How To Format Scientific Papers

How To Format Scientific Papers


Due to the varying requirements that different universities have for the different formatting styles, it can be fairly tricky to adhere to a definite modus operandi while formatting a scientific paper.

However, having knowledge about the general formatting of a scientific paper goes a long way.

This is because in order to understand and implement the specific requirements of different universities for the various formatting styles, one needs to be aware of what process the formatting entails.

Simply put, formatting is the process of structuring the paper in such a way as to ensure consistency throughout the paper and adhering to the style prescribed by the university.

You shall find in this article, a general checklist, which one must always remember to execute while formatting any scientific paper.

General Formatting

There are various aspects which one has to tend to while formatting a paper.

They are:

• Order of presentation

• Adherence to content requirement in different sections

• Alignment of the text

• Font type and size

• Margins of the pages

• Indentation of paragraphs

• Spacing of the text

• Tables and figures

All listed points must be formatted in context of the style which has been requested by the professor, supervisor, or the university.

Aspects like alignment of text, font type and size, margins, indentation, and spacing may be easily formatted as they are relatively easy to deal with because they have definite, quantifiable values.

However, aspects like order of presentation, cross-checking content requirement for different sections, cover page, and tables and figures require careful consideration.

In this article, we shall focus on the aforementioned aspects which, as mentioned, will require extensive interventions.

Order of Presentation and Content Requirement

The general order of a scientific paper is as follows:


The title must represent the crux of the paper clearly.

The title provides the author with a chance to establish reader engagement (bearing in mind that the first reader is the editor).

This first impression can be beneficial, as there is a big, fat chance that the reader might consider citing the work in his own paper.

Another reason that the title requires serious thought is because an author must always, humbly, acknowledge the fact that there are ample of scientific papers out there, which readers could easily choose from.

Editors and reviewers will thoroughly check the substantiality and aptness of the title.

Therefore, the title must be adequately brief.

The title must also, to all possible extent, be devoid of any verbiages or abbreviations.


The abstract section provides the author with the opportunity to justify his research.

It contains the summary of the research and that of the findings of the research.

The abstract also plays a pivotal role in selling the work to readers as it comes right after the title and provides a concise description of the research and its findings.

For this reason, even the abstract should be as devoid of all verbiages, abbreviations, and references as possible.


Keywords must not contain words that are already present in the title of the paper or any abbreviations, which are very general and not specific to the subject to the paper.

Keywords facilitate indexing of the paper and, therefore, require much thought as they have to be representative of the study and, at the same time, not reiterate the title.

Keywords need to be customized with reference to the guide that is provided by the supervisor, professor, or university for structuring the paper.

Main text

The structure of the main text follows in the (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussions) IMRAD format.

This means that it comprises the Introduction, which talks about what the author(s) has/have done and how the study is useful; the Methods, which describes the manner in which the study has been conducted; the Results, which consists of the findings that have been accomplished; and the Discussions, which adequately justifies the scope of the study.

Apart from these content requirements, authors must always consult the supervising body for any specifications and customizations required.


An informative conclusion, which communicates the benefits and advancements that the study is contributing to the field, is widely appreciated among scholars and readers alike.

It facilitates fair judgment of the study and clear understanding of the quantitative and qualitative findings.

Authors must refrain from reiterating points from the Abstract section and only include statements which provide concrete, meaningful justification of the study.

Limitations of current study and future scope of study can also be incorporated in this section.


This section can be utilized to extend gratitude to all persons who have contributed to the study.

However, it must not be exploited to the point where the author starts justifying his/her authorship.

For example, authors can mention all technical help and assistance they have received with writing and proofreading.

It might also be a good idea to acknowledge the agency that has provided funding for the study.


It is very much common to make formatting errors while creating a reference list.

It is, probably, the most demanding section of any paper as it involves extensive formatting.

Although, substantial amounts of in-text citations and references are encouraged, excessive use of the same in the reference section or the paper must also be avoided.

The reference list should include minimal personal communications, and must be devoid of unpublished observations, manuscripts submitted but not yet accepted for publication, that are not peer reviewed, grey literature, or articles not published in English.

The reference list and the in-text citation must strictly be consistent with style requested by the supervising body.

Lastly, the author must ensure the correct spelling of author names, year/date of publications, usage of ‘et al.’, punctuations, and mention of all references.

Tables and Figures

Tables and figures are extremely efficient tools that facilitate effective communication of results.

Since a paper is based on acquired data, illustrations are essential for unambiguous representation.

The decision of using tables or figures depends on whether the author wants to display actual experimental results (which requires a table), or whether he/she wants to draw comparisons of experimental results with those of previous works.

The author must ensure that the tables or figures do not reiterate information that has already been mentioned elsewhere in the paper.

The author must also ascertain that the tables and figures are self-explanatory, and considerably neat in their presentation.

They must be devoid of incomprehensible clutter or mapping.

The author must also be capable of identifying the formatting needs of tables and figures that are to be added, and must present them along with correct (required) captions in the paper, as specified by the supervising body.

If ever you have any queries to be discussed please write us the comments below.

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