MLA Format Research Paper

MLA meaning in research

In research, MLA stands for Modern Language Association. It is a style of formatting academic papers that is predominantly used in the arts and humanities. The MLA style provides a set of guidelines for writing and documentation, which includes how to format papers, cite sources in-text, and compile Works Cited lists. This style aims to help writers present their ideas clearly and consistently, and to guide readers through the structure of their work. If you’re writing a paper in the humanities, such as literature or language studies, you’ll likely use MLA style to format your work and cite your sources.

How to format an MLA-style research paper?

Formatting an MLA-style research paper involves several key guidelines to ensure your document adheres to the standards set by the Modern Language Association. Here’s a brief overview of the main formatting rules:

  • Font and Size: Use an easily readable font like 12 pt Times New Roman.
  • Margins: Set 1-inch margins on all sides of the page.
  • Line Spacing: Apply double line spacing throughout the entire document.
  • Indentation: Indent the first line of each paragraph by 0.5 inches.
  • Header: Include a header with your last name and page number in the top right corner of each page.
  • Title and Heading: On the first page, starting one inch from the top, type your name, your instructor’s name, the course number, and the date on separate lines, double-spaced. Center the title of your paper.
  • Works Cited: Start your Works Cited page on a new page at the end of your paper. List all the sources you referenced in alphabetical order, using a hanging indent for entries that span more than one line.

Also check any specific requirements your instructor may have provided.

How to format section headings in an MLA-style paper?

In an MLA-style paper, section headings should be used sparingly to improve the document’s readability. Here’s how to format them:

  1. Level 1 Heading: Bold, flush left, and capitalized (use title case).
  2. Level 2 Heading: Italicized, flush left, and capitalized (use title case).
  3. Level 3 Heading: Centered, bold, and capitalized (use title case).
  4. Level 4 Heading: Italicized, centered, and capitalized (use title case).
  5. Level 5 Heading: Underlined, flush left, and capitalized (use title case).

Use the same font and size as the rest of your paper, typically Times New Roman 12 pt. Headings should also maintain the double-spacing of the rest of your text. Always check with your instructor for any specific preferences or deviations from standard MLA guidelines.

How to create subheadings within a section in MLA style?

Creating subheadings within a section in MLA style involves a specific format to distinguish different levels of headings. Here’s how to format subheadings:

  1. Level 1 Heading: Bold, flush left, using title case.
  2. Level 2 Subheading: Italicized, flush left, using title case.
  3. Level 3 Subheading: Centered, bold, using title case.
  4. Level 4 Subheading: Centered, italicized, using title case.
  5. Level 5 Subheading: Underlined, flush left, using title case.

Each subheading level provides a way to organize your paper’s content hierarchically and visually. Use these formats consistently throughout your paper.

When to use subheadings in a research paper?

Deciding when to use subheadings in your research paper involves considering the structure and complexity of your content. Here are some guidelines:

  • Clarity and Organization: Use subheadings to break up sections of text that cover different topics or aspects of your research, making it easier for readers to follow.
  • Length of the Paper: In longer papers, subheadings help to organize complex information and make the text more navigable.
  • Hierarchy of Information: Subheadings can indicate the hierarchy of content, showing how different parts of your research are related.
  • Consistency: If you use subheadings in one section, use them in other sections as well to maintain consistency.
  • Minimum Number: Generally, if you have one subheading, you should have at least one other. A single subheading under a main heading is usually not necessary.
  • Subheadings should be used to enhance the readability of your paper and not to overcomplicate it. They should be descriptive and concise, reflecting the content of the subsections they head. Always follow the specific formatting guidelines provided by the citation style you are using.

How to create in-text citations using MLA style?

Creating in-text citations in MLA style involves including the author’s last name and the page number from which the quotation or paraphrase is taken. Here’s a quick guide:

  • One Author: Include the author’s last name and the page number. Example: (Smith 23).
  • Two Authors: Name both authors. Example: (Smith and Jones 45).
  • Three or More Authors: Name the first author followed by “et al.” Example: (Smith et al. 67).
  • No Author: Use a shortened title of the work instead. Example: (“Impact of Global Warming” 12).
    Multiple Works by the Same Author: Include a shortened title for clarity. Example: (Smith, “Climate Change” 92).
  • Place the parenthetical citation directly after the relevant quote or paraphrase, and before the period or other punctuation mark. If you’ve already mentioned the author’s name in the sentence, then only include the page number in the citation.

For example:

  1. According to Smith, the data was “unprecedented in its scope” (45).
  2. Always ensure that your in-text citations correspond to the full references in your Works Cited list.

How to cite indirect sources using MLA style?

To cite indirect sources in MLA style, you use the abbreviation “qtd. in” (for “quoted in”) before the indirect source you are citing in your parenthetical citation. Here’s how you can do it:

  • In-text citation: If you are quoting a source that was mentioned in another source, write “qtd. in” before the name of the author you consulted. For example: Maryanne Wolf quotes Marcel Proust in her work: “There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those…we spent with a favorite book” (qtd. in Wolf 6).
  • Works Cited entry: You should then include a full citation for the source you actually consulted in your Works Cited list. For example: Wolf, Maryanne. Proust and the Squid: The Story of the Reading Brain. Harper, 2007.

Best to find and cite the original work whenever possible. If you cannot find the original work, then using the “qtd. in” format allows you to properly attribute secondary sources.

How to cite online sources using MLA style?

Citing online sources in MLA style involves several key elements. Here’s a general format:

  • Author’s Name: Start with the author’s last name, followed by a comma and the rest of the name.
  • Title of the Page: Place the title in quotation marks.
  • Title of the Website: This should be in italics.
  • Publication Date: Include the date the content was published.
  • URL: Provide the direct URL to the source without “https://”.
    For example: Smith, John. “Understanding Photosynthesis.” Science Daily, 15 July 2020,

If the author is unknown, start with the title of the page instead.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when citing online sources?

When citing online sources, it’s important to avoid common mistakes to ensure accuracy and avoid plagiarism. Here are some key errors to watch out for:

  • Forgetting to Cite: Always cite your sources to give proper credit and avoid plagiarism.
  • Incorrect Formatting: Follow the specific guidelines of your citation style for online sources.
  • Incomplete Citations: Make sure to include all necessary information, such as author, title, date, and URL or DOI.
  • Citing Unreliable Sources: Use credible and reliable sources to strengthen your research’s validity.
  • Not Checking for Updates: Online content can change, so check for the most current information before citing.
  • Incorrect Information: Double-check the details of your citation for accuracy.
  • Mistaking the Source Type: Identify the correct type of work you’re citing, as different types have different citation formats.

By paying attention to these details, you can enhance the credibility of your research and adhere to academic integrity standards.

To avoid plagiarism when citing online sources in MLA style for your research paper, follow these best practices:

  1. Keep Track of Sources: Maintain a detailed record of all sources you consult during your research.
  2. Paraphrase or Quote: When using information from a source, either paraphrase it in your own words or use direct quotes, and always provide an in-text citation.
  3. Cite Properly: Include accurate in-text citations with the author’s name and page number or paragraph number if page numbers are not available.
  4. Works Cited List: Ensure that every in-text citation has a corresponding entry in the Works Cited list at the end of your paper.
  5. Use Citation Tools: Consider using citation generators to help format your citations correctly.
  6. Check for Updates: Online content can change, so verify your sources before finalizing your paper.
  7. Plagiarism Checker: Use a plagiarism checker to scan your paper for any unintentional plagiarism before submission.

By diligently applying these methods, you can effectively integrate online sources into your research paper without committing plagiarism. Plagiarism is a serious academic offense, and proper citation is key to maintaining academic integrity.

How to format block quotes in an MLA-style paper?

To format block quotes in an MLA-style paper, follow these steps:

  1. Introduce the Quote: Start with a sentence that introduces the quote and explains its relevance to your argument. End this introduction with a colon.
  2. Format the Quote: Begin the block quote on a new line, and indent the entire quote 0.5 inches from the left margin. Maintain double-spacing throughout.
  3. Punctuation: Do not use quotation marks for block quotes. The punctuation for the quoted sentence should be placed before the in-text citation.
  4. Cite the Quote: Place the in-text citation after the final punctuation of the quote, including the author’s name and page number.
  5. Comment on the Quote: After the block quote, provide your analysis or commentary. Avoid ending a paragraph with a block quote; always conclude with your own words.
    Here’s an example: According to Smith, the data was “unprecedented in its scope” (45).

Block quotes are used for quotes that are longer than four lines of prose or three lines of poetry. For shorter quotes, use quotation marks and include them within the text. Always consult the latest MLA guidelines or your instructor’s preferences for any specific rules to follow.

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