A research paper is a piece of academic writing that requires a more abstract, critical, and thoughtful level of inquiry than you might be used to. But not to worry, you'll gradually pick up that mindset the more you envelop yourself in tutorial discussions and lectures at the college level and of course, the more you write. Not just research papers but any paper, period.
MLA style, or MLA format, are terms commonly used to describe the guidelines for writing which are developed, maintained, and periodically updated and issued by the Modern Language Association of America (MLA) .
MLA Documentation Style
The MLA documentation style covers all aspects of scholarly writing, beginning with the mechanics of writing and publishing, through the basics of writing style, to guidelines for the preparation of theses and dissertations. Although the MLA guidelines cover all aspects of writing and publishing a paper, MLA documentation style places special emphasis on the proper citing of sources of information in one's written work, and how to properly and consistently cite them throughout a paper or manuscript.
MLA Paper Format and Citations
The publications mentioned above cover literally thousands of technical details for the writing and publishing of papers, and should be consulted if that level of detail is required. Nevertheless, there are a number of overall general guidelines, which are normally sufficient for the preparation of most papers at the undergraduate level:
Overall Paper Format - MLA
Works Cited List - MLA
- The paper should be typed and double-spaced, on standard 8 ½" x 11", 20-pound white paper.
- All four outside margins should be set at 1 inch.
- A header with consecutive page numbering should appear on the upper right-hand corner of each page. It must be flush with the right margin, and one-half inch down from the top margin.
- A title page is not necessary (unless otherwise requested). Instead of the title page, four double-spaced entries are made, beginning at the top left-hand corner of the first page, listing author (your) name, course instructor's name, course name/number, and the date.
- The title of the paper should be centered, one double-space from the bottom of the previous entry (either the header, or the date if there was no title page).
- Sources are referred to in a "Works Cited" list that should begin at the top of a separate page after the last page of essay text. (do not capitalize, underline, etc.).
- All entries in the works cited list should be double-spaced with no extra line spaces between entries.
- The first line of each entry in the works cited list should be flush to the left margin, and each subsequent line for that entry should be indented one-half inch (i.e. hanging indent).
- For the title of the work being cited, use underlining or italics, not both. They are equivalent in this case. Whichever convention is chosen must be used throughout the essay for all titles cited.
- The works cited list should be arranged in alphabetical order, based on the first word of each entry. For most entries, this will be the last name of the author.
- As a general rule, the names of authors are inverted (i.e. last name first). In cases where a work has more than one author, invert the first author's name only, followed by a comma, after which the other authors are listed (names not inverted).
- If more than one work by the same author is cited, the entries should appear as consecutive entries in the list, in alphabetical order by title. For the second, and all subsequent entries for that author, replace the author's name with a line of three hyphens at the beginning of the entry.
- In cases where an author appears both as a sole author of a work, and as the first of a group of authors for another work, place the solo-entry first.
- If the author of a work is unknown, alphabetize the entry by the title of the work.
- Generally, when citing BOOKS, arrange the information into three units, each followed by a period and one space as follows: (1) author's name (last name first), (2) title and sub-title, underlined (or italics), (3) place of publication, publisher, and date (in that order).
- Generally, when citing ARTICLES, list the information in the following order: (1) author name (inverted), (2) article title (enclosed in quotations), (3) title of the magazine or journal (underlined or italics), (4) date and page numbers (in that order).