • Bibliography: The bibliography is very similar to MLA’s. Collect the necessary information and enter it into a specialized citation site.


Chicago style guidelines


For a full guide please visit Chicago Style

Video Tutorial on Essay Format:


How to Write an Academic Paper?

There is no one correct way to write a paper, but there are solid guidelines to follow in order to maintain a consistent workflow. Whether it’s a college application essay, a research paper, an informative essay, or something else. You should adhere to a standard essay format. The following outline will be broken down into steps for ease of access:

Select the Best Topic

Many students struggle with coming up with a good topic for their essays. If word count is a concern, the topic you choose should be specific enough that you can explore it in its entirety while staying within your word limit. That shouldn’t be a problem with a good topic. On the other hand, it should not be so broad that some resources outweigh the information that can be crammed into a single paper. Don’t be too specific or you’ll run out of information, but don’t be too broad either or you’ll feel overwhelmed. Don’t be afraid to ask your instructor for assistance with your essay writing.

Begin your research as soon as possible

Make sure you are familiar with the information you are working with before you start writing. Find compelling arguments and counter-arguments, trivia, facts, and so on. When it comes to gathering data, the sky is the limit.

Select Specific, Appealing Resources

When you feel comfortable with the subject, you should be able to hold a simple conversation about it. Select resources that have been bookmarked, saved, or are extremely informative and begin extracting information. You’ll need everything you can get for the citations at the end of your paper. Keep books, websites, and articles on hand and ready to cite. Check to see if you can narrow or broaden the scope of your research.

Develop an Outline

Always have a strategy in place. This could be the most crucial stage of the process. If you have a solid essay outline and a specific goal in mind, it will be easy to relate to it when you get caught in the middle of the paper. And because you have direct links from your prior research, the progress is guaranteed to be rapid. A list of keywords, if applicable, will undoubtedly broaden the scope of the information. With keywords specific to the subject matter of each chapter, identifying its direction and potential informational requirements should be much easier.

Develop a Draft

Before you begin writing anything in the body of your essay, ensure that the outline contains enough information to support whatever statement you choose to investigate. Allow for some creativity in your paper (within reason, of course) and suggest possible solutions. Begin with a standard 5-paragraph structure, and the content will follow.

Request Peer Review of Your Academic Paper

The draft will be completed and ready for peer review before you know it. Ask a second eye if they would be willing to help. Gather as much feedback as possible and work on it.

Final Draft

Before submitting the final draft, go over it at least once more, focusing on minor errors such as grammar and punctuation. Be certain that what you wrote adheres to proper essay structure.