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Research papers are a major part of the curriculum for a wide variety of subjects in high school and college, especially the humanities and social sciences. In a research paper, you create a thesis statement that makes a claim, and use data and evidence from your research to support that thesis.
In the body of your paper, you may need to arrange some key points or elements into a list. Listing items in a research paper can vary, based on what format you’re using. Depending on the subject area, you will probably be required to use either APA or MLA formatting. APA, developed by the American Psychological Association, is the gold standard in the natural sciences, like biology and physics, and the social sciences, like psychology and cultural anthropology. MLA, developed by the Modern Language Association, is used for the humanities, like literature, art history, and cultural studies. Different formats have different specifications for listing items within your research paper.
Listing items is a useful tool to delineate relevant items in a way that’s clear, easy to read, and visually accessible. Because a list format is so widely used, some style guidelines provide rules for listing items, which you should follow if you’re required to use that style for your paper.
Listing in APA Format
In APA style, you will generally list items by using bullet points. You should introduce the list with a sentence that is followed by a colon. The first letter of each item is capitalized, and you can use semicolons after each point if it’s appropriate to do so.
Here’s an example:
“The following is a list of items:
Do aren’t required to indent, although it isn’t prohibited either. Using indentation can be a useful stylistic feature by visually setting your list apart from the surrounding paragraphs.
Listing Items in MLA Format
The official MLA guidelines actually don’t specify any rules for lists. You are allowed to use bullet points, but it’s more common to use numbered lists. For example:
In MLA, you have quite a bit of freedom and flexibility. Use whatever format makes the most sense in the context of your paper. Sometimes, bullet points may be more appropriate, whereas in other cases, it might make sense to use a numerical listing format. You could also use an alphabetic format, like:
However, bullet points and numerical lists are much more commonly used.