MLA 8th Edition Style Guide

Guide pages.

  • MLA Formatting - Full Paper
  • Citation Basics
  • Authors & Contributors
  • Entries & Chapters
  • Books & eBooks
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  • Government Documents
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  • In-Text Citations
  • Hanging Indent

MLA - What Should it Look Like?

Formatting a research paper.

The following formatting rules can be found in the MLA Style Center.

  • Format your paper with 1 inch margins on all sides.
  • Select an easily readable font (e.g. 12 point, Times New Roman)
  • Double-space the entire paper. This should include text and the list of works cited.
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph one inch from the margin.
  • At the top left margin of the first page, type your name , your instructor’s name , the course number , and the date .
  • Type the title of your paper in the top, center of the first page following the standard rules for titles in MLA Style.
  • Include your last name and page numbers , consecutively on all pages in the upper right-hand corner.
  • Include a list of works cited beginning on a new page at the end of your paper.

Click the pictures below for more examples and MLA formatting tips.

 Sample "Works Cited" Page from Purdue Writing Lab           Sample Papers from the Excelsior Online Writing Lab

Sample MLA paper from MLA Style Center - links to actual PDF

Formatting an MLA Paper

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MLA Format: Everything You Need to Know Here

Welcome to an overview of “What is MLA Format?” in relation to paper formatting. You’ll find in-depth guidelines, examples, and visual samples to help you easily format your paper. This guide does not serve as a reference for MLA citation format.

For help determining the proper structure for citing, refer to the other guides on Here is another informative site which may help with further understanding of MLA citation format.

Guidelines for Formatting a Paper in MLA

  • Use white 8 ½  x 11” paper.
  • Make 1 inch margins on the top, bottom, and sides.
  • The first word in every paragraph should be indented one half inch.
  • Indent set-off or block quotations one half inch from the left margin.
  • Use any type of font that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman. Make sure that italics look different from the regular typeface.
  • Use 12-point size.
  • Double space the entire research paper, even the Works Cited page.
  • Leave one space after periods and other punctuation marks, unless your instructor tells you to leave two spaces.

These guidelines come from the MLA Style Center’s web page “Formatting a Research Paper.”

MLA Guide Overview

There are various sections in this guide. Each section provides an in-depth overview of the different components to keep in mind when developing an MLA paper.

This guide includes the following sections:

  • Format background
  • General paper formatting
  • MLA heading format & title page instructions
  • Running head & page numbers
  • Paraphrases
  • Abbreviations
  • Numbers (includes the use of numbers in MLA outline format)
  • Images, tables, and musical scores
  • MLA works cited format
  • MLA citation format (for in-depth citation rules visit this MLA citation guide or MLA in-text citation guide)
  • Edits & proofreading

If you need more guidance, a website like usually has guides and tools to help you out. There’s also resources on other styles, like our guide on “ APA reference page ”, otherwise known as a “References” page.

MLA Format Background

The Modern Language Association (MLA) is an organization responsible for developing MLA format. It was developed as a means for researchers, students, and scholars in the literature and language fields to uniformly format their papers and assignments. This uniform, or consistent, method to developing a paper or assignment allows for easy reading. Today, MLA is not only used in literature and language subject areas; many others have adopted it as well.

The Modern Language Association released the 9th and most current edition of their MLA Handbook in April 2021. The Handbook provides thorough instructions on citing, as well as guidelines for submitting work that adheres to the Modern Language Association’s rules and standards. Although we’re not affiliated with the MLA, our citation specialists bring you this thoughtful and informative guide on the format.

Looking for information about previous editions to the Handbook ? Want to learn more about the origin of “What is MLA format?” Click here to learn about the previous editions to the Handbook .

Actually, are you looking for help on using another style? See how to cite an APA journal , learn to create an APA book citation , and more!

Formatting the Header in MLA

To create a header for your first page, follow these steps:

  • Begin one inch from the top of the first page and flush with the left margin.
  • Type your name, your instructor’s name, the course name and number, and the date on separate lines, using double spaces between each.
  • Double space once more and center the title. Do NOT underline, bold, or type the title in all capital letters. Only italicize words that would normally be italicized in the text. Example: Character Development in The Great Gatsby
  • Do not place a period after the title or after any headings
  • Double space between the title and first lines of the text

MLA Formating Paper

General Paper Formatting

Paper choice.

While many professors, instructors, and publications allow electronic submission, some prefer printed, hard copies of papers. This section focuses on the type of paper to use for printed submission.

If you choose to print your paper, use white paper only. Do not use ivory, off-white, or any other shades or colors.

Choose a standard, high quality paper to print your project on. Do not use cardstock. It is not necessary to use resum é paper. Use typical, high quality printer or copy paper.

When it comes to size, 8 ½-by-11-inch paper is the recommended size. If you’d like to use a different size, ask your teacher prior to submission.

Use One-Inch Margins in MLA

Use one-inch margins around the entire page. The running head should be the only item seen in the one inch margin (see below for more on running heads).

Most word processing programs automatically default to using one inch margins. Check the page settings section of the program to locate the margin size.

Indenting Paragraphs in MLA

Indent the first word in every paragraph. Sentences should begin one half inch from the left margin.

It is not necessary to manually measure half an inch. Use the “tab” button on the keyboard to create a half inch space.

Double Space Paragraphs in MLA

MLA research paper format requires that the entire research paper or MLA format essay includes double-spaced lines. Double-spaced lines should be found in between the written body of the work, in the heading, and also on the MLA reference page.

While it may seem tempting to place a few extra lines between the heading, title, and beginning of the paper, lines should all be double spaced.

Font and Font Size in MLA

In an MLA paper, it is acceptable to use any font type that is easy to read. Many source types, such as books and articles, use fonts that are easy to read, so if you’re seeking an appropriate font style, look at other sources for guidance. Two of the most commonly used fonts are Arial and Times New Roman.

It is important for the reader to be able to distinguish the difference between italicized and regular font, so if you choose a font style different than Arial or Times New Roman, make sure the difference between the two type styles is evident.

The use of a 12-point font size is recommended as this is the default size for many word processing programs. It is acceptable to use another standard size, such as 11-point or 11.5-point.

Some professors or instructors will provide guidance on how to secure hard copies of projects. If your instructor does not provide you with any expectations or guidance, a simple staple in the top left corner should suffice. If a stapler is not available, some instructors allow paper or binder clips.

Do not fold the top left corner down to secure the pages together. The page could easily unfold, causing a mess of papers. While binders and plastic holders are cute, in reality, they add bulk to a professor or instructor who may like to take the papers home for grading purposes. Keep the binding simple and clean. Staples work best, and binder and paper clips are the next best option.

As always, follow any instructions your professor or teacher may provide. The guidelines found here are simply recommendations.

MLA Heading & Title Page Instructions

The web page “Formatting a Research Paper” gives two options when it comes to creating the header for your project:

  • An MLA format heading can be placed at the top of the first page
  • A title page can grace the front of the assignment. If you choose to create a title page, keep in mind that there aren’t any official title page or cover page guidelines in MLA format. See more information below.

If choosing option one, creating an MLA heading, you’ll need to include four main components:

  • Your full name
  • Your instructor’s name
  • The name and number of the course or class
  • The assignment’s due date

The first item typed on the paper should be your full name.

  • Position your name one inch from the top and left margins of the page.
  • Add a double space beneath your name, and type the name of your instructor.
  • Below the professor or instructor’s name should be a double space, followed by the name of the course, class, or section number (if available).
  • Below it, include another double space and add the assignment’s due date (Day Month Year).

Here’s an example:

what does a mla research paper look like

The assignment’s title should be placed below the due date, after a double space. Align the title so it sits in the center of the MLA format paper. The title should be written in standard lettering, without underlines, bold font, italicized font, or any quotation marks. Only include italics or quotation marks if your title includes the title of another source.

Here is an example of an MLA header for an MLA format essay, paper, or assignment:

Neal E. Bibdarsh

Professor Haujeemoto

English 201

The Trials and Tribulations of Lincoln’s Reciting of “The Gettysburg Address”

*Note: The quotation marks here are around the title of a speech included in the paper’s title.

Most research papers use a standard MLA format heading, like the one seen above. If your instructor requires you to create a standalone title page, ask him or her for specifications. MLA does not have specific instructions for developing an MLA title page. We recommend you use an MLA header for your project.

If your teacher or professor requires a standalone title page, but has not provided any guidance or specifications, here are a few suggestions from and this MLA guide :

  • Center and double space all of the text on your page.
  • Place the name of your school at the top of the page.
  • Skip down to about the center of the page and type the title of your paper. Do not bold the title, italicize the entire title, place quotation marks around it, or type the title out in capital letters.
  • Use italics for the titles of any sources in the title of your paper. Example: An Analysis of Mythical Creatures in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • first letter of the title
  • first letter of the last word
  • first letter of any adjectives, adverbs, nouns, pronouns, and verbs
  • If your paper has a subtitle, include on the next line below your title.
  • Skip down to the bottom third of the page and add your name, the the name of your instructor, the name/number of the course or class, and the assignment’s due date on four separate lines.
  • Keep the font size at 12 pt., or a size close to it, to make it look professional.
  • Use the same font as the text of the paper. The Modern Language Association recommends any font that is easy to read and has a clear distinction between italics and standard font. Times New Roman and Arial are recommended, but many other fonts work as well.
  • Include a page number in the top right corner of the paper. For more information on how to style page numbers, check out the next section, “Running Head and Page Numbers.”
  • We do not recommend adding any images or cover art to the title page. 

Click  additional information about essays to see an example of a formatted header.

You can either create a title page using the EasyBib Title Page creator or omit the title page completely and use a header.

what does a mla research paper look like

Running Head & Page Numbers in MLA

A running head is a brief heading that is placed in the top right corner of every page in a project. The Modern Language Association Style Center (online) states that the running head consists of:

  • Last name of the paper’s author
  • Page number

General tips to keep in mind:

  • The running head is placed in the upper right-hand corner, half an inch from the top margin and one inch from the right margin of the page.
  • Type your last name before the page number.
  • The last name and page number should be separated by a single space.
  • Do not place the word “page” or use an abbreviation, such as p. or pg., before the page number.
  • Quite often, the running head begins on the second page, but your instructor may ask you to include the running head on the first page of the assignment. As always, if your instructor provides you with specific directions, follow his or her guidelines.

APA formatting page number

Before adding this information manually onto every single page, check to see if the word processor you’re using has the capability to automatically add this information for you. Try looking in the settings area where page numbers or headers can be added or modified.

Google Docs: Adding a header

  • Go to the menu section “Insert.”
  • Select “Page numbers” and select the option that places the page number in the upper-right corner.
  • A page number will appear; your cursor will blink next to it.
  • Move your cursor to the left of the page number.
  • Type your last name. Add a space between your name and the page number.
  • You should now have a properly formatted header on every page!

Microsoft Word Document: Adding a header

  • Double-click in the space at the top of the page (where the page number is).
  • OR Go to the “Insert” menu, select “Header,” and select “Edit Header.”
  • Type your last name next to page number. If it isn’t already right-aligned, go to the “Home” menu and right-align your name.

Quotations in MLA

Quotes are added into assignments to help defend an argument, prove a point, add emphasis, or simply liven up a project.

Quotes should not take up the majority of your paper or assignment. Quotes should be sprinkled sparingly throughout, and quotes longer than 4 lines should be formatted as MLA block quotes . Use direct quotes from outside sources to enhance and expand on your own writing and ideas.

Words from quotes belong to the individual who spoke or wrote them, so it is essential to credit that individual’s work. Credit him or her by adding what is called an “in-text citation” into the body of the project.

There are three ways to add quotes: 1. With the author’s name in the sentence (a citation in prose).

Dan Gutman shares a glimpse into the overall plot by stating, “I didn’t know it at the time, but a baseball card—for me—could function like a time machine” (5).

In the above example, Dan Gutman is the author of the book that this quote is pulled from.

2. Without the author’s name in the sentence (a parenthetical citation).

The main character’s confusing experience is realized and explained when he states “I didn’t know it at the time, but a baseball card—for me—could function like a time machine” (Gutman 5).

In the above example, Dan Gutman’s name isn’t included in the sentence. It’s included in the parentheses at the end of the sentence. This is an example of a proper MLA style citation in the body of a project.

3. In a block quote, which is used when a large quote, of 4 lines or more, is added into a project.

Using footnotes and endnotes

The Modern Language Association generally promotes the use of references as described in the sections above, but footnotes and endnotes are also acceptable forms of references to use in your paper.

Footnotes and endnotes are helpful to use in a variety of circumstances. Here are a few scenarios when it may seem appropriate to use this type of referencing:

  • When you are referring to a number of various sources, by various authors, in a section of your paper. In this situation, it is a good idea to use a footnote or endnote to share information for parenthetical references. This will encourage the reader to stay focused on the text of the research paper, instead of having to read through all of the reference information.
  • When you are sharing additional information that doesn’t quite fit into the scope of the paper, but is beneficial for the reader. These types of footnotes and endnotes are helpful when explaining translations, adding background information, or sharing counterexamples to research.

To include a footnote or endnote, add a superscript number at the end of the sentence the footnote or endnote refers to. They can be included mid-sentence if necessary, but be sure to add it after any punctuation, such as commas or periods. Find a location that doesn’t distract the reader from the content and flow of the paper.

Within the text example:

Numerous well-known children’s books include characters from a wide range of races and ethnicities, thus promoting diversity and multiculturalism.¹

At the bottom of the page (footnote) or at the end of the section (endnote):

¹See Isadora, Parr, and Velazquez. While Parr’s work features characters of various colors, such as pink or blue, children easily correlate it with individuals of different races and ethnicities.

On the last page of the assignment, the writer includes the full references for the books by Isadora, Parr, and Velazquez.

For more on block quotes and a further, detailed explanation on the use of quotes, including MLA footnotes, refer to our MLA In-Text Citation and Parenthetical Citations Guide. In this guide you’ll find further information including directions for the use of quotes without an author, page numbers, and how to properly credit work from electronic sources.

For guides on citations in another style, check out APA parenthetical citation and APA in-text citation .

Paraphrases in MLA

Paraphrases are created when text or speech from another source are added into a project, but the writer chooses to summarize them and weave in his or her own writing and writing style.

Even though the writer modifies the information from another source, it is still necessary to credit the source using proper format ( Handbook 98). Paraphrased information uses the same MLA reference format as stated in the section directly above this one.

Here is an acceptable paraphrase:

Original text:

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” Steve Jobs


Steve Jobs encouraged students at Stanford to continue with their determination, drive, and ambitious behavior. They should never be simply satisfied with the status quo. They should continue to push themselves despite possible obstacles and failures.

To develop a well-written paraphrase, follow these simple, step-by-step instructions.

  • Find a phrase, sentence, paragraph, or section of original text you’d like to turn into a paraphrase.
  • Read the text carefully and make sure you fully comprehend its meaning. A writer can only develop a well-written paraphrase if the information has been fully grasped and understood. If you’re having difficulty understanding the information, take a few minutes to read up on tricky words and background information. If all else fails, ask a friend to see if they’re able to make sense of the concepts.
  • After analyzing and completely understanding the original text, put it to the side. Take a moment to think about what you’ve read and connect the idea to your own assignment.
  • Now that the information is completely understood, take a moment to rewrite what you’ve read, in your own words and writing style. Do not simply substitute words in the original text with synonyms. That’s plagiarism! Show off and demonstrate your ability to process the original information, connect it to the content in your paper, and write it in your own individual and unique writing style.
  • Include an in-text reference next to the paraphrase. All paraphrases include references, similar to direct quotes. See the “Quotations” section of this guide to learn how to properly attribute your paraphrased information.
  • Give yourself a pat on the back! Paraphrasing is an important part of the research and writing process.

Wondering if it’s better to quote or paraphrase?

An essential part of the research process involves adding direct quotes and paraphrases into projects. Direct quotes provide word-for-word evidence and allow writers to use another author’s eloquent words and language in their own projects. When it comes to paraphrases, writers are able to take a block of text and shrink the scope of it into the their papers. Paper writers can also use paraphrases to demonstrate their ability to analyze and reiterate information in a meaningful and relevant way.

If you’re wondering which one is better to consistently use, quotes or paraphrases, there’s a clear winner. Paraphrases come out on top. Sure, direct quotes are incredibly beneficial, but copying and pasting too many of these into a project can cause a reader to lose sight of the writer’s own voice. Mixing your own voice with another author’s too much can make for choppy and disjointed reading.

The ultimate goal of a research project is to have your voice and research merged together as one. Paraphrases allow just that. When you combine information from outside sources with your own writing style, it demonstrates your ability as a researcher to showcase your understanding and analyzation of a topic.

Remember, whether you’re adding direct quotes or paraphrases into a project, both types of additions need references. References are placed after the quotes and paraphrases, and also at the end of an assignment.

If you’re looking for additional help with your punctuation or grammar, check out the EasyBib plagiarism checker !

what does a mla research paper look like

Using Abbreviations in MLA

Abbreviations are commonly used in many source types including websites, blog posts, books, and journal articles. It is acceptable to use abbreviations in all of these sources.

When it comes to school and research assignments, however, the MLA   Handbook states that abbreviations should be used rarely in the prose of your paper (293). Spelling out abbreviations into their full words and meanings is recommended. This ensures understanding and avoids any confusion from your reader.

There are times when you may feel it is perfectly acceptable to use an abbreviation rather than its typed out counterpart in a paper. If you do abbreviate, be sure you are using commonly accepted abbreviations, which you can find in the dictionary. You can also review Appendix 1 in the  MLA Handbook .

General Abbreviation Tips

  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus can be abbreviated to HIV, not H.I.V.
  • United States should be US, not U.S.
  • Digital video disc should be DVD, not D.V.D.
  • For lower case abbreviations, it is acceptable to include periods between the letters.
  • The abbreviation, “For example” = e.g.
  • If there is a mix of lower case and upper case letters, do not use periods if the majority of the letters are upper case. Examples include PhD and EdD

Abbreviating Months

Type out entire month names when being used in the body of a research paper or assignment.

She rented out the beach house from May through September

When it comes to references, MLA bibliography format requires months longer than four letters to be abbreviated.

  • July = July
  • November = Nov.

Other abbreviations that are perfectly acceptable to use in a bibliography (not the body of a project) include:

  • p. or pp. for page and page numbers
  • ch. for chapter
  • ed. for edition
  • trans. for translation or translated
  • vol. for volume
  • no. for number
  • rev. for revised

Again, these abbreviations should only be used in the final page(s) of a project, the MLA Works Cited list. They should not be used in the body of a project.

For more information on bibliographies, see our MLA format Works Cited List page.

Abbreviating Publishers

One of the quirkiest things about this particular style is how publisher names are structured on the final page of references. Certain words are abbreviated, some words are omitted, and other words are written in full.

Words describing what type of business the publisher is are omitted from the works cited. Here’s a breakdown of the words that should be excluded:

  • Co. (Company)
  • Corp. (Corporation)
  • Inc. (Incorporated)
  • Ltd. (Limited)
  • The (when at the beginning of the name)

If a publisher’s name contains the words “University” and “Press” (or the equivalent in another language), the words should be abbreviated to the letters “U” and “P” in your citation. But if only one of the words appears, it should be written out normally.

Here are a few examples:

  • University of Delaware
  • U College of London P

All other words related to the names of publishers should be written out in full.

Abbreviating Titles

Certain classical and biblical works are abbreviated in a bibliography, but also in any parenthetical references in the text.

The official handbook provides a lengthy list, spanning over multiple pages, of the preferred abbreviations to use for classical and biblical works ( Handbook 295-301), but here’s a quick snapshot of some of the commonly used ones:

Hebrew Bible or Old Testament = OT

  • Deut. = Deuteronomy
  • Gen. = Genesis
  • Lev. = Leviticus
  • Num. = Numbers
  • Ps. = Psalms

New Testament = NT

  • 1 Cor. = 1 Corinthians
  • Jas. = James
  • Matt. = Matthew


  • Ado = Much Ado about Nothing
  • 3H6 = Henry VI, Part 3
  • JC = Julius Caesar
  • Mac. = Macbeth
  • MND = A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Oth. = Othello
  • Rom. = Romeo and Juliet

Again, the titles above are allowed to be abbreviated both in references in parentheses in the body of a project and also on the final page of references. If you’re wondering why, it’s because they’re cited often and it’s unnecessary to type out the entire title names.

Formatting Numbers in MLA

Use of numerals.

If the project calls for frequent use of numbers (such as a scientific study or statistics), use numerals that precede measurements.

  • 247 milligrams

Other items to keep in mind:

In divisions, use numbers, ex: In page 5 of the study

Arabic Numbers

When including a number in a paper, spell out the number if it can be written as one word (such as six ) or two words (such as sixty-two ). For fractions, decimals, or longer numbers, type them out using digits. For larger numbers, write the number itself ( Handbook 82-84).

  • twenty-seven
  • one hundred

If the number comes before a unit of measurement or label, type the number using digits.

  • 8 tablespoons
  • 3 July 2018
  • 25 King Street

More on Numbers

Starting a sentence with a number is generally frowned upon. Try modifying the sentence so that the number, or number word, is found elsewhere.

Instead of:

225 children were found in the warehouse, some malnourished and diseased.

Use this sentence:

A total of 225 children were found in the warehouse, some malnourished and diseased.

If modifying the sentence is not possible or does not work well with the flow of the assignment or paper, type out the written number:

Two hundred twenty five children were found in the warehouse, some malnourished and diseased.

Do not include any ISBN numbers in your paper.

Outline Format

The Modern Language Association does not have any requirements regarding the structure of an outline. If your teacher asks you to create an MLA outline, we recommend using roman numerals, capital and lowercase letters, and numbers.

Here is an example of a recommended outline structure:

what does a mla research paper look like

In addition to outlines, use roman numerals for suffixes.

  • King George IV

Using Images, Tables, & Musical Scores in MLA

Photographs, data sets, tables, graphs, and other images are often added into projects or papers to promote or aid understanding. They provide meaningful visuals for the reader. If the illustration or visual image does not enhance the quality of the paper, do not include it in the project.

Tables and illustrations should be placed as close as possible to the text that they most closely refer to.

For an image to be significant and easily identifiable, place it as close as possible to the text in the project where it is discussed.

It is not acceptable to simply place an image in a project without including identifiable information. All images must include information about its origin.

Here are the directions to properly attribute an image:

  • Assign an Arabic number. The image closest to the beginning of the project should be labeled as Fig. 1. The next image in the project should be Fig. 2. and so on.
  • Provide a caption. The caption should be a brief explanation or the title of the contents of the image. Place the caption directly next to the label.
  • Immediately following the caption, it is acceptable to include attribution information. If the image is not discussed further in the rest of the paper or project, it is acceptable to include the MLA bibliography format citation below the image and omit it from the bibliography or MLA format works cited page.

In the text of the project or paper where the figure is discussed, include the label in parentheses to ensure the reader knows where to find the figure in your paper.

In the text:

Sarah’s tattoo design was filled with two of her favorite flowers: lilies and daffodils along a thinly curved vine (fig. 1).

Image formatting:

(Image Would Be Here) Fig. 1. Sarah’s Tattoo. barneyWILLIAMSable, Deviant Art , 2011,

APA image caption

Fig. 1. White Studio. “Houdini and Jennie, the Elephant, Performing at the Hippodrome, New York.” Library of Congress ,

When adding a table or data set into a project, it is formatted a little differently. Above the data set, include the label “Table” with an Arabic numeral, and title it. The table number and title should be located flush left and on separate lines. The first table seen in the project is labeled as Table 1. The second table in the project is Table 2, and so on. The table’s title should be written in title case form (the first letter of each word is capitalized, except for small, insignificant words).

Underneath the table, provide the source and any notes. Notes should be labeled with a letter, rather than a numeral, so the reader is able to differentiate between the notes of the text and the notes of the table.

International Scholars from India Enrolled at Yale University a

Source: “International Scholars Academic Year 2015-2016.” Yale University , Office of International Students and Scholars, a. The numbers reflect students who are enrolled full-time.

The information included above and below any images or table should be double spaced, similar to the rest of the project or paper.

what does a mla research paper look like

Musical Scores

Musical scores need to be labeled as well. When including a musical score in a project, label musical scores with “Ex.” which is short for example. This label should be placed below the musical score. Next to the abbreviation “Ex.”, assign the score an Arabic numeral. The first musical score in the project should be labeled as Ex. 1. The second musical score found in an assignment should be labeled as Ex. 2., and so on.

If possible, provide a caption after to the label. If the caption below the sheet music includes enough information about the source, it is not necessary to include the full reference at the end of the assignment.

Here is an example of a possible label and caption:

Ex. 4. Scott Joplin, The Entertainer, piano, C major.

Another example:

Music sheet APA formatting caption

Here’s more on tables and illustrations.

Using Lists in MLA

It’s appropriate to add lists into an MLA format essay as long as the proper rules are followed.

Lists created using MLA essay format look different than a grocery list or any other type of vertical listing of items. Items in a list are included in your prose, rather than the traditional vertical style.

Often, you will use a colon between the introductory sentence and the list. But you should not include a colon if the first item in the list is part of the sentence.

List Example #1

Here is an example of how a list may look incorporated into the prose of a research project or assignment:

William Shakespeare wrote numerous plays, many of which were considered tragedies: Romeo and Juliet , Hamlet , Macbeth , Othello , Julius Caesar , and King Lear .

List Example #2 Here is an example of how a list may look in a research project or assignment when the list is part of the introductory sentence:

Many of William Shakespeare’s were tragedies. Some of his most popular tragedies include Romeo and Juliet , Hamlet , Macbeth , Othello , Julius Caesar , and King Lear.

MLA Works Cited Format has a full, comprehensive guide to creating a proper works cited MLA format , but here are a few items to keep in mind when developing this portion of a project:

  • The list of citations should be the very last page of a research project or essay.
  • The top of the page should include the running head and the page number.
  • All entries should be placed in alphabetical order by the first item in the MLA format citation.
  • The entire page should be double spaced.

For more detailed information, make sure to check out the EasyBib guide to MLA format Works Cited pages.

MLA Citation Format

The majority of this guide focuses on MLA formatting in regards to MLA paper format rules and guidelines. If you’re seeking information related to the proper formatting of an MLA citation, refer to our individual pages and posts on various types of citations.

If you’re simply looking for the general structure for full references, which are found on the final pages of projects, here’s the proper order:

Author’s Last name, Author’s First name. “Title of Source.”* Title of Container , Names of other contributors along with their specific roles, version of the source (if it differs from the original or is unique), any key numbers associated with the source that aren’t dates (such as journal issue numbers or volume numbers), Name of the Publisher, publication date, location (such as the URL or page numbers).

*Note: A title may be in italics instead of quotation marks, depending of the type of source. The general rule is that works that are self-contained (like books, journals, or television shows) are formatted in italics. Works that are part of a larger work (like articles, chapters, or specific episodes) are formatting in quotation marks. 

MLA Format Citing FAQs:

“What in the world are containers?”

Containers are what hold the source. If you’re creating a reference for a chapter in a book, the title of the chapter is the title of the source , and the container is the title of the book . The book holds the chapter, so it’s the container. If you’re searching for how to cite a website, here’s a tip: the title of the source is the name of the individual page and the title of the container is the name of the full website.

“This seems like a lot of information for a reference. Is it all necessary?”

The short answer is “No!” When citing, only include the components that help the reader locate the exact same source themselves.

It isn’t necessary to go digging for items such as numbers, version types, or names of other individuals or contributors associated with the source if they aren’t applicable. If you think it’s beneficial for the reader, then include it.

Related to citations, here are helpful pages on:

  • MLA citation website format
  • Citing a book
  • Citing a journal
  • What is a DOI ?
  • More on PDFs

If you’re looking for an MLA citation generator, head to the EasyBib homepage. Our formatter will help you create citations quickly and easily!

Need APA, too? There are also EasyBib tools and an APA citation website reference guide to help you learn the basics.

Edits and Proofreading

Editing and proofreading your assignment prior to submission is an incredibly important step in the research process. Editing involves checking the paper for the following items:

  • Spelling : Are all words spelled correctly? Review all proper names, places, and other unique words to ensure correct spelling. When finished, run the project through a spell checker. Many word processing programs, such as Microsoft Word and Google Drive, provide a free spell checking feature. While spell checks are beneficial, they do not always spot every mistake, so make sure you take the time to read through the assignment carefully. If you’re still not sure if your project contains proper spelling, ask a friend to read through it. They may find a mistake you missed!
  • Grammar : Check your assignment to make sure you’ve included proper word usage. There are numerous grammar checkers available to review your project prior to submission. Again, take the time to review any recommendations from these programs prior to accepting the suggestions and revisions.
  • Punctuation : Check to make sure the end of every sentence has an ending punctuation mark. Also make sure commas, hyphens, colons, and other punctuation marks are placed in the appropriate places.
  • Attribution : Do all quotes and paraphrases include a citation? Did you create an in-text citation for each individual piece of information?

Smart idea: running your paper through a paper checker before you turn it in. EasyBib Plus offers a checker that scans for grammar errors and unintentional plagiarism. 

Check out our MLA sample papers . Also, check out the EasyBib MLA Annotated Bibliography Guide.

Don’t forget to use the EasyBib citation generator to develop your Modern Language Association style also has helpful guides on APA format and more styles . Lastly, stay up-to-date on what’s coming by following our EasyBib Twitter account.

Works Cited

“Formatting a Research Paper.” The MLA Style Center , Modern Language Association of America,

MLA Handbook. 9th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2021.

Published October 31, 2011. Updated July 25, 2021.

Written and edited by Michele Kirschenbaum and Elise Barbeau . Michele Kirschenbaum is a school library media specialist and the in-house librarian at You can find her here on Twitter. Elise Barbeau is the Citation Specialist at Chegg. She has worked in digital marketing, libraries, and publishing.

MLA Formatting Guide

MLA Formatting

  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Bibliography
  • Block Quotes
  • et al Usage
  • In-text Citations
  • Paraphrasing
  • Page Numbers
  • Sample Paper
  • MLA 8 Updates
  • MLA 9 Updates
  • View MLA Guide

Citation Examples

  • Book Chapter
  • Journal Article
  • Magazine Article
  • Newspaper Article
  • Website (no author)
  • View all MLA Examples

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The works-cited list provides the reader full information so that a reader can locate the source for further use.

Basic formatting

The works-cited list appears at the end of the paper, after any endnotes if they are present.

Page margins

All margins (top, bottom, left, and right) should be set at 1 inch.

Running head

Write the running head in the top right of the page at 0.5 inch from the top. Use the running head “Surname Page #.”

The font should be clear enough to read. For example, Times New Roman font set to 12 points.

Formatting entries

Entries should be double-spaced, including a double-space between the heading and the first entry. If any entry runs over more than a line, indent the subsequent line(s) 0.5 inch from the left margin.

Formatting the title

The title should be “Works Cited.” Center the title. Do not bold, italicize, or underline the title. If you cite only one source in the list, the title should be “Work Cited.” If you include sources that you only consulted and didn’t cite directly, the title should be changed accordingly to “Works Cited and Consulted.”

Arranging works cited

Works-cited-list entries are arranged alphabetically by the author’s last name (or the editor’s last name for entire edited collections). Double-space all entries. Begin each entry flush with the left margin. If any entry runs over more than one line, indent the subsequent line(s) 0.5 inch from the left margin (sometimes called a hanging indent).

Example works cited

Damasio, Antonio. The Feeling of What Happens: Body, Emotion and the Making of Consciousness . Vintage, 2000.

Hill, R. T. “Legitimizing Colonial Privilege: Native Americans at a Quincentenary of Discourse.” Text and Performance Quarterly , vol. 16, no. 1, 1996, pp. 92–100.

MacDonald, Shauna M. “Performance as Critical Posthuman Pedagogy.” Text and Performance Quarterly , vol. 34, no. 2, 2014, pp. 164–81.

Zilio, M. “Canada Will Not Move Embassy to Jerusalem, Federal Government Says.” The Globe and Mail . 7 Sept. 2017, .

An in-text citation is a short citation that is placed in the text. It is styled in two ways: a citation in prose or a parenthetical citation.

The basic element needed for an in-text citation is the author’s name . The publication year is not required in in-text citations. Sometimes, page numbers or line numbers are also included, especially when directly quoting text from the source being cited. When including a page number, do not include a comma or any other punctuation mark between the author’s surname and the page number.

Parenthetical citations usually add only the author’s surname at the end of the sentence in parentheses. Sometimes they include a page number or other locator. An example of a parenthetical citation is given below:

The spiritual geography of the landscape is explained (Cooper).

If you want to cite a chapter number, a scene, or a line number, follow the abbreviation guidelines below:

When including a more specific locator number rather than a page number, place a comma between the author’s surname and the label.

(Cooper, ch. 2).

Here are a few examples of in-text citations for sources with different numbers or types of authors:

Use only the surname of the author in parenthetical citations. If you want to add a page number (or another indicator of the place in a work), add it after the author’s surname without any punctuation between the surname and the page number.

(Abraham 7).

Two authors

Add only the surnames of the authors. Use “and” to separate the two authors.

(Langmuir and Einstein).

Three or more authors

Add only the surname of the first author followed by “et al.”

(Low et al.).

Corporate author

Shorten the organization name wherever possible, excluding any initial articles and using the shortest noun phrase (e.g., shorten Literary Society of Tamil Culture to Literary Society).

(Literary Society).

If there is no author for the source, use the source title in place of the author’s surname.

When you add such in-text citations, italicize the text of the title. If the source title is longer than a noun phrase, use a shortened version of the title. For example, the title Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is shortened to Fantastic Beasts .

( Fantastic Beasts 160).

MLA Citation Examples

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How to Format Your Research Paper

  • APA 7 Paper Format

Writing Your Paper: MLA

Mla style papers.

  • Chicago Paper Format
  • Hanging Indents
  • Ask a Librarian

MLA Resources

Cover Art

  • Ask the MLA Search a list of Frequently Asked Questions about the MLA style. If you donʻt see the answer youʻre looking for, ask the MLA yourself!
  • Purdue OWL: MLA Style Guide This Purdue OWL citation guide will help you in citing your sources in the MLA (Modern Language Association) Style commonly used to cite sources within the area of language arts. You can find written and video instructions with examples on how to format your citations. Click on the title above to see more...

Always consult your assignment guidelines for course-specific formatting.

Things to know before you begin:

  • Font:  An easily readable typeface (Times New Roman, Calibri, Arial, etc...) that is maintained throughout the paper.
  • Font Size:  11-13 point 
  • Margins:  1 inch
  • Paragraphs: All paragraphs should be indented.
  • Spacing: All of the text in your paper should be double-spaced.

Typical MLA style papers have two sections:

  • Works Cited

See the tabs below for a breakdown of how each portion should be formatted.

  • Paper Templates
  • Sample Papers

Below you will find templates for MLA Style papers. Click the link to make a copy of the file. 

  • Google Docs : To make a copy of this template you must first sign in to your Google account. After you’re signed in, click file and then click “make a copy.”
  • Microsoft Word : To make a copy of this template, simply download the file. 

Google Docs Logo

  • MLA Style Paper Template - Word Make a copy of this Word Doc and change the pre-filled information to your own.

Below you will find an example of an accurately formatted MLA Style paper. 

  • Sample Paper MLA: 3D Printing (.pdf) Click here to see a sample of an accurately formatted MLA style paper.
  • Sample Paper MLA: 3D Printing Click here to see a sample of an accurately formatted MLA style paper.

Sample of an accurately formatted MLA style main body page

  • Your paper should have your name, your instructor's name, the class name, and the due date in the top left corner of the page. It should be double spaced and use the same font type and size as the rest of your paper.
  • The title of your paper should be centered on the first line after your heading. It should be in Title Case and use the same font type and size as the rest of your paper.
  • Place your last name and page numbers in the header in the same font type and size as the rest of your paper. Be sure to use the header function, do not type this into the body of your paper.

Sample of an accurately formatted MLA style Works Cited page

  • Center the words "Works Cited" on the first line of a new page. If you only have a single reference, use "Work Cited" instead.
  • Your citations should be alphabetical.
  • All entries should be double-spaced with no extra lines between them.
  • Be sure to use a hanging indent for any citations that require more than one line. 

Need help formatting your MLA style citations using the 8th edition of the  Modern Language Association Handbook ? Click the image or link below to go to the citation guide.

cover image of the citation research guide

  • MLA Style Citations

Need help learning what hanging indents are and how to create them using Google Docs or Microsoft Word? 

Title slide of "creating hanging indents with Google Docs" video

  • Hanging Indents This page gives a brief description of what they are, where to find information on when and how to properly use them, and also video tutorials on how to create them.
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  • Next: Chicago Paper Format >>
  • Last Updated: Nov 15, 2023 2:43 PM
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To cite this LibGuide use the following templates:

APA : Northern Essex Community College Library. (Date updated). Title of page . Title of LibGuide. URL

MLA : Northern Essex Community College Library. "Title of Page." Title of LibGuide, Date updated, URL.

Formatting Your Research Project

To learn how to set up your research project in MLA format, visit our free sample chapter on MLA Handbook Plus , the only authorized subscription-based digital resource featuring the  MLA Handbook, available for unlimited simultaneous users at subscribing institutions.

IRSC Libraries Home

MLA Style Guide, 8th & 9th Editions: Formatting Your MLA Paper

  • Works Cited entries: What to Include
  • Title of source
  • Title of container
  • Contributors
  • Publication date
  • Supplemental Elements
  • Book with Personal Author(s)
  • Book with Organization as Author
  • Book with Editor(s)
  • Parts of Books
  • Government Publication
  • Journal Article
  • Magazine Article
  • Multivolume Works
  • Newspaper Article
  • Other Formats
  • Websites, Social Media, and Email
  • About In-text Citations
  • In-text Examples
  • How to Paraphrase and Quote
  • Citing Poetry
  • Formatting Your MLA Paper
  • Formatting Your Works Cited List
  • MLA Annotated Bibliography
  • MLA 9th Edition Quick Guide
  • Submit Your Paper for MLA Style Review

MLA recommends using 12-point Times New Roman font or another readable typeface (e.g. serif ).

Line Spacing & Margins

Use double-spacing throughout the entire paper.

Leave 1 inch margins on the top, bottom, and each side.

Indent the first line of each paragraph half an inch from the left margin.

Quotes longer than 4 lines should be written as a block of text a half an inch from the left margin.

Heading and Title

An MLA research paper does not need a title page, but your instructor may require one. If no instructions are given, follow the MLA guidelines below:

Type the following one inch from the top of the first page, flush with the left margin (double spacing throughout).

Your Instructor's Name

Course Number or Name

Center the title on the next line. Follow the rules for capitalization. Do not italicize, underline, or bold the title. An exception is when your title includes a title.  Example:  The Attitude toward Violence in A Clockwork Orange

Indent the next line and begin typing your text.

Include your last name and page numbers in the upper right-hand corner of every page. The page numbers will be one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. If your instructor prefers no page number on the first page, begin numbering from 2 on the second page.

Sample Papers from MLA

There are sample papers available in the MLA Style Center. Check them out to see the correct formatting.

Styling Headings and Subheadings

According to the MLA Style Center website, writers should avoid using headings in shorter papers. If you are writing a longer research paper, you may want to include headings and subheadings to help organize the sections of your paper. Advice from the MLA Style Center :


The paper or chapter title is the first level of heading, and it must be the most prominent.

Headings should be styled in descending order of prominence. After the first level, the other headings are subheadings—that is, they are subordinate. Font styling and size are used to signal prominence. In general, a boldface, larger font indicates prominence; a smaller font, italics, and lack of bold can be used to signal subordination. For readability, don’t go overboard: avoid using all capital letters for headings (in some cases, small capitals may be acceptable):

Heading Level 1

Heading Level 2

Heading Level 3

Note that word-processing software often has built-in heading styles.


Consistency in the styling of headings and subheadings is key to signaling to readers the structure of a research project. That is, each level 1 heading should appear in the same style and size, as should each level 2 heading, and so on. Generally, avoid numbers and letters to designate heads unless you are working in a discipline where doing so is conventional. Note that a heading labeled “1” requires a subsequent heading labeled “2,” and a heading labeled “a” requires a subsequent heading labeled “b.” 

In a project that is not professionally designed and published, headings should be flush with the left margin, to avoid confusion with block quotations. (The exception is the paper or chapter title, which is centered in MLA style.)

For readability, it is helpful to include a line space above and below a heading, as shown in this post.

No internal heading level should have only one instance. For example, if you have one level 1 heading, you need to have a second level 1 heading. (The exceptions are the paper or chapter title and the headings for notes and the list of works cited.) You should also generally have text under each heading.


Capitalize headings like the titles of works, as explained in section 1.2 of the MLA Handbook.

The shorter, the better."

Modern Language Association. "How Do I Style Headings and Subheadings in a Research Paper?" MLA Style Center., 13 December 2018, .

MLA Style Paper Template

  • MLA 9th Edition Paper Template This template was created and saved as a Word template for Microsoft Word 2016. The process for saving and using the template is the same for the instructions given above for 2013.

You can save a personal template in Microsoft Word (IRSC students, download Office for free, see a librarian if you need help). Above is a template you can use every time you need to set-up a research paper using MLA style format. Simply open the template and type your own information every time you need to write an MLA style paper. Microsoft Word will allow you to save personal templates. Once you have the template opened in Word

Click "Save as"

Give the file a name

Under "Save as type", select Word Template

what does a mla research paper look like

Then when you open Word, you will be able to choose a template rather than a blank document. You might have to select Personal to find your template.

what does a mla research paper look like

Sample MLA Paper

MLA 8th Edition Paper Formatting

How to Use the MLA Style Template

Formatting Group Project Papers

For a research paper written collaboratively by several students, such as for a group project, create a title page instead of listing all authors in the header on page 1 of the essay. On the title page, list each student's full name, placing one name on each double-spaced line. After the final student name, enter the professor's name. After the professor's name, give the course name. The last line of the heading will be the date in 5 August 2021 format. Press Enter a few times to move down the page then give the paper title, centered.

MLA 9th Group Research Project Title Page Example

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  • Next: Formatting Your Works Cited List >>
  • Last Updated: Oct 26, 2023 9:07 AM
  • URL:

what does a mla research paper look like

MLA Format: Everything You Need to Know

Matt Ellis

MLA format is a set of formatting and citation guidelines for how an academic paper should look, similar to other styles such as Chicago or APA format. We use MLA format for topics in the humanities, including languages, philosophy, and the arts, but not history (which uses Chicago) or the social sciences, like psychology or education (which use APA format).

Since most schools’ requirements include humanities courses, there’s a good chance you’ll write a paper in MLA format at some point. Below, we explain how the MLA format works and what sets it apart from Chicago and APA formats. We’ll also cover how to cite sources in MLA format, with examples.

“Write “Grammarly Write with Grammarly

What is MLA format?

When to use mla format, mla vs. apa, chicago, and other formats, how to set up your paper in mla format, mla formatting rules, mla style rules, how to cite sources in mla: citation examples, how to present evidence and quotes in mla, in-text citations in mla, footnotes and endnotes in mla, works cited page for mla, how to cite different types of sources in mla format, mla format faqs.

MLA format was developed by the Modern Language Association to provide a uniform way for academics in the arts and humanities fields to format their works and cite their sources. MLA format, like other academic styles, includes specific guidelines for a paper’s heading, in-text citations, works cited page, quotations, abbreviations, and even the size of the margins.

This format (like other academic formats) takes the guesswork out of formatting your academic writing and ensures that your sources are cited and credited properly, leaving you, and your readers, to focus on your paper’s content.

Use MLA format for the final draft of every piece of academic writing , including essays, reports , and research papers, that you do in your arts and humanities courses. That means English, arts, philosophy, religion, and ethics courses and any other classes you take that fall within these subjects.

If you aren’t sure if you need to use MLA or whether a specific formatting style is necessary for a particular assignment, ask your instructor.

Use MLA format for every part of an assignment you submit. That includes any essay outline , research proposal , literature review , or list of sources your instructor asks you to submit before or alongside your final paper.

There’s no need to format your first draft or any other documents that your professor won’t see, though you certainly can use MLA format throughout the writing process if you’d prefer. One benefit of doing this is that you’ll see approximately how many pages your final draft will span before you reach that stage.

MLA is one of the most commonly used academic styles, especially for high school and undergraduate students. You might also be familiar with APA format , the American Psychological Association’s style, or Chicago , short for the Chicago Manual of Style . These styles each include instructions for formatting citations, crediting sources, using quotations in your work, and other aspects of writing academic papers.

Because the MLA format deals with the humanities, it places more emphasis on authorship than the other styles do. That means the names of creators are prominent in the text. By contrast, APA format emphasizes dates, and Chicago emphasizes supplemental notes like footnotes and endnotes .

Although the three styles have some common approaches to citing sources, each format has its own unique way of doing things for each source type. Make sure you understand the rules for the format you’re using so you don’t follow another style’s rules by mistake.

1 The sources page is referred to as the works cited page. It appears at the end of the paper, after any endnotes.

2 The entire paper is double-spaced, including block quotations and the references on the works cited page.

3 Use block quotes for quotations that are four lines or longer.

4 Abbreviations do not include periods between the letters (e.g., US instead of U.S. ).

5 The paper is printed on 8½-by-11-inch paper .

6 Place a 1-inch margin along all sides of the paper (with the exception of the running head).

7 Write in Times New Roman, Arial, or Helvetica font. The text size should be between 11 and 13.

8 Each page must include a running head with the author’s last name and the page number in the top-right corner. The running head follows the right margin but is only 1.5-inch from the top of the page.

9 A title page is not required.

10 The heading on the first page is left-justified and includes:

  • Author’s name
  • Instructor’s name
  • Course number
  • Date the paper is due

1 MLA format uses the Oxford comma , aka the serial comma.

2 Spell out numbers or fractions that can be written in one or two words (e.g., eighty-eight , five million , or two-thirds ). Use numerals for when more than two words are needed (e.g., 101 ; 2,981 ; or 2 ½ ). However, when these numbers are mixed together, or when numbers are discussed frequently, use numerals (e.g., between 3 and 125 people ).

3 Use numerals for items in a series (e.g., chapter 6 , page 12 , or room 34 ).

4 Always spell out a number if it begins a sentence. Even better, try rephrasing the sentence with a different opening.

5 Do not abbreviate dates. You can use either the month-day-year or day-month-year formats, but be consistent throughout the entire work.

6 Use a person’s full name the first time they are mentioned, unless they are commonly referred to by their surname alone, like Cervantes or Cicero. Any subsequent mentions of the person use only their surname, including particles like de , O’ , or von .

For every academic paper you write, you need to cite sources —that is, mention where your evidence or points came from. This is necessary not only to avoid plagiarism but also to validate your ideas with proof.

According to the MLA Handbook , you must cite sources “when the work of others informs your ideas.” That means every idea that is not your own requires its own citation, even if there are two in the same sentence.

There are two ways to reference another work: paraphrasing and direct quotes.

Paraphrasing involves restating the original idea in your own words. However, your paraphrased text must be fundamentally different from the source text—you must do more than just replace a few words with synonyms. It’s best to change both the wording and the sentence structure.

You can also directly quote a passage from a source, especially if the original wording is important. However, relying too heavily on direct quotes might suggest you’re relying too much on others’ ideas rather than your own. It’s best to use them sparingly and only when they’re truly necessary. Furthermore, when you do use quotations, try to keep the quotes as brief as possible, even as short as a single word.

Regardless of whether you use paraphrasing or quotations, you still need to cite the source.

MLA format prefers in-text citations, which involves citing the source directly in the text right next to its reference. There are two types of in-text citations: parenthetical and narrative.

Parenthetical citations are miniature or condensed citations that include only the bare minimum of information. In MLA format, they include only the author’s or creator’s last name, although a page number, line number, or time stamp is optional.

The Greek myth of Sisyphus provides the perfect analogy for humankind’s struggle of living with the absurdity of life (Camus 78).

Narrative citations are when you mention the author’s name in the text, which makes the second mention of it in the citation redundant. In this case, parenthetical citations are necessary only if you’re mentioning the page number or location.

Camus finds the Greek myth of Sisyphus to be the perfect analogy for humankind’s struggle of living with the absurdity of life (78).

Both kinds of in-text citations still require a full citation for the source in the works cited page.

If the author’s name is unavailable, use whatever comes first for that entry in the works cited page, which is typically the work’s title.

Footnotes and endnotes are not common in MLA format, which prefers in-text citations instead. However, there are few situations when they are called for:

  • A series of sources: If the same passage requires multiple citations in the same line, it’s better to cite them all in a note than in an in-text citation.
  • Deviations from standard documentation: Use a note if you’re not following a normal documentation practice, such as when you’re citing line numbers instead of page numbers for poetry. You only need to mention this the first time you reference the source.
  • Flagging editions or translations: Some texts, especially classic works, have multiple versions. Use a note to mention which edition or translation you’re using. Again, you only need to mention this the first time you reference the source.
  • Content notes: You can use notes to mention supplemental—but nonessential—information, such as personal commentary or to explain a word choice. Footnotes and endnotes are good for these sorts of tangential asides that don’t fit in the main text.

Papers written in MLA format use either footnotes or endnotes but not both. Make sure to choose one form and stick with it. Footnotes appear at the bottom of the page they reference, endnotes are written on a separate page titled “Notes” or “Endnotes” at the end of a section, chapter, or entire work.

To signal a note, place a superscript number ( 1 ) at the end of the sentence the note refers to. If a note is needed in the middle of a sentence, place it after a punctuation mark like a comma, colon, or semicolon. The exception is the dash; note numbers come before a dash.

Certain translations use an alternative word choice. 1

Although some have disagreed with this assessment, 2 Camus seems to almost admire Sisyphus’s determination.

Sisyphus was the king of Ephyra 3 —now known as Corinth.

Each note number in the text corresponds to either a footnote or an endnote later in work.

Notes are written in the order of their numbers. Each note begins with the superscript number corresponding to its place in the text.

1 Thomas Warren suggests Camus’s use of la mesure should be translated into English as “measurement” instead of the popular translation “moderation.”

2 See Thomas Nagel’s paper, “The Absurd.”

3 Corinth was a city-state on the Isthmus of Corinth, the land that connects the Peloponnese to the mainland of Greece, according to Wikipedia.

MLA prohibits the abbreviation ibid .

According to MLA format guidelines, any source used in your paper must have a corresponding full citation in the works cited page , a page at the end of a book or paper that lists all the sources and their bibliographic information.

The works cited page comes at the end of a work, after any endnotes. This page is titled simply “Works Cited” and mostly follows the same text and formatting guidelines as the rest of the work. For example, it has one-inch page margins and size 11 to 13 text.

Entries are listed in alphabetical order by the first word of each entry, usually the author’s or creator’s last name.

The one particular formatting rule about the works cited page is the use of the hanging indent. Basically, every line after the first one in a single entry is indented by a half-inch .

Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays. Translated by Justin O’Brien, New York, Random House, 1955.

Each type of source, like books, journal articles, documentaries, etc., has its own particular rules for MLA citations. Feel free to check out our previous guides below, which cover the details of how to cite each source in MLA.

  • How to Cite a Book in MLA Format
  • How to Cite a Website in MLA Format
  • How to Cite an Image or Photo in MLA Format
  • How to Cite a Movie in MLA Format
  • How to Cite a TV Show in MLA Format
  • How to Cite Wikipedia in MLA Format
  • How to Cite a YouTube Video in MLA Format
  • How to Cite a PDF in MLA Format
  • How to Cite a Lecture or Speech in MLA Format

MLA format is the academic style developed by the Modern Language Association. It’s the standard format for academic papers in the arts and humanities. MLA has specific guidelines for citing books , films , TV shows , newspaper articles , PDFs , and other types of sources.

How is it different from other formats?

There are numerous differences between MLA format and other academic formats. One of the most notable is how sources are cited.

What are some examples of MLA citations?

In-text citation: (Lamott 28).

Reference listed on the works cited page: Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me . Spiegel & Gray, 2015.

Grammarly helps you cite with confidence

Grammarly is meeting students’ needs by simplifying the citation process. Our citation features expand on Grammarly’s trusted support for students, which includes grammar and spelling suggestions and plagiarism detection that identifies missing citations. Auto-citations generates citations for online sources in seconds, without your having to enter any info manually or even leave the web page. And when you’re ready to edit your paper, citation style formatting will proofread your in-text and full citations to ensure they’re mistake-free and consistent.

what does a mla research paper look like

Jerz's Literacy Weblog (est. 1999)

Mla format papers: step-by-step tips for formatting research essays in mla style.

Jerz >  Writing > Academic     [ Argument | Title  |  Thesis  |  Blueprint  | Pro/Con | Quoting | MLA Format ]

(View a Google Doc template for an MLA Style paper .)

0.1) If you’ve been asked to submit a paper in MLA style, your instructor is asking you to format the page and present the content in a specific way. Just as football referees dress a certain way, and Japanese chefs cook a certain way, writers in certain disciplines follow a certain set of conventions. This document will show you how to format an essay in MLA style.

0.2) If, instead of questions about putting the final formatting touches on your essay, you have questions about what to write, see instead my handouts on writing a short research paper , coming up with a good thesis statement , and using quotations in the body of your paper .

mla style

  • Document Settings (1 inch margins; double spaced; 12-point)
  • Page Header (name and page number, upper right of every page)
  • Title Block (assignment info and an informative title)
  • Citations (no comma between the author and page number; commas and periods go outside of inline quotes)
  • Works Cited List (lots of tricky details! sort alphabetically by author, not by the order the quotes appear in your paper)

For the most complete information, check your campus library or writing center for the  MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers , 8th ed.

Use a header with your last name and the page number, a title block, and an informative title. (See for details.)

MLA Style Format (First Page)

How to format the Works Cited page of an MLA style paper.

How to format the Works Cited page of an MLA style paper.

what does a mla research paper look like

1. Document Settings

Your word processor comes with default settings (margin, line height, paragraph spacing, and typeface) that will likely need adjustment. For MLA style, you need:

1.1 Adjusting Document Settings in MS-Word (Windows)

My copy of Microsoft Word for Windows defaults to

  • 1-inch margins all around
  • 1.15 line height
  • 10pt spacing between paragraphs
  • Calibri 11-point  typeface.

Changing to MLA Style (Windows)

  • The default margins in my test run were fine, but if you need to change them: Page Layout -> Margins -> Normal (1-inch all around)
  • The default line height is too low. Change it to 2.0. Home -> Line Spacing -> 2.0. (You could try fudging it to 1.9 or 2.1 to meet a page count, but any more than that and your instructor may notice.)
  • The MS-Word default adds extra space after paragraphs.(MLA Style instead requires you to  signal paragraph breaks by indenting the first line.) CTRL-A (select all your text) Home -> Line Spacing -> Remove Space After Paragraph
  • Change the typeface to Times New Roman 12-point. Home -> Font Face Selector (change to Times New Roman) Home -> Font Size Selector (change to 12)

1.2 Adjusting Document Settings in MS-Word (Mac)

My copy of  microsoft word for mac defaults to.

  • 1.25 inch left and right margins, 1 inch top and bottom
  • 1.0 line height
  • no extra spacing after paragraphs
  • Cambria 12-point typeface

Changing to MLA style (Mac)

  • In my test run, the left and right margins are too big. To change them: Layout -> Margins -> Normal (1-inch all around)
  • The default line height is too low. Change it to 2.0. Home -> Line Spacing  -> 2.0
  • My Mac copy of MS-Word does not add extra spaces after paragraphs. If yours does: Home -> Line Spacing  -> Line Spacing Options… (a new window will pop up) Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style (check this box) -> OK
  • The 12-point Cambria will probably be fine, but to change the typeface: Home -> Font Face Selector (change to Times New Roman) Home -> Font Size Selector (change to 12)

2. Page Header

In the top right of every page, use your word processor’s “Page Header” function add an automatic page number and your surname.

2.1 Adding the Page Header in MS-Word (Windows)

  • Insert -> Page Number -> Top of Page -> (choose the right-justified “Plain Number” option)
  • The cursor will jump automatically to the right place for you to t ype your surname .
  • Click anywhere in the body of the paper to exit the header area.

2.2 Adding the Page Header in MS-Word (Mac)

  • Insert (in the top menu) -> Page Numbers…  -> (Set “Position” to “Top of Page (header)” and “Alignment” to “Right”)
  • Click just to the left of the new page number, and type your surname .
  • On my test document, my name was too far over to the left; grab the triangular tab adjuster just above your name, and drag it a notch to the right .

3. Title Block

In the upper left corner, type your name, your instructor’s name, the course number and section, and today’s date. Centered on the next line, type an informative title that actually informs the reader of your main point (not just “English Paper” or “A Comparison between Hamlet and Macbeth”).

what does a mla research paper look like

  • Like all the other text in an MLA style paper, the title block is double-spaced .
  • The title is in the same font as the rest of the paper — it is not boldface, or enlarged.
  • There is  no extra space above or below the title.
  • A truly informative title will include the general topic, and your precise opinion on that topic.  (So, if you pan to compare Hamlet and Macbeth, your title should state the unique point you want to make about Hamlet and Macbeth. Reuse part of your thesis statement.)

4. Citations

This handout presumes you already know why you should cite your sources (to establish your authority, to introduce persuasive evidence, to avoid plagiarism , etc.). 

To fully cite a source requires two stages.  The first happens in the body of your paper (the “in-text citation”) and the second happens on a separate page at the end of your paper (see “Works Cited List,” below.)

4.1 Citing a Block Quote (more than three lines)

what does a mla research paper look like

  • Long quotes can start to look like filler. Only use a block quote if you have a very good reason to include the whole passage. (You can usually make your point with a shorter quote.)

what does a mla research paper look like

  • Place the parenthetical citation (the author’s name and the page number) after the period . (This is different from inline quotes, below.)
  • There is no comma between the author’s name and the page number.
  • If the quotation runs across more than one page: (Wordsworth-Fuller 20-21) or (Wordsworth-Fuller 420-21).
  • Skip wordy introductions such as, “In his informative guide The Amazing Writing Book , published by Elizabeth Mount College in 2010, the noted composition expert Maxwell Wordsworth-Fuller describes the importance of citations in MLA style papers.” Cutting the filler leaves more room to develop your own original ideas. (See “ Integrating Quotations .”)

4.2 Citing an Inline Quotation

When the passage you want to quote is less than three lines long, use inline style.  Here we have two brief passages, taken from the same page of the same source, so we can handle both with a single parenthetical citation.

what does a mla research paper look like

  • The parenthetical citation appears outside the quoted material.
  • The period that ends the sentence comes after the close parenthesis . (This is different from block quotes, above.)
  • In this example, we have changed the first word a little, lowercasing it in order to fit it into our own sentence. To let the reader know what we changed, we put [] around it.
  • Again, note the absence of a full sentence that explains who Wordsworth-Fuller is and where the quote comes from. All that info will be in the Works Cited list, so we leave it out of the body of the paper.

4.3 Citing a Paraphrase

Let’s imagine we want to reference Wordsworth-Fuller’s general idea about citation as a way to establish credibility, but we don’t need to include any of the technical details. We can save space, and make it much easier on our reader, if we paraphrase:

what does a mla research paper look like

  • Use paraphrasing for variety, or to make a passing reference without taking up much space.
  • If we use an author’s idea, rephrased in our own words, we must still cite the idea.

Tips for avoiding common errors in MLA citations.

5. Works Cited List

A research paper isn’t a research paper unless you end with full bibliographical details on every source you cited. This part can be tedious and tricky; leave yourself plenty of time to do it.

what does a mla research paper look like

How to format the “Works Cited” list of an MLA style paper.

  • MS-Word Wind: Insert -> Page Break -> New Page.
  • MS-Word Mac: Document Elements -> Break -> Page.
  • Title your new page: Works Cited MLA style calls for no extra spaces above or below the page title; no special formatting.

5.1.  How to Create an Individual Works Cited Entry

Exactly what goes into each item in your bibliography depends on what kind of item it is. The general format is as follows:

Author. Title of Source. Container, contributors, version, volume and issue, publisher, date, location.

Exactly how that basic format gets turned into a Works Cited entry depends on the source.

Here’s the basic format for any book:

what does a mla research paper look like

  • Gibaldi, Joseph, and George Spelvin.
  • Gibaldi, Joseph, Alan Smithee, and George Spelvin.
  • GIbaldi, Joseph et al.
  • The italicized phrase “ et al. ” is an abbreviation for the Latin “et alia,” meaning “and others.”
  • The “ al. ” is short for a longer word, so we mark the abbreviation with a period.
  • The “ et” is not an abbreviation, so it doesn’t get a period.
  • Place periods after the author’s name, after the title of the book, and at the end of the entry.
  • The title of the book is italicized .
  • The publisher is the name of the organization responsible for publishing the book. In this example it’s the Modern Language Association. It might instead be Project Gutenberg, the US Department of Agriculture, or the World Health Organization,

Basic Format for Any Academic Article

Author. “Title of Article in Quotation Marks.” Title of Journal in Italics, volume #, issue #, YEAR, pp. [pages of article]. Italicized Name of Database.

what does a mla research paper look like

Let’s break that example down.

The author Margaret Kantz wrote the article “Helping Students Use Textual Sources Persuasively.” That article doesn’t exist on its own floating in space; it was published by a journal called College English,  in the 52nd year of publication, in the first issue of its 52nd volume, in the year 1990, the article started on page 74 and ran through page 91. The student found this article while searching the database Academic Search Elite .

Every academic article has a specific title, and is published in a journal with a different title. (Online citation generators often get this wrong, and will often repeat the same title twice.)

What is this “volume 52, number 1”?

If  College English were a TV series, then “volume” would be which season, and “number” would be the episode number. The title of the article would be the equivalent of a scene within that episode.

The title of the database, Academic Search Elite , is like the title of the streaming service you’d need to sign into. If you were talking about your favorite TV show and you told me it was on Netflix, or Disney+, I could find it. But if you told me “It’s on my MacBook” or “It’s on my Samsung phone,” that wouldn’t help me to find it.

Basic Format for Any Web Page

what does a mla research paper look like

In the above example, reporter Camila Domonoske filed a news story called “Students Have ‘Dismaying’ Inability To Tell Fake News From Real, Study Finds,” that aired on a news program called The Two-Way , which is published by National Public Radio, and the story aired Nov 23, 2016.

In MLS Style, the full URL is optional. Really long URLs with long strings of numbers in them are often generated for specific users, so someone else who visits that same URL will often get an error message.

You might shorten the URL to “,” because it would be a simple matter to use a search engine to find the actual story.

Other Citation Examples

What if your source doesn’t fit any of my examples?

You might be trying to cite something that doesn’t fit the above pattern, like a social media post, a video game, a work of art, an email from a relative, a billboard, or something else. It’s just not practical for me to try to include an example of every single thing it’s possible to cite.

The MLA citation format is designed to be flexible, so that it works for forms of media that haven’t been invented yet.

See Purdue OWL’s handouts for how to create a bibliography entry for a book , an article in a  periodical (such as a journal or newspaper), or an  electronic source (such as an email, web page or a YouTube clip). See also this list of  other common sources  (such as a personal interview or a movie).

5.2.  How to Organize Your Works Cited list

Sort the entries alphabetically by the author ‘s last name.

  • If the author is an organization (such as a government agency or non-profit foundation), alphabetize according to the name of the organization .
  • If you are citing a painting, or a composer, then obviously “author” has to be interpreted a little loosely.
  • Unless your instructor ask you to organize your Works Cited list differently,  everything should be alphabetized together, in a single list. MLA does not require that you separate works of different kinds, or that you cite works in the order that they appeared in your paper, or that you write annotations to go along with each item.
  • Use double-spaced line height. (in my copy of Word, I select the text and choose Format -> Paragraph ->  Line spacing -> Double -> OK.)
  • Use hanging indent paragraph format. (In my copy of word, I select the text then choose Format -> Paragraph -> Indentation -> Special -> Hanging Indent.)

29 May 2011 — new document posted, replacing outdated handout written in 1999. 06 Jun 2011 — expanded section on organizing the Works Cited list, since several readers asked for clarification. 07 Jun 2011 — reorganized for emphasis 19 Apr 2012 — added numbers to more subheads 24 Mar 2014 — added details on Works Cited paragraph formatting. 02 Oct 2016 — updated with MLA 8th Edition details. 30 Nov 2016 — added annotated Works Cited sample image. 07 Sep 2020 — updated section 5.1

570 thoughts on “ MLA Format Papers: Step-by-step Tips for Formatting Research Essays in MLA Style ”

The information was very helpful

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Thanks for sharing such an informative post with us.

fantastic information

Thanks for info!

hello i am nate sedmack i am here to kill all the furries for what they did to gavin born

I’m learning more writing a paper

it was very informational and helped me a lot

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Curious how you would Cite this webpage? haha…

awesome reminders

what about if when your using a quote and there is no name just anonomus

Honestly, I’d say find another way to make your point. An anonymous saying like “A stitch in time saves nine” won’t help you demonstrate your ability to write the kind of scholarly paper that MLA is designed for. Certainly investigate the quote to find out whether it maybe comes from Shakespeare or some other source that you can quote. I might identify the example I used as “English proverb,” but since I won’t be marking your paper, you really should check with your instructor.

This article..thing is the only reason I am passing my online college class. Especially the citation builder. Thank you!

I would Like You To Give Simple Instructions Not Complicated Ones , and Include also how much Papers Should be worked on.

Khalid, if there is any particular detail you are confused about, please let me know what question you have and perhaps I can help. There is no specific answer to how much a paper should be worked on. It depends on what grade you want to earn, how much time you have, whether your instructor is willing to meet with you before the due date, whether your instructor will give you the chance to revise your work, and many other factors.

hahahah xD me too same

How do I cite a photo that I found online?

Is it a historical photograph or a photograph published in a book that someone scanned and posted on line, is it a photograph of something like a sculpture? Is your paper focused on the work of the photographer, the makeup artist who prepared the model, the digital image enhancer who altered the image, the model? There is no single correct way to cite a photograph, because there are many different reasons to cite a photograph. Your instructor would be able to give you more specific advice. In general, though, the 8th edition of the MLA guide would say something like this:

Olsen, Jimmy. “Superman Rescues Boy Scouts from Lava Pit.” Photograph. The Daily Planet . July 22, 1956.

If you found the picture on a blog or a Flickr gallery, adjust the citation accordingly. If you found the image as the result of a Google search for something, you might very well end up finding a page that re-uses someone else’s picture without appropriately giving credit. There are many variables. Talk to your instructor, who will be the one grading your work, and will therefore be the right person to advise you on what to do.

is the text or what you wrote supposed to be centered in the page or to the left margin

Left margin.

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cool it was helpful

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I think you should include online resource citation instructions

Click on “Citing” at the top of the page. One of the options on the other end of that link is how to cite a web page.

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which writing style (MLA, APA) have more importance for students of social sciences, media sciences and business?

It depends on the instructor or editor who’s calling the shots.

Very informative. It helped introduce my tired old mind to the MLA format. So, I can better help coach and prepare my wife for her English course. Thank you very much.

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I’m using a book title and author as my paper heading. How is that formatted?

I would tell my own students that a book title and the name of an author is not a good paper title, and I would ask them to write a title that catches the reader’s attention, identifies the topic, and identifies what position the paper is going to take on the topic. But if you are not my student, then I’m not the person who will be evaluating your paper. MLA style puts the book title in italics. Other than that, I really don’t have any advice for you.

Thank you very much for this useful information. As a freshman in highschool, my biology teacher asked for me to write an essay in mLA format about evolution. I had no clue what mLA format was,so I searched it up and it brought me here. In middle school I never wrote an essay in this format before,but I feel very confident to type my first mLA essay and I’m excited to do so! (Right after I finish my draft >.<) thank you very much! (⌒▽⌒)✌

This wasn’t helpful at all

Shavez, what were you looking for? This page is about formatting a paper you have already written. The first section includes links to pages about how to write essays.

u a real nigga dennis

really dude my collies and I would prefer that you didn’t use any profane language due to younger children that may be reading this

thank u i got an A 97 percent

this was very helpful i got an A 95 percent

hi my name is Jessie i have to writ a 2 pages Essay about MLA can someone help me

Dennis, what lends itself to science in the APA system? And what lends itself to the Humanities with the MLA? TIA.

As compared to MLA papers, APA papers tend to be shorter, and divided up into sections. Authors who use APA style tend to publish more frequently, because their knowledge goes out of date more quickly; so the date is prominent in APA citations, and page numbers are rare.

By contrast, people who use MLA style tend to write longer essays that aren’t divided up into standard sections like “procedure” and “conclusions.” Humanities scholarship generally doesn’t go out of date quickly. Instead of conducting experiments, humanists read and write a lot of longer essays and books, re-interpreting and quoting passages from them. MLA style makes the page numbers prominent, so that other scholars can easily find and re-read those same passages for themselves, and further the work of scholarship as it is conducted in the humanities.

Thanks for the reply. What do you mean by ” MLA style tend to write longer essays that aren’t divided up into standard sections like “procedure” and “conclusions.”? Are we not suppose to use conclusions in MLA format? In my English class, we use MLA with conclusions, but what do you mean by “procedure” and “conclusions”? I understand each instructor is different but is it right to use conclusions in an MLA paper…or am I getting confused?

Typically papers written in MLA style DO have a conclusion, but it would not be set off in a separate section under the subheading “Conclusion.” MLA papers tend NOT to follow a standard, particular structure. Papers written in the sciences DO have a fairly rigid set of sections, with separate subheadings. But it’s best for you to talk to your teacher about the specifics of any asisgnment.

Ok, thanks. I just wanted to ask and clarify it. Also, doesn’t the word “humanist” means something else entirely? The Humanist term today implies ‘human’ and is often used for atheists, for example… or am I wrong?

I used the term “humanist” to mean “a person who studies the culture of humans,” without intending the more specific meaning you mention. At my school, the humanities division includes theologians.

seems easy enough

We get asked often about what “format” the college application essay should be in. Although not generally…

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When using MLA format, do you list the book title, the title of the article or both?

For guidance on citing individual sources, see the link in item 4, above. This page is about formatting the paper once you’ve already written it.

I wrote a paper and it looks just like your example. I followed everything to the “t” and my professor says that my header is indented and my paragraphs are double indented and the page numbers are in wrong format. What can I do?

Winston, I suggest you talk to your professor. I have been teaching from thiis handout for years, and when a student makes a formatting error on a rough draft, I just ask them to fix it for the revision. But your instructor is the one who designed the assignment and who evaluates your submissions, so he or she is the person to approach with questions.

I agree. .let me ask you this. Are your headers indented?

The screenshot was taken from a page that I created following the instructions for using MS-Word with a MacBook Pro. I followed the instructions that are on the page. But surely your instructor gave you guidelines, in a handout or an assigned textbook, which is why I encourage you to have this conversation with your instructor. Whether your instructor does or does not agree with the information on this page really doesn’t matter, since your instructor created the assignment and evaluates it according to his or her own criteria. I suggest you let your your teacher know you are confused about what you did wrong, and ask for an opportunity to make minor formatting changes to a paper that, we hope, met all the major criteria.

How do you add footnotes to an MLA style paper?

Most word processors will have an Insert -> Footnote or Insert -> Note (footnote or endnote) option. Most short college papers don’t need footnotes. (They aren’t for documenting sources — use an in-text citation and a Works Cited list instead.) I suggest you talk to your instructor about whether you really do need to use a footnote.

RT @DennisJerz: MLA Format Papers: Step-by-step Instructions for Writing Research Essays #mlastyle

Thank you so much!! I love the Bib builder!!

I’m glad to hear you found it helpful!

Dear Dr. Jerz,

I am writing to request permission to link your webpage, “MLA Format Papers: Step-by-step Instructions for Writing Research Essays” to our website.

Marie Walcroft Librarian Lansdale School of Business

I am glad you found this page helpful. Yes, you are welcome to include a link and a brief extract.

Can you put what information is supposed to be in each paragraph???

Emma, I’m afraid I don’t understand the question. I feel like you’ve asked me what emotions are supposed to be in each verse of a song, or what colors are supposed to be in a painting. The many different kinds of songs or paintings are all created for different reasons; likewise, paragraphs are assigned, written, and read for a whole range of different reasons, so there’s no answer that covers all possible cases.

that was beautiful

I really find this useful (especially fudging the line spacing to 2.1). Good job!

Im in middle school and I have to do this. I have never heard of MLA Format and this helped ALOT. Thanks so much! Hopefully I get a good grade on this paper!

“@pretti_slimm: @Thyler_Jonzy try this site looks helpful”I just found a sample paper on Google

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Is the Table of Contents double spaced – MLA?

i think you should add an explanation about page header. that was what i was looking for

See item 2 from the table of contents:

when you say page numbers (Wordworth-Fuller 20), are you referring to the page number within the MLA document or the page number the text appears on within the authors works?

In this case, your paper would be referring to something you found on page 20 of the text by Wordsworth-Fuller.

With your delicate information about to write MLA format essay in right way will lead me to successful college year.

Thank you for useful information about how to write MLA format essay. Before my college year I didn’t know there were many different forms of essay. When my professor asked me to write MLA format I had no idea how to write it, but with your delicate information I think I will survive my college year. Thank you again.

I’m glad to know you found this page helpful. Most instructors will be happy to help if you stop by during their office hours, and if your prof is too busy for that most universities will have a writing center where you can get help at any stage of any assignment involving writing.

Thank you for valuable information. Before my college year in America I didn’t know what MLA Format was, but with this delicate information I will survive my college year.

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That means the quote is from page 20 of the book or article written by Wordsworth-Fuller.

Very good information, I really needed this incite on research paper formats. It has such thorough details and that make it so much easier to understand.

How do you in text cite a website? I didnt really see much about that.

I think you should add an explanation about page numbers. That was what I was looking for, but I couldn’t find the significant area.

Section 2 explains how to put page numbers in the header, and section 4 discusses page numbers in citations.

read it… it’s there.

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MLA Paper Format: Simple Guidelines to Follow

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If you’re new to writing research papers, setting everything up can be intimidating. However, breaking the MLA paper format down into the basics makes it much easier to digest. Learn how to set up your paper, cover page, headings, headers, tables, and figures in your MLA paper.

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MLA Paper Format General Guidelines

In general, the MLA style formatting guidelines are flexible. That’s why so many teachers and students like to use this writing style for their middle school, high school, and college research papers. However, while MLA is flexible, it still has a few formatting rules students need to adhere to. The fundamental break down for formatting an MLA paper includes:

  • Use standard 8.5 x 11 white paper
  • Numbering your pages
  • 1-inch margins (all sides)
  • Readable font
  • Double-spaced
  • Indent new paragraphs
  • Only one space between sentences

Now that you know the basics, it’s time to look at the different formatting aspects you need for your cover page, headings, headers, text formatting, and tables.

MLA Cover Page

MLA papers don’t typically have a cover page. But, if a teacher asks for one, it’s essential to know how to do it. An MLA cover page includes a few things like: 

  • University/school’s name
  • Title of the paper
  • The subtitle, if you have one
  • Course name and number, if you need it
  • Professor/teacher

And that is pretty much it. Everything is centered on your cover page. The school name or university is at the top, and the title in the middle. Your name, course, professor, and due date are toward the bottom.

MLA cover page example

MLA Headings & Headers

Rather than a cover page, your paper typically has a heading and title on the first page of your work. Your MLA heading and title include your name, instructor, course, and date aligned to the left. The title is centered before you start the body of your paper. Additionally, each page of your paper has a running header with your name and the page number, including the works cited.

what does a mla research paper look like

MLA Text and Body Formatting

In the body of your paper, MLA offers recommendations for you when it comes to fonts, spacing, formatting, numbers, and abbreviations.

MLA Paper Formatting: Readable Font

When it comes to writing your paper, you need a readable font. Your teacher doesn’t want to bust out the magnifying glass to see your work. And to make sure of that, MLA recommends a font that is easy to read and distinguishes regular and italicized text like Arial or Times New Roman. Additionally, use a standard font size like 11 or 12 point. Making everything a 14-point font doesn’t make your paper look longer.

Spacing and Formatting for an MLA Paper

When it comes to the spacing and formatting of your paper, stick with double spacing throughout the entire body and works cited and make sure your text is left-justified, so the right margin has a ragged edge. It’s also vital to indent every new paragraph five spaces by hitting the tab on your keyboard. To keep everything neat and tidy, follow the standard punctuation rules for commas and periods.

Numbers in MLA Formatting

Using numbers in MLA isn’t hard, but you must follow a few rules. MLA clarifies when to use Arabic and Roman numerals and when to spell out numbers or just use the Arabic form. For example, if you can spell a number out in a few words, go for it. However, if you need a whole sentence, it’s better to stick with Arabic numerals like 1,345,267. Your fingers might start to hurt writing out that one.

Number Examples

Ten, twenty-six, two million

129, 879, 3 ¾

Abbreviations in MLA Formatting

To keep your fingers from cramping, you can use  abbreviations in MLA formatting . But like everything else, rules need to be followed for abbreviations. For example, end abbreviations with a period if they end in a lower case letter, and abbreviate months longer than four letters. 

Abbreviation Example 

Jan., Feb., ACL

Formatting Tables & Illustrations in MLA

Another crucial part of your MLA paper formatting is the tables and illustrations. Not only do they add color to your work, but some things must be shown rather than read. When it comes to tables and figures, keep the figure as close to the text as possible, and follow MLA formatting rules.

Formatting a Table in MLA

Formatting a table isn’t hard in your MLA paper. And, you can include as many as you want. Just keep these formatting rules in mind.

  • Label “Table” is flush left, followed by an Arabic numeral. (Table 1)
  • The title is flush left under Table in the title case. (Number of COVID Cases in the US)
  • Give the source of your table directly below the table. It needs to be flush left and include a hanging indent for information that goes into a second line. Additionally, all the information should be double spaced.
  • Use a dividing line to separate the source from the table.

example MLA table

Figures in MLA Papers

Now, it’s time to look at MLA figure formatting. MLA format is excellent for art and language paper topics. Therefore, images, illustrations, and maps could be a big part of your paper. Formatting an image in MLA is similar to a table, but there are a few distinctions in formatting.

  • Label “Fig.” followed by an Arabic numeral is placed directly under the image. (Fig. 1)
  • Right next to the label will be the caption. (Fig. 1. Map of Scotland)
  • The caption can include source information, and then it doesn’t have to be cited in the text.

Musical illustrations follow the same rules as a figure, but you label them as an example (Ex. 1).

what does a mla research paper look like

MLA Paper Format Made Easy

Faq mla paper format: simple guidelines to follow, how do you write a paper in mla format.

To write a paper in MLA format, you need a running header with your last name and page number, 1-inch margins on all sides, indents when starting a new paragraph, and a readable font. You'll also cite your sources in-text and on your works cited page using MLA format citations.

What should an MLA paper look like?

An MLA paper has a standard look for every page including 1-inch margins, a readable font, a running header including your last name and page number, and author-page in-text citations. At the end of your paper, you will include a works cited with a list of all the sources used in the paper.

How do you write a MLA research paper?

To write an MLA research paper, you must adhere to the guidelines set for by the Modern Language Association. Therefore, you must include scholarly resources that are cited using the author-date in-text citations. At the end of your paper, include a works cited listing your academic sources. When setting up your paper, use 1-inch margins, a readable font, indents for new paragraphs, and a running header.

How do you properly head a paper?

To properly head a paper in MLA format, include a running header that is right-aligned. Your running header includes the page number and your name.

What is MLA format template?

An MLA format template is created in a word processing software to set up the 1-inch margins, double spacing, and running header for your MLA paper. You can also do this yourself by following MLA page layout guidelines for these areas.

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MLA Format Basics

How to cite shakespeare in mla works cited, mla annotated bibliography examples and writing guide, using note cards for mla research papers.

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  • A Research Guide
  • Research Paper Guide

How to Write a Research Paper in MLA Format

  • Basics of MLA
  • How to format a MLA paper
  • Title page in MLA style
  • MLA abstract
  • Body and in-text citing

MLA Works Cited page

  • Quotations and paraphrasing
  • Avoiding plagiarism
  • MLA style headings

How to Write a Research Paper in MLA Format

The basics of MLA style: know before you start!

How to format your mla paper: page layout and mla header.

  • Set page margins to 1 inch.
  • Times New Roman, Arial, or Verdana, point 12, is a recommended font.
  • All your content must be double-spaced unless specified otherwise.
  • Every new paper paragraph must have a 0.5 inches indent.
  • The title of your research paper must be centered.
  • No period is placed after the title or headings.
  • Title capitalization must be used for all MLA-style headings.
  • MLA paper header must be placed in the top left corner.
  • Page numbering must be in the top right corner of each page with the student’s last name and the number (Jones 1).

How to create a title page in MLA style?

  • University Name is centered and goes on top of the page.
  • Every word in the title is capitalized, and the title is centered.
  • The subtitle (if necessary) goes as the second line below the main title.
  • The bottom of the page starts with a student’s name (centered).
  • The course name and number go below the author’s name.
  • Professor’s full name goes as the next line.
  • The last line is the date of submission or due date.

MLA Style abstract in research paper

  • Abstracts should be between 100 and 250 words or around seven sentences summarizing your research.
  • Your abstract should have a sentence that reflects your motivations and objectives.
  • Include one sentence about your research methodology and findings.
  • Do not use any citations or references in your research paper abstract.
  • Provide a reason why you have conducted the research and why it’s important.

MLA format for research in paper body and in-text MLA citing

  • Introduction . It should talk about the importance of your subject and provide a basic background of your subject. Give something inspiring to motivate your readers to read further. Using no more than two citations in your MLA research paper introduction is recommended. It should be up to 15% of the total paper’s amount.
  • Thesis Statement . Your thesis statement is the heart of your paper, meaning you must provide the main argument or make an assumption reflecting your main topic or an idea you follow.
  • Methods . Explain your methodology and provide information on whether it’s a qualitative or quantitative method. Talk about why it’s the most suitable method and why you think it is helpful.
  • Results . The next section should discuss the research results by offering statistical data and all relevant information that can be used for research purposes and replication.
  • Discussion . This is the part where you should provide an analysis of research findings and justification. If there were any limitations, you should talk about them in this part of your MLA research paper.
  • Conclusion . Explain your thesis through the lens of research that has been done. Avoid using citations in this section, and do not introduce new ideas!


  • The “Works Cited” must be placed in the center without being bold.
  • All of the MLA research paper references must be sorted alphabetically
  • Avoid using sources that have not been cited in the paper.
  • Press the “enter” key once after the Works Cited line and place your MLA research paper references next.
  • Each second line of the reference is done with a hanging indent (0.5 inches).

Quotations and paraphrasing in MLA format

How to avoid plagiarism in mla research papers, mla style heading for research paper writing purposes.

  • The MLA research paper headings must be written in the Title case style.
  • All the headings are aligned to the left margin of the page.
  • There is no period at the end of the headings, as you may have noticed by checking an MLA research paper template online.
  • The font and size must be the same throughout your MLA research paper, with title capitalization.
  • Using bold fonts for headers is only used to indicate greater importance
  • Italics are only used for subordinate headings

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The Right Look: MLA Format for Research Papers

The MLA style is an important tool for research paper authors as it allows them to ensure their papers are formatted in a consistent, professional manner. This article will introduce readers to the fundamentals of using MLA format for structuring and formatting research papers. It will review how to properly cite sources, create subheadings, organize content into paragraphs and sections, include page numbers, use font size appropriately according to level headings within the paper’s text body; and provide examples on how citations should appear both in-text and at endnotes or footnotes. Moreover this article hopes that by providing a comprehensive overview of these fundamental steps required when writing a research paper utilizing the MLA style guidelines that authors can feel confident about constructing quality academic documents with ease.

I. Introduction to MLA Format

Ii. basic structure and margins of an mla paper, iii. header for the research paper, iv. formatting in-text citations in mla style, v. properly citing sources at the end of the paper with a works cited page, vi. tips for writing an effective research paper in mla format, vii conclusion: why is it important to adhere to the specifications of an mla formatted document.

This section will provide a comprehensive introduction to the Modern Language Association (MLA) format and explain why it is important for academic research. MLA formatting dictates how any written work should be organized, ensuring consistency across all disciplines.

What Does an MLA Research Paper Look Like? At first glance, a document formatted in accordance with the guidelines of the MLA may appear intimidating; however, once you understand its components and purpose, creating such papers becomes second nature. An example of what an MLA-formatted paper looks like follows:

  • 1″ margins on all sides.
  • Double spacing throughout.
  • 12 point font size.

Headers also include the title centered between them before beginning body text. The final element found at end of every research paper—Works Cited Page—is composed only of sources used within essay itself and arranged alphabetically by author’s last names.

The MLA format is one of the most common citation styles used for writing research papers. It has a basic structure and margins that must be followed in order to ensure accuracy, consistency, and organization.

Margins: The text should be double-spaced with no extra line spaces between paragraphs or sections. All four margins (top, bottom, left and right) must be set at 1 inch from each side of the paper. This includes any headings or titles within your document; they too need to have a 1-inch margin on all sides.

Basic Structure: Research papers written using MLA style typically include an introduction section which begins on page one, then follow by three body paragraphs where you present arguments regarding your thesis statement topic sentence(s). After this comes the conclusion paragraph which wraps up the entire essay’s argument succinctly while reinforcing why readers should believe what you argued throughout your work. Each part of an MLA paper has its own specific rules concerning font type/size and line spacing that are outlined below.

  • Font Type & Size:
  • Spacing & Paragraphing:

The third and final header of this research paper outlines the vital components that will come together to form a well-rounded argument. At the heart of any successful writing project is an organized structure, with each part building upon one another to support your main thesis.

A basic MLA format research paper should include:

  • Title Page : A title page introduces readers to what you’re discussing in your project.
  • Abstract : An abstract summarizes major points within the body of work itself.
  • Introduction : Introduce readers to why you chose this topic as well as provide them with enough background information so they understand it clearly.

In-Text Citations in MLA Style

The core of any research paper is its citations. Using Modern Language Association (MLA) style, a writer can ensure their in-text citations are correctly formatted and cited within the body of the text. In order to properly cite sources used within an essay or article, there are certain guidelines one should follow.

  • Every source that was consulted for information must be included as a citation.
  • When directly quoting someone else’s words, these need to be put into quotation marks with proper credit given through an in-text citation.

Each quote needs to have page numbers noted if available; otherwise only include the author’s last name along with title of work and year it was published. If no individual author is credited then use whatever comes first in your reference list such as organization responsible for publishing material. What does a research paper look like when using MLA formatting? Here’s some tips on how you might set up your content:

  • Your document should have 1 inch margins all around from top, bottom sides.

12 point font size preferred but 10 pt OK too Font type recommended Times New Roman or Arial – sans serif fonts good also. Include double spacing throughout entire document including titles & heading plus block quotes over 4 lines long.

At the end of a research paper, it is important to properly cite all sources used. Doing so provides credit for original ideas and can help readers find more information about the topics discussed in your work. A works cited page serves as a record of these citations. To create an effective Works Cited page, you should follow accepted formatting conventions such as those set forth by Modern Language Association (MLA) guidelines. For example:

  • Include heading “Works Cited” at top center of last page.
  • List each source alphabetically by author’s last name; if no author, begin with title.

Writing a research paper can seem daunting, but with the right preparation and careful attention to detail, your project is sure to be successful. There are several key components to consider when formatting a research paper in MLA style:

  • Title page: Include a title for the document (usually centered), as well as your name, instructor’s name, course title and number.
  • Margins: All text should be double-spaced within 1 inch margins on each side of the page.

The Modern Language Association (MLA) formatting style is the gold standard for writing and formatting academic papers. It ensures uniformity and accuracy in both citation and layout, making it easier for professors to evaluate the content of a paper as well as its source material. By adhering to MLA specifications, students can easily demonstrate their knowledge of this universally accepted writing format.

Using an appropriate style guide like the MLA handbook is critical if you want your research paper look professional. The guidelines provide clear instructions on how you should lay out each page including font type/size; margins; indentations; running head with page numbers; section titles such as ‘Abstract’ or ‘Works Cited’ etc.; quotations, block quotes & paraphrases with proper referencing info embedded directly in-text instead of at endnotes or footnotes sections.

  • Font Type : Times New Roman 12pt
  • Margins: : 1 inch all around

Indentation : 5 spaces (half an inch)

Citation Styles

Mla Format Guide

Caleb S.

MLA Formatting Simplified - Rules for Page Formatting, Citations, & References

12 min read

Published on: Apr 20, 2018

Last updated on: Nov 16, 2023

MLA format and citation

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Are you ready to elevate your academic writing to a new level of precision and professionalism?

Correct and accurate formatting is one of the essential components of academic writing. MLA is one of the most common formatting and citation styles that ensures the paper is readable, well-written, and well-researched. 

So what is the MLA style and how to apply its various rules in your academic writing?

In this simple MLA guide, you will learn everything about its formatting and citation rules. So let’s get into it!

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What Is the MLA Format?

Developed by the Modern Language Association (MLA), the MLA style is a set of guidelines for formatting academic writing. It is popularly used in literature, languages, and humanities disciplines. 

In essence, the MLA format is designed to make your written work clear, organized, and consistent, allowing readers to easily navigate your sources. The latest edition, the MLA handbook 9th edition, was released in 2021 with updated rules .

Now that you know its purpose and disciplines where it is commonly used, let’s move on to its practical guidelines.

Page Formatting Rules of MLA 9th

One of the fundamental aspects of MLA formatting is page layout. MLA style requires you to follow specific rules to ensure uniformity and readability. 

Here are the key page formatting rules you should adhere to:

Let’s discuss how to apply these rules in specific sections of the paper. 

MLA Format Header

The MLA format usually doesn’t include a title page. However, it has a header in the beginning that lists out essential information. The header includes the following information:

  • The student’s full name
  • The teacher’s full name
  • The name and number of the course
  • The title of your work

The image below shows a correctly-formatted MLA header:

MLA Format Header

Follow these instructions to format your header:

  • Type your full name 1 inch from the top of the page. Flush left
  • Add your teacher’s or supervisor’s name on the next line
  • Add your course name and number on the next line
  • Add the deadline of your assignment on the next line
  • Write the title of the essay in the title case and make it center-aligned. 
  • Each page should have a header in the upper right corner that includes your last name and page number. 
  • Follow double-spacing throughout the header. 

Running Head

A running head is a brief text that appears at the top of each page in a document. In MLA, the running head contains the last name of the author, along with the page number. 

Here's how to use a running head in accordance with MLA guidelines:

  • The running head should appear at the upper right corner of each page, aligned with the right margin. 
  • Write your last name and then page number.
  • There should be a single space between your name and the page number.

Here is what it looks like:

MLA Running head

You can create a correctly formatted header once in your word-processing program. After that, the header will appear automatically on every page.

MLA Paragraphs Formatting

Proper paragraph formatting not only enhances the visual appeal of your text but also aids in the clarity and flow of your ideas. 

Here's how you should format paragraphs in accordance with MLA style:

  • Indentation: Indent the first line of each paragraph by 0.5 inches from the left margin. This helps visually separate paragraphs and provides a structured appearance to your text.
  • Alignment: Keep your text left-aligned. 
  • Line Spacing: Ensure that your paragraphs, like the rest of the document, are double-spaced.
  • Font: Use a font that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman, and set at 12-point size. The choice of font and size ensures that your text is clear and easy to read.

Quotations in MLA 9th 

Adding quotations is one of the ways of incorporating sources into your text. The MLA style differentiates between the long and the short quotations from a formatting perspective.

Here is how to format quotations in MLA format:

  • Short quotations

Quotations with less than four lines of prose or three lines of verse should be enclosed in double quotation marks (" "). Such quotations are written as part of the paragraph text and should not be formatted separately. In other words, the formatting rules for short quotations are the same as the paragraph.

For example , "This is the quoted text" (Smith 45)

  • Long Quotations 

However, quotations that are longer than four lines of prose or three lines of verse should be written in a block format. Here is how to format block quotations:

  • Start the block quotation on a new line 
  • Indent the entire block 1 inch from the left margin. 
  • There is no need for quotation marks in block quotations.

Here’s an example of a block quotation in MLA.

MLA Headings and Subheadings

Headings and subheadings have to be made prominent to differentiate them from the paragraph text. The MLA style recommends the following rules for various levels of headings. 

The APA format is another popular citation style used in various fields. Wondering what makes APA and MLA so different? Check out our APA vs MLA blog to learn more!

MLA In-Text Citation 

In academic writing, citing sources is a fundamental practice to acknowledge the work of others and lend credibility and authority to your work. The MLA format offers guidelines for in-text parenthetical citations wherever a source is mentioned. 

Here's how to create accurate and proper MLA style citations:

Basic Format

In MLA style, in-text citations are written in parentheses right after the quoted or paraphrased source material. It includes the author's last name and the page number where the source material can be found.

For example , 

This idea was groundbreaking (Smith 45).

This rule applies regardless of whether the source material is a book, a journal article, or other kinds of written work. In other words, if the source has an author and a page number, this is how you cite it in the text.

Author's Name in the Sentence

If you mention the author's name in the sentence itself, you only need to include the page number in parentheses. 

For instance , 

According to Smith, this idea was groundbreaking (45).

No Page Number

In cases where there is no page number (e.g., online sources without page numbers), simply mention the author's name in the citation. 

This idea was groundbreaking (Smith).

Or, if the author's name is mentioned in the sentence:

Smith argues that this idea was groundbreaking. 

Multiple Authors

When citing a source with two authors, include both last names separated by "and." 

This is an example sentence (Smith and Jones 22). 

If a source has more than two authors, use the first author's last name followed by "et al." and the page number, 

Like this: 

This is an example sentence (Smith et al. 36).

Unknown Author

If the source has no known author, use a shortened version of the source's title in quotation marks. 

The AI revolution is stirring the stagnant economies ("The Role of Technology" 15).

Citing Multiple Works by the Same Author

If you are citing multiple works by the same author, include a shortened version of the title in your in-text citation to distinguish between them. 

Like this: (Name, Shortened Title Page#)

(Smith, Economic Trends 72) and (Smith, Globalization 110).

Electronic Sources

When citing electronic sources, such as websites or online articles, provide the author's name and page number (if available) in the same way as you would for print sources. 

If there is no page number, use the author's name. If there's no known author, use a shortened version of the source's title.

MLA Works Cited Page

The Works Cited page provides a comprehensive list of all the sources the author has cited in the document. Properly formatting this page is crucial, as it allows readers to locate and access the sources used in the paper. 

Here are the rules of the MLA citation format for the works cited listing:

  • Begin the Works Cited page on a new page, with the title "Works Cited" centered at the top of the page. 
  • List your sources in alphabetical order by the author's last name. If the source has no author, use the title (ignoring initial articles like "A" or "The") to determine its position in alphabetical order.
  • Use a hanging indent for each entry. In a hanging indent, the first line of the citation is flush with the left margin, while the following lines are indented 0.5 inches from the left margin. 

Citing Sources in Works Cited Page

Different types of sources are cited differently. Here is how to cite some of the most popular forms of academic sources in MLA:

The basic format for citing a book is: 

Author's Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Publisher, Publication Date. 

For example:  


The basic format for citing an article from a journal, magazine, or newspaper is: 

Author's Last Name, First Name. "Title of Article." Title of Source, Volume, Issue, Publication Date, Page Numbers. 

For example: 


The format for citing a website in MLA is: 

Author's Last Name, First Name (if available). "Title of Web Page." Title of Website, Publisher or Sponsor (if available), Publication Date (if available), URL (without https:// or https://). 

Here is what a “Works Cited” page would look like:

MLA Works Cited Page

To wrap it up, 

With the help of this guide, you’ve understood the basics of MLA formatting and citation. Don’t be overwhelmed, you don’t need to remember all the rules. You can use credible MLA citation generators or return back to guide whenever you need. 

Remember, correct citation not only improves your credibility as an academic writer, but also protects you from plagiarism. So let this guide help you with your MLA formatting.

If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, don’t fret! Our professional research writers have got your back. Our paper writing service has a team of experienced writers who are skilled in all research paper formats! 

So, if you need help with accurate citations and formatting, contact to get expert help for your specified format.

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Caleb S. has been providing writing services for over five years and has a Masters degree from Oxford University. He is an expert in his craft and takes great pride in helping students achieve their academic goals. Caleb is a dedicated professional who always puts his clients first.

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  • Knowledge Base
  • Creating an MLA title page

MLA Title Page | When You Need One & How to Format It

Published on July 12, 2021 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 2, 2021.

In MLA style , a title page is usually not required for your paper. Instead, MLA recommends including a header on your first page listing your name, your instructor’s name, the course name and number, and the submission date, followed by the title of your paper.

However, you should include a separate title page instead in these cases:

  • Your instructor requires it
  • The paper is a group project (i.e. you need to list multiple authors)

The formats for a separate title page and a first-page header are shown below. You can also use our templates in Word or Google Docs.

Word template Google Docs template

Table of contents

Mla title page format, creating an mla header, frequently asked questions about mla format.

To create an MLA format title page, list the following on separate lines, left-aligned at the top of the page:

  • Your co-authors’ names, each on its own line, if it’s a group project
  • Your instructor’s name
  • The course name and number
  • The submission date

Then leave a few blank lines and list the title of the paper, centered and in title case, halfway down the page. All text should be double-spaced and in the same font as the rest of the paper.

MLA title page

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Most MLA papers will instead list this information in a header , which appears on the same page as your opening paragraphs instead of on a separate page before them. In the header, left-aligned, list

Then on the next line, write the title of your paper, centered and in title case. On the line after that, start your first paragraph. The header and title should be double-spaced, like the rest of the paper.

MLA header

Usually, no title page is needed in an MLA paper . A header is generally included at the top of the first page instead. The exceptions are when:

  • Your instructor requires one, or
  • Your paper is a group project

In those cases, you should use a title page instead of a header, listing the same information but on a separate page.

If you’re working on a group project and therefore need to list multiple authors for your paper , MLA recommends against including a normal header . Instead, create a separate title page .

On the title page, list each author on a separate line, followed by the other usual information from the header: Instructor, course name and number, and submission date. Then write the title halfway down the page, centered, and start the text of the paper itself on the next page.

MLA recommends using 12-point Times New Roman , since it’s easy to read and installed on every computer. Other standard fonts such as Arial or Georgia are also acceptable. If in doubt, check with your supervisor which font you should be using.

MLA Style  is the second most used citation style (after APA ). It is mainly used by students and researchers in humanities fields such as literature, languages, and philosophy.

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MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (9 th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.

Guidelines for referring to the works of others in your text using MLA style are covered throughout the  MLA Handbook  and in chapter 7 of the  MLA Style Manual . Both books provide extensive examples, so it's a good idea to consult them if you want to become even more familiar with MLA guidelines or if you have a particular reference question.

Basic in-text citation rules

In MLA Style, referring to the works of others in your text is done using parenthetical citations . This method involves providing relevant source information in parentheses whenever a sentence uses a quotation or paraphrase. Usually, the simplest way to do this is to put all of the source information in parentheses at the end of the sentence (i.e., just before the period). However, as the examples below will illustrate, there are situations where it makes sense to put the parenthetical elsewhere in the sentence, or even to leave information out.

General Guidelines

  • The source information required in a parenthetical citation depends (1) upon the source medium (e.g. print, web, DVD) and (2) upon the source’s entry on the Works Cited page.
  • Any source information that you provide in-text must correspond to the source information on the Works Cited page. More specifically, whatever signal word or phrase you provide to your readers in the text must be the first thing that appears on the left-hand margin of the corresponding entry on the Works Cited page.

In-text citations: Author-page style

MLA format follows the author-page method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and the page number(s) from which the quotation or paraphrase is taken must appear in the text, and a complete reference should appear on your Works Cited page. The author's name may appear either in the sentence itself or in parentheses following the quotation or paraphrase, but the page number(s) should always appear in the parentheses, not in the text of your sentence. For example:

Both citations in the examples above, (263) and (Wordsworth 263), tell readers that the information in the sentence can be located on page 263 of a work by an author named Wordsworth. If readers want more information about this source, they can turn to the Works Cited page, where, under the name of Wordsworth, they would find the following information:

Wordsworth, William. Lyrical Ballads . Oxford UP, 1967.

In-text citations for print sources with known author

For print sources like books, magazines, scholarly journal articles, and newspapers, provide a signal word or phrase (usually the author’s last name) and a page number. If you provide the signal word/phrase in the sentence, you do not need to include it in the parenthetical citation.

These examples must correspond to an entry that begins with Burke, which will be the first thing that appears on the left-hand margin of an entry on the Works Cited page:

Burke, Kenneth. Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method . University of California Press, 1966.

In-text citations for print sources by a corporate author

When a source has a corporate author, it is acceptable to use the name of the corporation followed by the page number for the in-text citation. You should also use abbreviations (e.g., nat'l for national) where appropriate, so as to avoid interrupting the flow of reading with overly long parenthetical citations.

In-text citations for sources with non-standard labeling systems

If a source uses a labeling or numbering system other than page numbers, such as a script or poetry, precede the citation with said label. When citing a poem, for instance, the parenthetical would begin with the word “line”, and then the line number or range. For example, the examination of William Blake’s poem “The Tyger” would be cited as such:

The speaker makes an ardent call for the exploration of the connection between the violence of nature and the divinity of creation. “In what distant deeps or skies. / Burnt the fire of thine eyes," they ask in reference to the tiger as they attempt to reconcile their intimidation with their relationship to creationism (lines 5-6).

Longer labels, such as chapters (ch.) and scenes (sc.), should be abbreviated.

In-text citations for print sources with no known author

When a source has no known author, use a shortened title of the work instead of an author name, following these guidelines.

Place the title in quotation marks if it's a short work (such as an article) or italicize it if it's a longer work (e.g. plays, books, television shows, entire Web sites) and provide a page number if it is available.

Titles longer than a standard noun phrase should be shortened into a noun phrase by excluding articles. For example, To the Lighthouse would be shortened to Lighthouse .

If the title cannot be easily shortened into a noun phrase, the title should be cut after the first clause, phrase, or punctuation:

In this example, since the reader does not know the author of the article, an abbreviated title appears in the parenthetical citation, and the full title of the article appears first at the left-hand margin of its respective entry on the Works Cited page. Thus, the writer includes the title in quotation marks as the signal phrase in the parenthetical citation in order to lead the reader directly to the source on the Works Cited page. The Works Cited entry appears as follows:

"The Impact of Global Warming in North America." Global Warming: Early Signs . 1999. Accessed 23 Mar. 2009.

If the title of the work begins with a quotation mark, such as a title that refers to another work, that quote or quoted title can be used as the shortened title. The single quotation marks must be included in the parenthetical, rather than the double quotation.

Parenthetical citations and Works Cited pages, used in conjunction, allow readers to know which sources you consulted in writing your essay, so that they can either verify your interpretation of the sources or use them in their own scholarly work.

Author-page citation for classic and literary works with multiple editions

Page numbers are always required, but additional citation information can help literary scholars, who may have a different edition of a classic work, like Marx and Engels's  The Communist Manifesto . In such cases, give the page number of your edition (making sure the edition is listed in your Works Cited page, of course) followed by a semicolon, and then the appropriate abbreviations for volume (vol.), book (bk.), part (pt.), chapter (ch.), section (sec.), or paragraph (par.). For example:

Author-page citation for works in an anthology, periodical, or collection

When you cite a work that appears inside a larger source (for instance, an article in a periodical or an essay in a collection), cite the author of the  internal source (i.e., the article or essay). For example, to cite Albert Einstein's article "A Brief Outline of the Theory of Relativity," which was published in  Nature  in 1921, you might write something like this:

See also our page on documenting periodicals in the Works Cited .

Citing authors with same last names

Sometimes more information is necessary to identify the source from which a quotation is taken. For instance, if two or more authors have the same last name, provide both authors' first initials (or even the authors' full name if different authors share initials) in your citation. For example:

Citing a work by multiple authors

For a source with two authors, list the authors’ last names in the text or in the parenthetical citation:

Corresponding Works Cited entry:

Best, David, and Sharon Marcus. “Surface Reading: An Introduction.” Representations , vol. 108, no. 1, Fall 2009, pp. 1-21. JSTOR, doi:10.1525/rep.2009.108.1.1

For a source with three or more authors, list only the first author’s last name, and replace the additional names with et al.

Franck, Caroline, et al. “Agricultural Subsidies and the American Obesity Epidemic.” American Journal of Preventative Medicine , vol. 45, no. 3, Sept. 2013, pp. 327-333.

Citing multiple works by the same author

If you cite more than one work by an author, include a shortened title for the particular work from which you are quoting to distinguish it from the others. Put short titles of books in italics and short titles of articles in quotation marks.

Citing two articles by the same author :

Citing two books by the same author :

Additionally, if the author's name is not mentioned in the sentence, format your citation with the author's name followed by a comma, followed by a shortened title of the work, and, when appropriate, the page number(s):

Citing multivolume works

If you cite from different volumes of a multivolume work, always include the volume number followed by a colon. Put a space after the colon, then provide the page number(s). (If you only cite from one volume, provide only the page number in parentheses.)

Citing the Bible

In your first parenthetical citation, you want to make clear which Bible you're using (and underline or italicize the title), as each version varies in its translation, followed by book (do not italicize or underline), chapter, and verse. For example:

If future references employ the same edition of the Bible you’re using, list only the book, chapter, and verse in the parenthetical citation:

John of Patmos echoes this passage when describing his vision (Rev. 4.6-8).

Citing indirect sources

Sometimes you may have to use an indirect source. An indirect source is a source cited within another source. For such indirect quotations, use "qtd. in" to indicate the source you actually consulted. For example:

Note that, in most cases, a responsible researcher will attempt to find the original source, rather than citing an indirect source.

Citing transcripts, plays, or screenplays

Sources that take the form of a dialogue involving two or more participants have special guidelines for their quotation and citation. Each line of dialogue should begin with the speaker's name written in all capitals and indented half an inch. A period follows the name (e.g., JAMES.) . After the period, write the dialogue. Each successive line after the first should receive an additional indentation. When another person begins speaking, start a new line with that person's name indented only half an inch. Repeat this pattern each time the speaker changes. You can include stage directions in the quote if they appear in the original source.

Conclude with a parenthetical that explains where to find the excerpt in the source. Usually, the author and title of the source can be given in a signal phrase before quoting the excerpt, so the concluding parenthetical will often just contain location information like page numbers or act/scene indicators.

Here is an example from O'Neill's  The Iceman Cometh.

WILLIE. (Pleadingly) Give me a drink, Rocky. Harry said it was all right. God, I need a drink.

ROCKY. Den grab it. It's right under your nose.

WILLIE. (Avidly) Thanks. (He takes the bottle with both twitching hands and tilts it to his lips and gulps down the whiskey in big swallows.) (1.1)

Citing non-print or sources from the Internet

With more and more scholarly work published on the Internet, you may have to cite sources you found in digital environments. While many sources on the Internet should not be used for scholarly work (reference the OWL's  Evaluating Sources of Information  resource), some Web sources are perfectly acceptable for research. When creating in-text citations for electronic, film, or Internet sources, remember that your citation must reference the source on your Works Cited page.

Sometimes writers are confused with how to craft parenthetical citations for electronic sources because of the absence of page numbers. However, these sorts of entries often do not require a page number in the parenthetical citation. For electronic and Internet sources, follow the following guidelines:

  • Include in the text the first item that appears in the Work Cited entry that corresponds to the citation (e.g. author name, article name, website name, film name).
  • Do not provide paragraph numbers or page numbers based on your Web browser’s print preview function.
  • Unless you must list the Web site name in the signal phrase in order to get the reader to the appropriate entry, do not include URLs in-text. Only provide partial URLs such as when the name of the site includes, for example, a domain name, like  or,  as opposed to writing out or

Miscellaneous non-print sources

Two types of non-print sources you may encounter are films and lectures/presentations:

In the two examples above “Herzog” (a film’s director) and “Yates” (a presentor) lead the reader to the first item in each citation’s respective entry on the Works Cited page:

Herzog, Werner, dir. Fitzcarraldo . Perf. Klaus Kinski. Filmverlag der Autoren, 1982.

Yates, Jane. "Invention in Rhetoric and Composition." Gaps Addressed: Future Work in Rhetoric and Composition, CCCC, Palmer House Hilton, 2002. Address.

Electronic sources

Electronic sources may include web pages and online news or magazine articles:

In the first example (an online magazine article), the writer has chosen not to include the author name in-text; however, two entries from the same author appear in the Works Cited. Thus, the writer includes both the author’s last name and the article title in the parenthetical citation in order to lead the reader to the appropriate entry on the Works Cited page (see below).

In the second example (a web page), a parenthetical citation is not necessary because the page does not list an author, and the title of the article, “MLA Formatting and Style Guide,” is used as a signal phrase within the sentence. If the title of the article was not named in the sentence, an abbreviated version would appear in a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence. Both corresponding Works Cited entries are as follows:

Taylor, Rumsey. "Fitzcarraldo." Slant , 13 Jun. 2003, Accessed 29 Sep. 2009. 

"MLA Formatting and Style Guide." The Purdue OWL , 2 Aug. 2016, Accessed 2 April 2018.

Multiple citations

To cite multiple sources in the same parenthetical reference, separate the citations by a semi-colon:

Time-based media sources

When creating in-text citations for media that has a runtime, such as a movie or podcast, include the range of hours, minutes and seconds you plan to reference. For example: (00:02:15-00:02:35).

When a citation is not needed

Common sense and ethics should determine your need for documenting sources. You do not need to give sources for familiar proverbs, well-known quotations, or common knowledge (For example, it is expected that U.S. citizens know that George Washington was the first President.). Remember that citing sources is a rhetorical task, and, as such, can vary based on your audience. If you’re writing for an expert audience of a scholarly journal, for example, you may need to deal with expectations of what constitutes “common knowledge” that differ from common norms.

Other Sources

The MLA Handbook describes how to cite many different kinds of authors and content creators. However, you may occasionally encounter a source or author category that the handbook does not describe, making the best way to proceed can be unclear.

In these cases, it's typically acceptable to apply the general principles of MLA citation to the new kind of source in a way that's consistent and sensible. A good way to do this is to simply use the standard MLA directions for a type of source that resembles the source you want to cite.

You may also want to investigate whether a third-party organization has provided directions for how to cite this kind of source. For example, Norquest College provides guidelines for citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers⁠ —an author category that does not appear in the MLA Handbook . In cases like this, however, it's a good idea to ask your instructor or supervisor whether using third-party citation guidelines might present problems.


  1. MLA Sample Paper

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  2. Mla Format Template Mla Format Annotated Bibliography Example

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  3. MLA Format Sample Paper, with Cover Page and Outline

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  4. Mla Format Cover Page Sample

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  5. Formatting a Research Paper

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  6. MLA Paper Format: Simple Guidelines to Follow

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  1. PDF Formatting a Research Paper

    Do not use a period after your title or after any heading in the paper (e.g., Works Cited). Begin your text on a new, double-spaced line after the title, indenting the first line of the paragraph half an inch from the left margin. Fig. 1. The top of the first page of a research paper.

  2. MLA Formatting

    Library Research Guides MLA 8th Edition Style Guide MLA Formatting - Full Paper MLA Formatting - Full Paper MLA - What Should it Look Like? Formatting a Research Paper The following formatting rules can be found in the MLA Style Center. Format your paper with 1 inch margins on all sides.

  3. How to Write a Research Paper in MLA Format with Examples

    It will look this way: Greeley 1 The other rules on how to write a MLA research paper include: The recommended fonts include Times New Roman, Arial, or Verdana in 12 pt size. All the margins of the page in MS Word or a similar processor should be set at 1 inch. The main content is double-spaced unless specified otherwise.

  4. General Format

    Purdue OWL Research and Citation MLA Style MLA Formatting and Style Guide MLA General Format MLA General Format MLA Style specifies guidelines for formatting manuscripts and citing research in writing. MLA Style also provides writers with a system for referencing their sources through parenthetical citation in their essays and Works Cited pages.

  5. MLA Format

    Home Knowledge Base MLA Style MLA format for academic papers and essays MLA Format | Complete Guidelines & Free Template Published on December 11, 2019 by Raimo Streefkerk . Revised on June 16, 2022 by Jack Caulfield. The MLA Handbook provides guidelines for creating MLA citations and formatting academic papers.

  6. MLA 9th Edition Changes

    The Modern Language Association (MLA) updated its style manual in April 2021. The MLA Handbook is a living document hoping to meet the ever-changing needs of writers while creating uniform standards for documentation. By updating and clarifying these standards, MLA seeks to build trust in the information and ideas we share.

  7. MLA Overview and Workshop

    Welcome to the OWL Overview of MLA Style. This page introduces you to the Modern Language Association (MLA) Style for writing and formatting research papers. To get the most out of this page, you should begin with the introductory material below, which covers what is MLA Style, why it is used, and who should apply this style to their work.

  8. MLA Format: Everything You Need to Know Here

    Most research papers use a standard MLA format heading, like the one seen above. If your instructor requires you to create a standalone title page, ask him or her for specifications. MLA does not have specific instructions for developing an MLA title page. We recommend you use an MLA header for your project.

  9. MLA Paper Format

    Font Size: 11-13 point Margins: 1 inch Paragraphs: All paragraphs should be indented. Spacing: All of the text in your paper should be double-spaced. Typical MLA style papers have two sections: Main Body Works Cited See the tabs below for a breakdown of how each portion should be formatted. MLA Style Papers Paper Templates Sample Papers Main Body

  10. Formatting Your Research Project

    Formatting Your Research Project To learn how to set up your research project in MLA format, visit our free sample chapter on MLA Handbook Plus , the only authorized subscription-based digital resource featuring the MLA Handbook, available for unlimited simultaneous users at subscribing institutions.

  11. MLA Style Guide, 8th & 9th Editions: Formatting Your MLA Paper

    An MLA research paper does not need a title page, but your instructor may require one. If no instructions are given, follow the MLA guidelines below: Type the following one inch from the top of the first page, flush with the left margin (double spacing throughout). Your Name. Your Instructor's Name. Course Number or Name. Date

  12. MLA Format and Style Guide

    MLA format is a set of formatting and citation guidelines for how an academic paper should look, similar to other styles such as Chicago or APA format. We use MLA format for topics in the humanities, including languages, philosophy, and the arts, but not history (which uses Chicago) or the social sciences, like psychology or education (which ...

  13. MLA Format Papers: Step-by-step Tips for Formatting Research Essays in

    Like all the other text in an MLA style paper, the title block is double-spaced.; The title is in the same font as the rest of the paper — it is not boldface, or enlarged.; There is no extra space above or below the title.; A truly informative title will include the general topic, and your precise opinion on that topic. (So, if you pan to compare Hamlet and Macbeth, your title should state ...

  14. MLA Paper Format: Simple Guidelines to Follow

    Certified Teacher In MLA Format 5 Min read If you're new to writing research papers, setting everything up can be intimidating. However, breaking the MLA paper format down into the basics makes it much easier to digest. Learn how to set up your paper, cover page, headings, headers, tables, and figures in your MLA paper.

  15. Research Paper Format

    Formatting an APA paper. The main guidelines for formatting a paper in APA Style are as follows: Use a standard font like 12 pt Times New Roman or 11 pt Arial. Set 1 inch page margins. Apply double line spacing. If submitting for publication, insert a APA running head on every page. Indent every new paragraph ½ inch.

  16. How to Write a Research Paper in MLA Format

    Author: I. Lee Published on: May 25, 2023 Updated on: Jul 26, 2023 Table of content Basics of MLA How to format a MLA paper Title page in MLA style MLA abstract Body and in-text citing MLA Works Cited page Quotations and paraphrasing Avoiding plagiarism MLA style headings

  17. The Right Look: MLA Format for Research Papers

    What Does an MLA Research Paper Look Like? At first glance, a document formatted in accordance with the guidelines of the MLA may appear intimidating; however, once you understand its components and purpose, creating such papers becomes second nature. An example of what an MLA-formatted paper looks like follows: 1″ margins on all sides.

  18. MLA Format

    1. What Is the MLA Format? 2. Page Formatting Rules of MLA 9th 3. MLA In-Text Citation 4. MLA Works Cited Page What Is the MLA Format? Developed by the Modern Language Association (MLA), the MLA style is a set of guidelines for formatting academic writing. It is popularly used in literature, languages, and humanities disciplines.

  19. MLA Works Cited

    Revised on June 16, 2022. In MLA style, the list of Works Cited (also known as a reference list or bibliography) appears at the end of your paper. It gives full details of every source that you cited in an MLA in-text citation. Like the rest of an MLA format paper, the Works Cited should be left-aligned and double-spaced with 1-inch margins.

  20. MLA Title Page

    Revised on August 2, 2021. In MLA style, a title page is usually not required for your paper. Instead, MLA recommends including a header on your first page listing your name, your instructor's name, the course name and number, and the submission date, followed by the title of your paper.

  21. MLA Sample Works Cited Page

    MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (9 th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.

  22. MLA Works Cited Page: Basic Format

    According to MLA style, you must have a Works Cited page at the end of your research paper. All entries in the Works Cited page must correspond to the works cited in your main text. Cite your source automatically in MLA Cite Using citation machines responsibly Powered by Basic rules

  23. MLA In-Text Citations: The Basics

    In-text citations: Author-page style. MLA format follows the author-page method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and the page number (s) from which the quotation or paraphrase is taken must appear in the text, and a complete reference should appear on your Works Cited page. The author's name may appear either in the ...