Research & Documentation Online 5th Edition

MLA manuscript format

The following guidelines are consistent with advice given in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed. (New York: MLA, 2009), and with typical requirements for student papers. For a sample MLA paper click here.


Formatting the paper
Preparing the list of works cited

Formatting the paper

Papers written in MLA style should be formatted as follows.

Materials and font Use good-quality 8″ 11″ white paper. Avoid a font that is unusual or hard to read.

 

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Title and identification MLA does not require a title page. On the first page of your paper, place your name, your instructor’s name, the course title, and the date on separate lines against the left margin. Then center your title. (Click here for a sample first page.)

If your instructor requires a title page, ask for formatting guidelines. A format similar to this one may be acceptable.

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Pagination Put the page number preceded by your last name in the upper right corner of each page, one-half inch below the top edge. Use arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, and so on).

 

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Margins, line spacing, and paragraph indents Leave margins of one inch on all sides of the page. Left-align the text.

Double-space throughout the paper. Do not add extra space above or below the title of the paper or between paragraphs.

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

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Capitalization and italics In titles of works, capitalize all words except articles (a, an, the), prepositions (to, from, between, and so on), coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet), and the to in infinitives — unless they are the first or last word of the title or subtitle. Follow these guidelines in your paper even if the title appears in all capital or all lowercase letters in the source.

In the text of an MLA paper, when a complete sentence follows a colon, lowercase the first word following the colon unless the sentence is a well-known expression or principle.

Italicize the titles of books and other long works, such as Web sites. Use quotation marks around the titles of periodical articles, short stories, poems, and other short works. (Some instructors may prefer underlining for the titles of long works. Be consistent throughout your paper.)

 

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Long quotations When a quotation is longer than four typed lines of prose or three lines of verse, set it off from the text by indenting the entire quotation one inch from the left margin. Double-space the indented quotation, and do not add extra space above or below it.

Quotation marks are not needed when a quotation has been set off from the text by indenting. Click here for an example.

 

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Web addresses When a Web address (URL) mentioned in the text of your paper must be divided at the end of a line, break it only after a slash and do not insert a hyphen. See the MLA rules on dividing Web addresses in your list of works cited.

 

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Headings MLA neither encourages nor discourages the use of headings and provides no guidelines for their use. If you would like to insert headings in a long essay or research paper, check first with your instructor.

 

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Visuals MLA classifies visuals as tables and figures (figures include graphs, charts, maps, photographs, and drawings). Label each table with an arabic numeral (“Table 1,” “Table 2,” and so on) and provide a clear caption that identifies the subject. Capitalize the caption as you would a title; do not italicize the label and caption or place them in quotation marks. The label and caption should appear on separate lines above the table, flush with the left margin.

For a table that you have borrowed or adapted, give the source below the table in a note like the following:


Source: David N. Greenfield and Richard A. Davis; “Lost in Cyberspace: The Web @ Work”; CyberPsychology and Behavior 5.4 (2002): 349; print.

For each figure, place the figure number (using the abbreviation “Fig.”) and a caption below the figure, flush left. Capitalize the caption as you would a sentence; include source information following the caption. (When referring to the figure in your paper, use the abbreviation “fig.” in parenthetical citations; otherwise spell out the word.) Click here for an example of a figure in a paper.

Place visuals in the text, as close as possible to the sentences that relate to them, unless your instructor prefers them in an appendix.


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Preparing the list of works cited

Begin the list of works cited on a new page at the end of the paper. Center the title Works Cited about one inch from the top of the page. Double-space throughout. Click here for a sample list of works cited.

Alphabetizing the list Alphabetize the list by the last names of the authors (or editors); if a work has no author or editor, alphabetize by the first word of the title other than A, An, or The.

If your list includes two or more works by the same author, use the author’s name for the first entry only. For subsequent entries, use three hyphens followed by a period. List the titles in alphabetical order. (See item 6.)

 

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Indenting Do not indent the first line of each works cited entry, but indent any additional lines one-half inch. This technique highlights the names of the authors, making it easy for readers to scan the alphabetized list. Click here for an example.

 

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Web addresses If you need to include a Web address (URL) in a works cited entry, do not insert a hyphen when dividing it at the end of a line. Break the URL only after a slash. Insert angle brackets around the URL. (See the note following item 34.) If your word processing program automatically turns Web addresses into links (by underlining them and changing the color), turn off this feature.

 

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