IEEE Formatting Rules

Table of contents

What is IEEE Style?

In the technical academic field, organization is of great essence. Any technical student is expected to have their work organized and in order. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) therefore, came up with style for formatting research papers and citing documents.

The IEEE writing style is widely used among all branches of engineering, computer science, and other technical and technological fields. It uses a notational method of referencing when referring to a source in a text, or in a document. If you have problems writing an essay with IEEE citation format contact us to get "write my paper assistance".

Paper Formatted in IEEE

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IEEE General Format

If you are doing an essay with the IEEE style, there is a general IEEE citation format that ought to be followed. However, there might be variations in the citations depending on the field in which your paper is submitted. It is always advisable to check before submission.

General guidelines are:

  • The title should be written on the top of the first page, in 24-point type.

  • Below the title, the byline should be written in 10-point type centred under the title and should contain the author's name, their affiliations and email address on separate lines.

  • The paper should be formatted in 10-point type, with the body appearing in two columns. The columns on the last page should be of the same length.

  • All papers should begin with an abstract and index terms.

  • Depending on the context and field, a note to practitioners, nomenclature, appendices and acknowledgements should be included.

  • Papers may be divided into sections, according to IEEE guidelines for primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary section headings.

  • All IEEE papers begin with a drop cap two lines deep, followed by the next 8-12 characters all in caps.

  • Tables, figures, and equations should be centred in the columns in which they appear. They should be numbered consecutively, but separately.


An abstract is written at the beginning of an article. It provides a brief summary of the research conducted, the conclusions, and the implications of the findings reached. In the IEEE citation guide, the abstract should:

  • Have correct grammar, consist of a single paragraph, up to 250 words, easy to read and understand terminology.

  • Have no abbreviations, references, or mathematical equations, but must be self-contained.

  • Highlight what is new in your work

  • Have 3-5 keywords that describe the research and will help your readers search for your article.

IEEE discourages the inclusion of mathematical symbols in the abstract as they may not display correctly. They should be followed by index terms given in alphabetical order with the first being capitalized and the rest in lower case.

Section Headings

In the IEEE style, dividing your paper is highly encouraged as it increases readability and clarity. There are different section headings when using the IEEE style:

  • Primary headings – they are centered above the text, in small caps, and are listed by roman numerals followed by a period.

  • Secondary headings – they are separated from the text by a line break, in italics and title case, left-aligned, are unindented, are listed with capital letters followed by a period.

  • Tertiary headings – they are separated in the text by a colon, in italics and title case, left-aligned, are indented one em, are listed with Arabic numerals followed by a close-parenthesis.

  • Quaternary headings – they are separated in the text by a colon, in italics and sentence case, left-aligned, are indented two ems, are listed by lowercase letters followed by close-parenthesis.

Special Headings

Apart from the standard headings above, there are a few individual cases that require special headings. References and Acknowledgements are formatted like primary headings but are not listed. An example is appendix headings.

Appendix headings in the IEEE style should be arranged under a separate system, but formatted like primary headings, and are labelled Appendix if there's only one appendix.

If there is more than one appendix, it should be numbered and titled, differently from the numbering system of the section headings.

Appendices may be listed with roman numerals or with capital letters, depending on the preference of the author, and should be maintained consistently throughout the text. Unlike section headings, the number will come after the word 'Appendix.'

Note to Practitioners 

If you choose to include a note to practitioners, it should be below your abstract. Its aim is to explain the practical applications of your work without repeating the contents of the abstract, and without the involvement of jargon.

It is for the inclusion of other engineers who may not have a significant background in your particular field to be able to connect with your work.


If you choose to include a nomenclature section, it should come before the introduction. It is formatted like a primary head with no numeral, and formatted as the text itself.

The difference comes in the alignment of the text: the terms are flush against the left margin, and the definitions are aligned one em-space after the longest defined term.


Quotes are direct utterances from a person, and should, therefore, be credited to the sources. In the IEEE style, quotes are written in double quotation marks. The citation is in square brackets after the quotation or the author's name along with the page numbers.

In case of a longer quotation, it is set by using a block of quoted text as a paragraph. It should be indented from both margins, and use a smaller font size.

Citation of IEEE Style

In-text citation in the IEEE style doesn't require you to mention an author's name, pages used, or the date of publication. Instead, the source is referred to with a number in a square bracket, that will fully correspond with the full reference list. The following are the basics:

  • Place the citations in a bracket on the line of text, before any punctuation, spacing before the first bracket.

  • Your sources should be numbered as you cite them on paper. Once a source has a number, use the number throughout the essay as you cite the source.

  • In multiple sources, list each number separately, in its brackets, using a comma or dash in between them.

  • Nature vs. nurture and criminal behavior
  • Nature vs. nurture and addiction
  • Nature vs. nurture and intelligence
  • The role of epigenetics in the nature vs. nurture debate
  • Nature vs. nurture in gender identification/homosexuality
  • Case studies involving adult twins separated by adoption
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IEEE Bibliography

The bibliography is found at the end of the paper and provides full citations of all the references used. In the IEEE citation format list, all references are in the order they've been cited within the paper; including the bracketed number at the beginning of each reference.

  • It should be either centered or aligned left at the top of the page and titled as references.

  • There should be a hanging indent for each reference, with the bracketed numbers flush with the left side of the page.

  • The author's name is written as the first initial, last name

  • The title is listed in quotation marks

  • The title of a journal or book is written in italics.

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