Understanding The MLA Style: A Research Paper Formatting Guide

When creating a research paper, it is important that you stick to a certain formatting style. There are several of them that are popular in the scholarly world. You need to make sure that you are consistent in using one style throughout your paper: for the cover page, the body of the paper and the reference list.

MLA formatting style is one of the most widespread methods in academic writing. If you are asked to create a research paper using this style, remember several essential rules.

  1. Follow the general format guidelines.

    Your text should be double-spaced, using a legible font, such as Times New Roman, 12 pt. Set your margins to 1 inch on all sides. MLA does not require you to create a cover page. Instead, in the upper left corner of your paper write your name, professor’s name, course and the date.

  2. Use section headings and sub-headings to improve the readability of your research paper.

    There are no strict rules regarding headings but you need to make sure that you are consistent and all the headings resemble each other grammatically.

  3. Properly cite your material.

    One of the advantages of using MLA formatting style is that it allows you to avoid plagiarism. Following the guidelines, you will be able to cite and quote all the material that you have used in your paper properly. Create a Works Cited page at the end of your research paper. You need to make an entry for each piece of the material you have used in the essay. Each entry should contain the following information:

    • Author’s name
    • Name of the book or article
    • Name of the journal or magazine (if applicable)
    • Publisher and place of publication
    • Pages
    • Date of publication
    • Medium of publication

    The entries in your Works Cited page should be organized alphabetically according to the authors’ last names. When referring to the works of other authors in the body of your paper, use parenthetical citation. You need to put the sources of information in parentheses both after a quote and a paraphrase.

  4. When asked to format a paper according to MLA style, consult the handbooks on this style that are available on the Internet and in libraries. Use the latest edition of the handbook to keep up with all the changes. The MLA guide contains all the rules regarding proper citation of sources. Whether you use books, magazine articles, internet pages, music or movie clips, you need to follow the rules for citing them in your work.

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