Main Body

5 Chapter 5. How do I structure and format my paper?

Sandra Collins

In this last chapter, I focus on preparing your paper for submission. I provide a basic template for graduate papers that will help you format your title page and the body of your paper. You will also learn to properly format your reference list.

You are not typically required to provide an abstract, table of contents, list of figures, or list of tables in course assignments unless specifically specified by the instructor. These are often required for theses and other culminating activities of graduate programs, however. Please refer to the university’s thesis guidelines and the APA Manual for information on how to format them.

Please pay very careful attention to the final formatting of your paper. In a graduate course, failure to set the margins correctly or to use a hanging indent for your reference list could result in a lower grade. If the same errors exist in a paper you submit for publication to a professional journal, the submission could be rejected without review.

It is important to leave yourself at least three to four hours to complete the final formatting and proofreading of your paper. You may not need this much time, but I am almost always surprised at how much longer a task like this takes than I initially anticipated. After working hard to draft, revise, and edit your paper, it would be a shame to lose marks on these final details.

I also introduce a process for reviewing and final editing of your paper. I highlight the importance of peer review and provide tips for being an effective peer reviewer. By the end of the chapter, you should have everything you need to create high quality academic papers.

 

Creating appropriate headings

Your first task is to create appropriate headings for various sections of your paper. You may want to nest your headings according to their level of importance or the broader thematic clusters you created. The APA Manual provides a standard way to structure headings. Read APA Manual sections 3.02 to 3.03 to see the levels of headings and formatting used in professional writing. There are two steps to setting up appropriate headings.

 

Grouping key points under meaningful headings

Adding headings is another way to provide structure to the paper to ensure that the reader catches the meaning and flow of your argument. The key to using headings effectively is to select headings that flow naturally from your thesis statement and highlight the key points in your argument. If you have used appropriate structuring skills, you should be able to clearly identify the key points in your argument. You may create a heading for each key point (if you have only 4-6 points in your paper) or you may cluster several key points or subpoints together under broader themes.

In Table 5.1, I have provided the thesis statement and key points in the argument from a hypothetical graduate paper. In this case, the purpose of the paper is to support the need for further research in a particular area (e.g., highlight a research problem). The topic I have chosen is “Stresses on graduate health disciplines students.” Notice that, at this point, I have synthesized and integrated the literature to support each of my key points, including my thesis statement, because they reflect more than just my own ideas. Each key point is the first sentence in one of the sections of my paper, some of which have several paragraphs in them.

Table 5.1. Matching Headings to Thesis and Arguments

Thesis and arguments

Heading Structure

Thesis: As the economic downturn ripples through Canadian society, many graduate students find themselves struggling to manage their academic studies, while working, managing family commitments, and navigating other demands on their time and resources (Frost, Whetherton, Miles, & George, 2012; Williams et al., 2010). If both graduate students and graduate programs fail to attend to these emergent conditions, barriers are erected to student success and long-term career goals (Adams & Cassey, 2015; Monterey, 2014; Williams et al., 2010).

The thesis statement appears in my introduction.

There is no heading required for the introduction of a paper.

Argument key point 1: In many professions, including health disciplines such as counselling, graduate education is no longer an option; it is a core requirement for entry to the profession (James, 2015; Monterey, 2014). Access to the Profession
Argument key point 2: In recent years, the economic downturn has resulted in increased tuition costs concurrent with increased financial stresses on individuals and families (Monterey, 2014; Simms & Roberts, 2013). Financial Barriers
Argument key point 3: The average age of students entering most graduate programs has also increased, which means that many of them have immediate and extended family responsibilities and other economic, time, and relational demands (Frost et al., 2012; James, 2015; Jerry, 2013). Multiple Roles and Responsibilities
Argument key point 4: Student life has always come with its own stressors (Williams et al., 2010); however, there appears to be a trend towards increased (a) early withdrawals from graduate programs (Frost et al., 2012), (b) physical and mental health challenges among graduate students (Jerry, 2013; Williams, 2014), and (c) conflicts and tensions with peers and/or instructors that may be evidence of higher levels of stress (James, 2015; Jerry, 2013). Consequences of Over-Demand
Argument key point 5: Graduate health disciplines students are expected to engage in deeper levels of personal development as part of their educational process than liberal arts students, for example (Nuttgens, 2010; Wong, 2015). This intense reflective process may be challenging when a student is under stress, and it may increase overall stress levels (Nuttgens, 2010; Young & Smith, 2015). Depth of Engagement Required
Argument key point 6: Little recent research has been conducted specifically on graduate health disciplines students from the perspective of either supports for success (Adams & Cassey, 2015; Monterey, 2014; Wong, 2015) or means of eliminating existing barriers (Nuttgens, 2010; Wong, 2015). Gaps in the Research
Thesis restated: As I have demonstrated through my argument above, to ensure the success of health disciplines students, especially during times of systemic stress and high demand, it is important to investigate how graduate programs can be more accessible and responsive to students’ needs as well as how they can effectively work with students to ensure success.

Conclusion: Where To From Here?

My conclusion restates the thesis in a new way. I do not need to repeat my citations because I have supported these points in my paper. Any new ideas from other sources do require citations.

Note: The sample thesis statement, argument, and citations provided here have been constructed for the purpose of illustration and do not necessarily reflect the current scholarly literature.

The argument in Table 5.1 only has one level of headings throughout. However, there may be times when you require several levels of headings to highlight your argument, particularly for longer papers. In Table 5.2, I have taken the heading structure above and added another level of heading based on the subpoints in my paper. Notice that only two of the sections require additional headings.

Table 5.2. Headings and Subheadings

Main Headings

Subheadings

Access to the Profession
Financial Barriers
Multiple Roles and Responsibilities

Gender Roles: The Sandwich Generation

Balancing Education and Work

Consequences of Over-Demand

Early Withdrawals

Physical and Mental Health Challenges

Manifestations of Stress

Depth of Engagement Required
Gaps in the Literature

Here are some basic decision rules for generating appropriate headings:

  • Topics of similar importance or breadth should be at the same heading level.
  • If you want to create subheadings within a section, there should be a minimum of two subheadings (two subsections) under each main heading.
  • Do not simply create a heading for every key point in your argument. Several related key points may be clustered under a single heading, especially if each key point is presented in a single paragraph.
  • If certain points of the argument logically group together in a subsection, create a heading to introduce them.
  • Choose a heading that captures the meaning of that section of the paper. I encourage you to be creative, but if you choose “Cat Up a Tree” as your heading, you may want to add a subheading to clarify your meaning, “Cat Up a Tree: Everyone Needs Help Now and Then.”

There is no right way of wording your headings; however, there are more or less effective ways. You should choose a structure that will make the flow of your argument most clear to your readers. You may also want to return to the assignment criteria to ensure that your heading structure makes the link to the assessment criteria clear.

Once you have finalized the structure of your headings, write them out without the key points and refine the wording. Notice in Table 5.2 that all of my headings and subheadings begin with a noun except for “Balancing Education and Work,” so I would choose to reword it as “Education and Work Balance” to ensure parallelism in my headings.

The Purdue University Online Writing Lab – Four Main Components for Effective Outline provides some additional tips for creating effective headings.

 

Formatting headings according to APA style

Once you have established the layout and wording of your headings, ensure that you place them in your paper using the APA formatting guidelines. The APA Manual (3.03) provides examples of how to format headings. Use the following guidelines to select an appropriate style of heading:

  • Count the number of levels in your heading structure. In Table 5.1 there was only one level; in 5.2 there are two levels.
  • Refer to the APA Manual for the styles of headings that apply to those levels of heading structures (in this case, two levels).
  • Rework your heading structure to match the appropriate heading styles. Pay attention to centring or indenting, capitalization, and punctuation in each style of heading.

Figure 5.1 illustrates how my paper might look if I used the headings and subheadings from Table 5.2.

ch5fig1

Figure 5.1. Formatting headings and subheadings.

For additional examples of how various levels of headings should appear in your paper, see the University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Centre – APA Headings. Please note that the size of the headings and spacing have been increased in this example to make the headings stand out. Do not do this in your paper!

Exercise 1

Complete Exercise 1 to test your ability to create appropriate APA-style headings for papers with various organizational structures (levels of headings). Suggested responses are provided in the Exercise 1 Feedback. If you are still struggling with the use of appropriate headings, reread the appropriate sections of the APA Manual.

 

Formatting your document

Your next task in the final editorial process is to make sure that your whole document is properly formatted. Read sections 8.03 and 8.07 in the APA Manual. There are a few simple guidelines that you must follow:

  • Make sure your document is displayed on letter-size pages.
  • Set the view to page layout.
  • Set your margins to one inch in all directions.
  • Use Times New Roman font, size 12 throughout.
  • Set the line spacing to double (or 2).
  • Make sure no extra line space is added between paragraphs.
  • Save your document using the file name template – “last name _ course number and section _ assignment number”, e.g., “Collins_FHD631A_Assignment3.docx.”

Tech Tip

Set margins and page size:

  • On a PC, go to the “Page Layout” tab in Word. Use the “Margins” and “Orientation” selections.
  • On a Mac, go to the “Format” menu in Word and select “Document.” Use the “Margins” and “Layout” (select “Page Setup” at the bottom of this page) tabs.

Select page layout view:

  • Go to the “View” menu and select “Print Layout” (on a PC) or “Page Layout” on a Mac.

Set line spacing:

  • Go to the “Format” menu and select “Paragraph.”

Set font:

  • Hit “Control-a” to select all (or “Command-a” on your Mac) to select all text in your document. Then select the font type and size from the “Formatting” menu bar

Please note: The formatting of your thesis or other culminating experience in your graduate program may differ slightly from these norms. Please review the information in the APA Manual, specifically the chapter titled “Publication Process” and the specific guidelines of your university or faculty. See the AU Faculty of Graduate Studies Format for Theses and Dissertations.

Exercise 2

Complete Exercise 2 to experiment with setting up a word document to properly format your paper.

 

Order of document components

The contents of your document should be presented in a specific order. Please note that each of these elements begins on a new page:

  • Title page
  • Body of paper
  • References
  • Appendices

I have not included tables and figures as separate entries. For papers in most graduate programs, tables and figures may be integrated into the text of your paper rather than being placed at the end of the document as indicated in the APA Manual (see the tables and figures discussion below). In addition, you must be very careful with the use of appendices. Do not put anything in an appendix that is essential to the grading of your paper; in other words, do not use this as a way to by-pass a page maximum. Appendices should include supplementary or background material, and they are rarely used in graduate papers.

Tech Tip

Here is how to keep parts of your paper on specific pages:

  1. Set your cursor in front of the heading or first line of the page.
  2. Go to the “Insert” tab and select “Page break.”
  3. Insert a page break only between each of these major sections of your paper (title page, body, and references).
  4. Do not put page breaks within the body of your paper.
  5. To prevent a heading from falling on the last line of a page, follow these steps:
    • Click on the heading.
    • Click on “Format” then “Paragraph” then “Line and Page Breaks.”
    • Enable the “Keep with next” check box.
  6. To move the first line of a paragraph to the next page (e.g., keep the paragraph together on one page), follow these steps:
    • Click on the paragraph.
    • Select “Format” then “Paragraph” then “Line and page breaks.”
    • Enable the “Keep lines together” check box.

 

Selecting a title

By the time you have organized your paper into a continuous and logical argument and framed that argument within a clear heading structure, you are unlikely to make other major changes to your original purpose or thesis statement. So, now is the time to select an appropriate title for your paper. As you create your title, pay attention to the following criteria:

  • Descriptiveness: State the topic clearly and succinctly. Identify the core content.
  • Brevity: Keep your title to 10 to 12 words. Draft your title and then eliminate extra words that do not add new meaning.
  • Breadth: Indicate the scope or breath of the topic, providing a summary of the content of the paper.
  • Creativity: Do not simply restate your purpose or thesis statement in the assignment heading.
  • Responsiveness: Attend to the particular audience of the writing.

You should also be able to easily shorten the title to create a running head for your paper.

Activity

Analyze the title I used in Figure 5.1, “Optimizing the Success of Health Disciplines Graduate Students,” against the criteria above. Make any improvements that you feel are appropriate. Come up with a shortened version that could be used as a running head.

 

Title page

Each paper must have a separate title page, set up as follows:

  • A page header: In the upper left-hand corner of each page, insert a brief version of your title (50 characters maximum, all uppercase) and, on the same line in the upper right-hand corner, insert the page number. Note: On the title page ONLY, include “Running head:” in front of the short title. Do not type this on each page of the document; insert it only once using the header function in Word.
  • Information about your paper: Centre this information in the middle of the title page, double space, and include the following. Do not bold or italicize any of this information.

Title of the Paper

Your Name

Course Number – Section letter – Semester Year

Assignment Number: Assignment Name

Tech Tip

This is how to create a page header:

  1. Go to the “Insert” tab in Word and select “Header.” Use the normal “Home” tab functions to align your text to the right in the header. Click on the Page Number on the “Insert” tab to insert the page number.
  2. Do not type in the page number manually; if you do, it will not automatically change as the pages advance.
  3. To create a different header (e.g., running head) for page 2 forward, click on “Format” then “Document.” Choose the “Layout” window and select “Different First Page.”

See Figure 5.2 for an example of how to set up your title page and the first page of your document. For additional details on how to prepare a title page (especially for documents you are submitting for publication), read Section 8.03 of the APA Manual.

ch5fig2

Figure 5.2. Running head, title page, and first page of your paper.

Exercise 3

Complete Exercise 3 to continue the process of properly formatting your paper. Use Figure 5.2 to guide you and to double-check your set up.

Formatting the body of the paper

The body of your paper should flow continuously from one page to the next. Here are some formatting guidelines for editing this part of your paper. You may also want to review Sections 8.03 and 8.07 and the sample papers at the end of Chapter 2 of the APA Manual.

  • Place your title on the first line of the first page of text (typically page 2), above the first paragraph of your text. Do not insert an “Introduction” heading; begin the text of the introduction directly below the title. See Figure 5.2 above. Remember to double-space everything.
  • Set the indent for your paragraphs to 0.5 inches (1.27 centimeters). Although the APA Manual suggests that you use the Tab key, I find it much easier to automate the indent function (see Tech Tip below). Note: For level 1 and 2 headings, you will want to remove the indent.
  • Insert only one space after the period between sentences (see Section 4.01 of the APA Manual). Although two spaces are recommended in the APA Manual for draft manuscripts, published works typically have one space. I recommend that you stick with one space in most of your writing, unless specifically instructed to add the extra space.
  • Review your headings to ensure they are all double-spaced, without any additional space before or after them. Do not start a new page unless your heading falls on the last line of a page with no text below it.
  • Double-check your quotations 40 words or more to ensure they are block-indented 0.5 inches (1.27 centimeters) from the left margin.
  • Only include numbered lists within your paper to highlight a series of sequential points, where numbering them provides more clarity. Lists within a sentence are numbered as (a) point one . . ., (b) point two . . ., and (c) point three. . . . If there are commas within the points, use semicolons to separate them. Points listed in separate paragraphs are numbered as illustrated in Figure 5.3. Note that the punctuation will differ if the points are not each full sentences – see the APA Manual section 3.04. If there is no chronological relationship among the points, use bullets rather than numbers, as I have done in the list you are now reading.

ch5 - Figure 5.3. Example of seriation of points with logical progression.

Figure 5.3. Example of seriation of points with logical progression.

Tech Tip

There are two ways to create a paragraph indentation:

  • Highlight all of your text. Go to the “Page layout” tab in Word and select the arrow in the “Paragraph” area. On the pop-up page, under “Indentation,” select “First line” from the drop-down menu under “Special.” The next box should automatically change to “0.5 inches;” if it does not, change it.
  • Go to the “View” tab in Word and ensure that the “Ruler” is selected. You should see a ruler at the top of your Word document. Highlight all of your text and place your mouse on the top triangle of the left ruler mark. Drag the top portion to the 0.5 inch (1.27 centimeters) mark on the ruler.

Use either of these approaches to remove extra spacing after headings or between paragraphs:

  • Highlight the appropriate text. Go to “Format” and select “Paragraph.” Under “Spacing” ensure that both “Before” and “After” spacing is set to “0 pt.”
  • Click on the Line Spacing box in the middle of the lower row of boxes, select “Line Spacing Options” from the bottom of the drop down menu, and then select “Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style.”

 

Exercise 4

Complete Exercise 4 to continue to build your paper, focusing on format within the body of the paper. Check out Figure 5.4 below to double-check your work.

ch5 – Figure 5.4a. Formatting within the body of the paperch5 – Figure 5.4b. Formatting within the body of the paperch5 – Figure 5.4c. Formatting within the body of the paperFigure 5.4. Formatting within the body of the paper.

 

Inserting tables and figures

For most graduate papers, you will likely not included tables and figures. However, if you do, I suggest you insert them directly into the body of your paper not into an appendix as suggested in the APA Manual (5.04 to 5.30). The APA guidelines are intended primarily for submission of papers to professional journals; once the journals publish the papers, the tables are inserted into the article. Inserting tables and figures directly into the body of the paper makes the paper more readable. Refer to the APA Manual if you need guidance for setting up tables and figures. A sample table and figure have been added to page 5 of our evolving sample paper in Figures 5.5 and 5.6 to demonstrate how you would insert these directly into your graduate paper. Arial font, size 11, may be used within figures or tables. Some formatting tips are provided in APA Manual Section 8.07 and in the Sample Papers section at the end of Chapter 2.

ch5fig5Figure 5.5. Inserting figures within the body of the paper.

ch5fig6Figure 5.6. Inserting tables within the body of the paper.

 

Formatting your reference list

In Chapter 4, you learned how to format references for various sources of information. You now have to organize your individual references into a complete reference list. The APA Manual provides a number of criteria for ordering entries in a reference list, which are summarized in Table 5.3.

Table 5.3. Ordering reference list entries

Issue

Principle(s)

Examples

APA Source

Alphabetical order
  • Use all letters to create alphabetical order, including initials.
  • Nothing precedes all letters.
  • M’, Mc, and Mac are ordered by alphabet.

Edwards, J. preceded Edwin, M.

Edwards, J. precedes Edwards, R. V

Edward, W. precedes Edwards, R.

MacDonald preceded M’Angles

M’Angles precedes McDonald

6.25
Works by same author
  • Identical authors are arranged by year.
  • Same author and same date are arranged alphabetically by title and identified by a b c.

Berry, J. (1999) precedes Berry, J. (2001)

Berry, J. (1999a). A template . . .  precedes Berry, J. (1999b). Models . . .

6.25
Works by same first author
  • Single author works precede multiple author works.
  • Multiple author works are arranged alphabetically by author.

Frances, J. precedes Frances, J., & James, R.

Frances, J., & James, R. precedes Frances, J., & Stevens, W.

6.25
Organization as author
  • Order by first significant word in organization name.

The Psychology Network. (2003) . . . precedes

Society for Wellness. (2003) . . .

6.25, 7.03(35)
No author
  • Order alphabetically by first significant word in title.
The Encyclopedia of modern medicine 6.25
Documents “in press”
  • In-press documents should follow published documents by same author.
  • Newest items come last when an author has multiple works.

Crawford, R. I. (2004) . . .

precedes

Crawford, R. I. (in press) . . .

 

 

Multiple “in press” documents
  • Order “In press” documents by same author alphabetically by title and identify by a b c.

Crawford, R. I. (in press-a). Beginning . . . precedes

Crawford, R. I. (in press-b). Open . . .

6.25

 

 

Exercise 5

Exercise 5 provides you with an opportunity to practice correctly ordering references. Once you have completed this exercise, compare your responses to Exercise 5 Answers.

To complete the formatting of your reference list, follow these basic APA rules:

  • Start the reference list on a new page.
  • Centre the “References” heading (no bold).
  • Double-space all entries.
  • Use hanging indents (0.5 inches or 1.27 centimeters) for each entry.

Tech Tip

Create a hanging indent.

Do not use the tab key to indent the second and subsequent lines of a reference. Instead, create a hanging indent. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Highlight all reference entries. Go to the “Page Layout” tab in Word and select “Paragraph.” On the pop-up page, under “Indentation,” select “Hanging” from the drop-down menu under “Special.” The next box should automatically change to “0.5 inches;” if it does not, change it.
  2. Go to the “View” menu in Word and ensure that the “Ruler” is selected. You should see a ruler at the top of your Word document. Highlight all reference entries, and place your mouse on the bottom triangle of the left ruler mark. Drag the bottom portion to the 1.27 cm (0.5 inch) mark on the ruler.

For references that include a DOI or URL, you must decide whether to include active hyperlinks (e.g., embedded links such that the reader is taken directly to the webpage when they click on the DOI or URL). I usually leave the links active until this last step, so that I can double check that I have included the correct DOI or URL for each entry. Then if the paper will only be read in print form, remove all the hyperlinks. For papers submitted and/or read electronically, you may want to include the links so the reader can find your sources easily; however, you may want to change the format to avoid distraction (see below). For course assignments, I recommend keeping the links visible, so that the reader can access the resource easily. Here are a few tips for formatting both DOIs and URLs:

  •  The APA Style blog suggests changing the font to black, removing bold font, and removing the underline, so that active links do not distract from other content in the reference list. However, for course assignments, I recommend you simply leave the links as is.
  • For active links, do not break the links by inserting spaces or line breaks because the DOI or URL will no longer be functional. The active link may be maintained by clicking “Shift + Enter” where you want to split or break the URL.
  • If you are removing the hyperlinks, you can insert breaks into the DOI or URL to carry it over neatly to the next link. Do not insert a “-” (dash); instead, use the “Return” (or “Enter”) button to carry over to the next line.
  • Place the line break in hyperlinks before a slash, dash, or other punctuation.
  • Double-check your links right before you submit the paper. If one no longer works, try to find the new URL for it or replace the source with something else.
  • Whether you leave or remove hyperlinks, do so consistently throughout the reference list.

Tech Tip

If you choose to remove hyperlinks, here are the steps:

  • Using a Mac, hit the control key and click on the URL, select “Edit hyperlink” and then select “Remove link.”
  • Using a PC, right click on the URL and select “Remove hyperlink.”

See Figure 5.7 for an example of how the reference list in my fictional paper is formatted. The following pages, provide additional information:

ch5fig7

Figure 5.7. Formatting a reference list with active hyperlinks.

 

Exercise 6

Complete Exercise 6 to add references to the paper you are building. Compare your formatting to Figure 5.7 above.

 

Once you have reached this stage, you have a final product that has been carefully edited and formatted. I hope you feel very pleased with the work you have done! Now it is time to set your paper aside for a few days or even a week before you do the final proofread.

I am constantly amazed at how many times I can read over the same piece of writing and still find writing or formatting errors. The problem is that I am not reading with fresh eyes. I see what I have in my mind, not what is actually on the page. It is very important for me to set a document aside for a significant period of time (as least several days) before I do my final proofread.

I have also found that having someone else read over my work is essential. I have several colleagues whom I work with regularly, and we review each other’s work. I also negotiate with my spouse and friends to review documents—as long as the content will not bore them to death! Your classmates are a very important resource to ensure your success in academic writing. Please share your work before your instructor sees it. You will learn from the feedback you receive, and you will learn from providing feedback to others.

Sandra

 

Final review

Once you have set your paper aside and cleared your head, you will find it easier to catch your own errors or to identify areas where the paper does not flow as well as you would like. Here are a few tips for proofreading that you may find useful:

  1. On your first review, skip the introduction and conclusion. Read only the first and last sentence of each paragraph in the body of your paper to make sure you have used topic sentences (key points) and structuring skills effectively and have articulated your argument clearly.
  2. Then reread the introduction and conclusion. What you say you will do in the introduction should be apparent in the flow of your arguments and summarized briefly in the conclusion.
  3. Finally, carefully read through each paragraph to ensure that you have followed all the writing and editorial guidelines provided in the course. You may want to try reading your paper aloud to highlight for yourself any run-on sentences (you will run out of breath) or complex, repetitive, or unclear wording.
  4. Go back to the checklists in the summaries of previous chapters to make sure you have not missed anything.
  5. Print your paper and review all structural elements of the formatting: page layout, spacing, order of components, and so on.
  6. Run a final spell check and grammar check.
  7. Fowler, Aaron, and McArthur (2005) suggested that you read your paper backwards, one sentence at a time, to review the grammatical structure and punctuation of each sentence (this will prevent you from being distracted by the points you are trying to make).

The Purdue University Online Writing Lab – Where Do I Begin? provides some additional ideas about how to proofread effectively.

 

Peer review

I strongly recommend that you set up a buddy system early on in your program or in each of your classes. Find at least one person ready to exchange papers and do a peer review before you submit them. Work out a timeline and stick to it. You may want to use the questions at the end of each chapter as a guide for your peer review process. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center –  Conducting Peer Reviews provides some useful tips.

 

Professional Editing

Students sometimes choose to hire a professional editor for their graduate papers. Some programs will have specific regulations related to this practice. Generally, there is a distinction made between the following points:

  • Copy editing (e.g., corrections of spelling, grammar, and formatting); and
  • Substantive editing (e.g., addition of content, reworking ideas, changing overall conceptualization, and refining or altering the nature of your arguments).

In most programs, you are free to use an editor for copy editing, once you have completed your paper. The downside of this practice is that it is very expensive, and it may take away from your own mastery of these professional writing skills. However, if you use it as a learning experience, integrating the feedback you receive to improve your writing, it can be beneficial.

On the other hand, most graduate programs do not permit you to engage an editor for substantive editing, because the final paper is no longer evidence of your work, your writing skills, or your critical thought. Even when you engage in peer review, you must take responsibility to integrate the feedback and revise your paper.

Depending on the breadth and depth of the changes introduced made by an editor, you may be putting yourself in a position where your ownership of your work is called into question. It is considered cheating to have someone else write or rewrite parts of your paper for you.

 

Summary

The Vanguard University APA Style Guide – APA Style Essentials provides a useful summary of some of the formatting rules outlined in this chapter. You may also want to review the APA Style – Basics of APA Style Tutorial. If any questions about the formatting of your paper arise from your final proofread, remember that there is a sample paper provided in the APA Manual (see the end of Chapter 2). It is also available online and is a bit easier to read in this format: See the Sample One-Experiment Paper. You can answer many of your formatting questions by following the examples provided in the sample paper in this chapter as well as the one provided by APA.

Here are some additional questions for editorial reflection based on the principles in this chapter:

  • Do your margins and font size reflect APA formatting?
  • Is your title page accurately formatted?
  • Have you placed a running head appear on each page, and is it different after the first page?
  • Have you placed page numbers in the upper right corner of each page?
  • Have you double-spaced the entire paper?
  • Have you deleted unnecessary white space between headings or paragraphs?
  • Have you indented paragraphs, text in lists, and block quotations 05. inches (1.27 centimeters)?
  • Have you placed references on a separate page?
  • Have you double-spaced all references and used a hanging indent?
  • Do all of your active hyperlinks lead to the correct sources?

Congratulations! You have now covered the basics of professional writing in considerable detail. I hope this will put you well on the path of mastering the principles that will enable you to think and write critically, respect the work of others in your writing, clearly articulate and support your position, communicate you ideas effectively, and follow the APA guidelines for formatting your work.

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