The Modern Language Association (MLA) guidelines for research paper writing are challenging, but easy to follow. A student writer facing the task of doing a major research paper using MLA guidelines might, at first, feel overwhelmed. But take it slow and easy and follow the steps below and approach the writing task in an organized manner to earn that high grade you deserve.
This article will focus on the formatting, structure, and reference citations involved in writing the MLA-style research paper. Please note that the starting point in the process discussed here assumes that you have done all your research and content writing. You are ready to apply MLA citations and paper formatting only after completing the research, gathering the citations and doing the hard work involved in writing the first draft of your paper.
Follow these steps when your first draft is finished:
First, annotate your rough draft for citation insertions. Mark your quotations, paraphrasing and research summaries (statistics, etc.) in your paper’s text. If you fail to do that, you could be guilty of plagiarism. Remember, too, that as a student researcher, your paper consists of a compilation of the thoughts, words and deeds of others, who must be given credit in your citation process. The only truly original writing in your paper will be the connections and statements of proof that support your underlying thesis.
Now that you have your paper marked, prepare your “works cited” page. The works cited page is the final page of your MLA research paper. The works cited list is:
– a list of every source that you marked in your paper
– the information necessary for a reader to find and access any sources cited in your paper
– alphabetized by item (author or title)
– double-spaced with a hanging indent (second and succeeding lines of a citation are indented one inch from the left margin
Go to the Purdue OnLine Writing Lab MLA Sample Works Cited Page for a detailed example and guide.
Now return to your rough draft and insert your in-text citations. Often referred to as “parenthetical citations,” in-text citations:
– are cited within the text of the paper after having been quoted or paraphrased from a source.
– include the author’s last name, date of publication, and the page or section (if any) where the material you used can be found.
Again, each source cited in the paper must appear on your Works Cited Page list and vice versa. One excellent source among the many on the web is the University of Marlyand’s MLA in-text citation examples.
Finally, follow these general guidelines in formatting your MLA paper:
– Print the paper on standard, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper.
– Double-space the text of the paper.
– Use Times New Roman font, 12 point.
– Leave only one space after punctuation marks
– Set margins of the document to 1 inch on all sides.
– Tab indent the first line of paragraphs one half-inch from the left margin.
– Make a page header that numbers all pages in the upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin.
– Do not prepare a cover page, unless directed by your instructor. In the upper left of the first page include (1) your first and last name, (2) the instructor’s name, (3) Your course title, and (4) the date.
Again, Purdue OWL’s Online Writing Guide provides an easy-to-follow example for formatting an MLA research paper.