(e.g., John Smith)
Here are a few handy tips to mastering the Modern Language Association’s rules governing the formatting of research papers. Adhering to these guidelines should help you to write a clearly documented essay.
Do not use a cover sheet. Simply put (1) your name, (2) your instructor’s name, (3) the course number, and (4) the date in the upper left hand corner one inch from the top.
All the margins are 1 inch: top, bottom, and sides.
Everything is double spaced—no more, no less. This includes the spacing between the title and the text, paragraphs, your name and class information, and the entries in the “Works Cited” section.
Center the title and do not underline it, do not place it in quotation marks, and do not type it in all caps. Use only those rules which apply to the text when underlining, using quotation marks, or capitalizing.
Your last name and page numbers are ˝ inch from the top in the upper right hand corner—including the 1st page!—without any punctuation or page indication in between (page, p., p.p., #, etc.).
While footnotes and endnotes are also appropriate ways to document sources according to the MLA format, parenthetical references are usually the easiest and most clear method of documentation. Here are the two basic ways to use parenthetical references in an MLA-style research paper. Use writing to introduce the quote; don’t leave free-standing quotes.
Follow direct quotes, or the use of someone else’s idea, with parenthetical documentation—author’s last name and page number in parenthesis—(Nietzsche 1). Do not use any marks of punctuation other than a dash for multiple pages (Derrida 1-2); do not put an indication that it’s a page inside the parenthesis: (page, p., pp. etc). Parenthetical documentation is placed at the end of the sentence containing the information being used and is followed by the mark of punctuation required by the sentence.
Other critics maintain, “Language is a Trojan Horse, and an untheorized language invariably reinforces prevailing hegemonic values” (Rasula 399).
As Jed Rasula argues in his American Poetry Wax Museum, “Language is a Trojan Horse, and an untheorized language invariably reinforces prevailing hegemonic values” (399).
Indent each paragraph ˝ inch, but indent lengthy quotes (more than four lines) one full inch from the left hand margin:
Remember that when you indent this way you do not need to enclose the quote in quotation marks. Keep in mind that this kind of quote does not stand alone but should be part of the sentence that introduces it. Also, stylistically you shouldn’t over use block quotes—try to put quotes in your own words. (Bergmanis 1)
Many neo- gothic architects argue that it was the only style for nineteenth century England:
[I]n the name of all common sense, whilst we profess the creed of Christians, whilst we glory in being Englishmen, let us have an architecture, the arrangement of which will alike remind us of our faith and our country—an architecture whose beauties we may claim as our own, whose symbols have originated in our religions and our customs. (Pugin 6)
According to Pugin, the neo- gothic style of architecture makes the most sense for nineteenth- century English society:
[I]n the name of all common sense, whilst we profess the creed of Christians, whilst we glory in being Englishmen, let us have an architecture, the arrangement of which will alike remind us of our faith and our country—an architecture whose beauties we may claim as our own, whose symbols have originated in our religions and our customs. (6)
Use the same margins, spacing, and title format for your “Works Cited,” “Annotated Works Cited,” or “Works Consulted” page (no quotation marks when it’s used as a title at the top of the page—I used quotes to indicate that they will be part of the complete work). The difference is in the reversed indentation: the first line goes all the way to the margin with subsequent lines of the entry indented ˝ inch—see the next page for specifics.
Italicize the titles of complete works (both in the text and the “Works Cited” section): movies, albums, collections of poetry, anthologies, newspapers, and magazines.
Place in quotes the titles of works within a collection (both in the text and the “Works Cited” section): a “song” on an album, a “poem” in a collection of poetry, a “story” in an anthology, a “column” in a newspaper, or an “article” in a magazine. The following are various media from which sources may be garnered:
Author’s last name, first name. Title of book. Place of Publication: Publisher, Date of Publication.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. New York: MacMillan, 1952. Print.
Author’s last name, first name. “Title of Piece or Poem.” Title of Complete Work. Place published: Publisher, Last edition date. pages.
Didion, Joan. “On Keeping a Notebook.” Slouching Towards Bethlehem. New York: Dell, 1968. Print. 131-41.
Editor’s last name, first name, ed. Title of Anthology. Place published: publisher, year.
Jacobus, Lee A. Literature: An Introduction to Critical Reading. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1996. Print
Author’s last name, first name. “Title of piece.” Editor pages.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Jacobus 304-15. Print.
Lawrence, D.H. “The Horse-Dealer’s Daughter.” Jacobus 371-82. Print.
Author’s last name, first name. “Title of Journal Article.” Title of Journal volume number.issue number (year): pages. [This example is for journals that begin their pagination with each issue. For journals that use continuous pagination, do not give the issue number to identify the source.]
Bradford, M.E. “On ‘The Importance of Discovering God’: Faulkner and Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.” Mississippi Quarterly 20.2 (1967): 158-62. Print.
Author’s last name, first name. “Title of Essay.” Title of work containing essay. ed. (editor’s name). Place of Publication: Publisher, Date of Publication.
Angelou, Maya. “Getting a Job.” Interacting With Essays: An Interactive Thematic/Rhetorical Reader. ed. Charles E. May. New York: Heath, 1995. Print.
Author’s Last Name, First Name. “Title of Article.” Title of Newspaper Date of Publication: Page and Section number.
Tucker, Cynthia. “Education Stays on Top of Southerners’ Agenda.” Atlanta Constitution 21 March 1987: 19A. Print.
Author’s Last Name, First Name. “Title of Essay.” Title of Magazine Date of Publication: Pages.
Prince, Dinah. “Marriage in the 80’s.” New York 1 June 1987: 30-38. Print.
Author’s last name, first name. “Title of Journal Article.” Title of Journal issue (year): page(s). Title of the database. Publication medium. Name of vendor (if relevant). Electronic publication date.
Russo, Michelle Cash. “Recovering from Bibliographic Instruction Blahs.” RQ: Reference Quarterly 32 (1992): 178-83. Infotrac: Magazine Index Plus. CD-Rom. 21 Dec. 2003.
Readings, Bill. “Translatic and Comparative Literature: The Terror of European Humanism.” Surfaces 1.11 (Dec. 1991): 19pp. Internet. 2 Feb. 2003.
Notice how every entry is in alphabetical order, no lines are skipped, and the top of the page starts with “Works Cited.” Keep your margins 1” all the way around the paper for every page: top, bottom, and both sides. These are the essentials of an MLA formatted research paper. Any other weird types of sources can be figured out in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, by Joseph Gibaldi. Good luck and good writing!
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