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CBE manuscript format

Although the style manual of the Council of Biology Editors does not include manuscript guidelines for student papers, most instructors will want you to format your manuscript in ways consistent with common scientific practice. The following guidelines for student writers have been adapted from CBE advice directed to professional authors. When in doubt, check with your instructor. See our sample pages of a college biology paper.

Use good-quality 8 ½" x 11" white paper. If the paper emerges from the printer in continuous strips, remove the feeder strips from the sides of the paper and assemble the pages in order. Secure the pages with a paper clip.

Begin a college paper with an unnumbered title page. Center all information on the page: the title of your paper, your name, the name of the course, and the date. See our sample title page.

Although the title page is unnumbered, treat the first page of the paper as page 2. Type the number in the top right corner of the page. Many instructors will want you to use an abbreviated form of the title of your paper before the page number.

Margins, spacing and indentation
Leave margins of at least one inch on all sides of the page, and double-space throughout the paper. Indent the first line of each paragraph one half-inch (or five spaces). When a quotation is set off from the text, indent it one-half inch (or five spaces) from the left margin.

Many science instructors require an abstract, a single paragraph that summarizes your paper. If your paper reports on research you conducted, use the abstract to describe research methods, findings, and conclusions. Do not include bibliographic references in the abstract.

CBE encourages the use of headings to help readers follow the organization of a paper. Common headings for papers reporting research are "Introduction," "Methods" (or "Methods and Materials"), "Results," and "Discussion." If you use both headings and subheadings for a long paper, make sure to distinguish clearly between them with your choice of typography.

A visual should be placed as close as possible to the text that discusses it. In general, try to place visuals at the tops of pages.

Appendixes may be used for relevant information that is too long to include in the body of the paper. Label each appendix and give it a title (for example, "Appendix 1: Methodologies Used by Previous Researchers").

An acknowledgments section is common in scientific writing because research is often conducted with help from others. For example, you might give credit to colleagues who reviewed your work, to organizations that funded your work, and to writers who allowed you to cite their unpublished work.

List of references
For advice on constructing a CBE reference list, click here. For a sample page of cited references, click here.
CBE number system
CBE reference list
CBE manuscript format
Sample paper: CBE style
Finding Sources


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