Papers: How to set up a template

Many of the tips I share in this series get a lot better the more papers you write. This is one of them. If you set up a template, it might not help you so much now. It definitely will help, though, the next time you write a paper. You won’t have to start from scratch each time.

First, open some kind of word processor and save this document as “Start File.” Now each time you start a paper, you can start with this template and avoid redoing all this.

Second, cover page. Here are some things to include: project type, project title, course title and number, professor’s name, of course your name, and the due date. Center all of this and write it in all caps. Put them in this order and space them out a bit (hitting ENTER) so they look nice.

Third, create a Table of Contents. This just looks professional and cool. Some professors want it or require it, but all will like it, as long as your paper has more than like five pages. Center the “Table of Contents” heading. Indent all the rest about two inches from the left. Make sure the page numbers show up.

Fourth, lay out some of your headings for your actual content. We’ll talk about this some more in a post on setting up your outline. For now, I’d just stick to these basics: Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Conclusion, and Bibliography (By the way, these headings are what you put in your Table of Contents). Italicize and center them.

Fifth, format the pages. One inch margins all around, page numbers and last name in the top right corners. Set the first page to “Cover page,” the second page to “Table of Contents,” and the third page to “First page” so page numbers won’t show up on them. The fourth page then, which will be the second page of your actual content, should be the first page that shows a page number, and that number should be #2.

Sixth, check fonts and footnote formats. These probably get decent formatting by default, but it’s good to check just to make sure. (By the way, I like to write single-spaced even if the final project is supposed to be double-spaced. This keeps me from having to scroll too much while writing and editing. Try both – do what works best for you.)

Seventh, be sure to save your document at this point.

Eighth, re-save the document as whatever your actual project will be called. Do this each time you start a new paper so you don’t save over your start file.

And that’s how to set up a template you can reuse for many papers to come, just update the details.