Whether you are writing a paper according to Modern Language Association (MLA) or American Psychological Association (APA) rules or just following standard academic expectations, you will be required to indent paragraphs. Paragraph indenting even applies to a paper written by hand, although it is harder to determine exact indent on a paper of this kind. Indenting your paper properly is easy if you are aware of the rules of indentation for the particular style guide you are following.
Indent the first word of each paragraph a half-inch from the margin if you are using MLA guidelines. This is a setting of 0.5, which is usually the default setting on word processing programs. You can typically simply press the tab key to make this indent. For set-off quotations in MLA format, the indent is one inch.
Indent all paragraphs a half-inch using the tab key for papers written to conform to APA style. APA requires the same amount of indentation as MLA, but this style dictates that you must not use the space bar to indent the five spaces. MLA only recommends you don't. Indented quotes of longer than five lines must also be indented a half-inch from the left margin for APA style.
Indent handwritten papers approximately a half-inch from the left guide line. This doesn't need to be exact, but your indents should appear evenly as you scan the page. You could use a ruler to measure the half-inch indentation. You may also use your thumb as a general guide for indenting handwritten papers.