An accepted practice for a writer is to use resources other than their own ideas when producing essays and other document types. However, if you use other sources, it is mandatory that you acknowledge your sources. Even if you are not using direct quotations from other written work, any reference material that formed part of your work was authored by another party so must be cited in an acknowledgement. In citing your sources, you are attributing relevant sections of your work to that party and acknowledging their contribution to your own work. Prescribed guidelines are available on the means of documenting citations such as the use of endnotes, footnotes or notes in parenthesis within your body text. A separate page, dedicated as a reference section and also known as a bibliography, should be added at the end of an essay.

The citation style used will depend on the essay format styles you select from the available options. The four most popular styles in the various fields of academic writing are: 

  1. American Psychology Association (APA) is common to texts in the fields of social sciences e.g. sociology, psychology, etc.
  2. Modern Language Association (MLA) is common to texts in humanitarian subjects, art and literature.
  3. Chicago and Turabian styles are commonly used for historical subject matter.


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Guidelines on Essay Format Styles

  1. The standard margin size is 1" for top and bottom margins and 1.25" for left and right margins.
  2. Standard essay writing uses double spacing. This allows the instructor to place editing marks and comments in your text.
  3. Unless contrary instructions are given, the essay text should be aligned to the left margin. If you have to handwrite your essay (instead of word processor), use a straight-edged object to align your text to an angle of 90% vertically.
  4. Stick to a standard font type and size e.g. "Times New Roman, 12 point.
  5. Print your essay on single sided paper only.
  6. Choose standard white paper (8.5" x 11").
  7. Indent your paragraphs by one tab (or five spaces) for clarity; do not leave additional gaps between paragraphs.
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Page Numbering

With essay format styles, a title page, when provided, should not be numbered. The first page of text is numbered 1. This page can be left unnumbered or numbered in the top right hand corner or centered at the bottom. Subsequent numbering should appear in the top right hand corner of every page.

Page numbering should be displayed as numbers only. In essays, it is unconventional to use abbreviated text e.g. "pg. 5" or descriptions such as "page 1 of 6".

MLA style requires page number to be prefixed by the writer's surname e.g. Smith 4. MLA also requires that the numbers of essay text pages appear in the top right hand corner.


Where external sources have contributed to your essay, you must indicate these sources in a works citation page, appended to your essay. The format for recording your sources will vary according to the source type of your research material, e.g. magazine, book or website. The works citation page may also vary along according to the citation format adopted in the body of your text.


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