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How to Write a Research Paper in MLA Format

August 06, 2015 - Posted to How to: Essay writing tips
How to Write a Research Paper in MLA Format

MLA Format Of Research Paper - Experience Matters

Students often enter college having little to no experience with common format styles that will now be required. They are given a course syllabus with essay and research paper assignments and the requirement for format style. Most common today is MLA style. What is MLA style you ask? It is format, or template, developed by the Modern Language Association, that dictates exactly how your essay or research should look physically, and how you are to cite your in-text and end-of-text (bibliography) resources. Over the years, this style has been simplified somewhat, and it is now the most common one used by colleges and universities. This little piece of writing will give you the “down and dirty” information you will need to format according to MLA style.

The Physical Look of Your Research Paper

This aspect of MLA style is relatively simple, and the following will be pretty easy to apply:

  1. There is no separate title page
  2. Your first page includes the following:
  1. In the upper left hand corner, double space each of these items: your name, our instructors name, the course title, and the date
  2. In the right hand corner, place the number “1” to begin your pagination.
  3. Double-spaced down from the date line, and center the title of your paper.
  4. Double-space again and begin the text of your paper.
  1. Margins and spacing: the margins must be 1-inch all around; the left margin is justified; the right margin is not. Your entire paper should be double-spaced, and you will indent ½ inch at the beginning of each new paragraph.
  2. Pagination: You already numbered your first page. From this point forward, each page will have a header in the right hand corner, with your last name and then the page number.

In-Text and End-of-Text Citations

This is where things get a bit trickier and may be different from formats you have used before. A college research paper must cite references very carefully, because everything is checked for plagiarism. In addition to direct quotes in your text, you must also give credit to any ideas or concepts you “pull” from the resources you have used. Here is the basic format for in-text citations:

  1. After you have provided information from a resource, you should put that reference in parentheses, with the author’s last name followed by the page number. There is no punctuation between the name and page number(s). Thus it will look like this: (Jones 4-7).
  2. Use the same format when you quote directly, at the end of the quote.
  3. If your quote will be more than three lines long, you must indent the entire quote, single-spaced. You may either refer to the author within the text (preferred method), of use the parentheses citation at the very end of the quote. Thus, you might say, “Jones (34-36) had this to say about the decline of coral reefs in the Southern Sea of Japan:” Then you double space and start the quote. You can also put the page numbers in parentheses at the end of the quote. When you insert a lengthy quote, do not put quotations marks around it.

End-of-text citations get a bit more complicated. Your bibliography page should have the word “Bibliography? Centered at the top of the page. All of your entries should be in alphabetical order, by author’s last name. If there are multiple authors, use the last name of the first author listed on the resource itself.

Jones, Brian, The Destruction of the Sea of Japan Ecosystem, New York: Doubleday, Inc., 2009.

Journal Article

Jones, Brian, “The Destruction of the Sea of Japan Ecosystem,” Environmental News, Vol 5, #7, January, 2009, pp. 123-142.

Web Resource

Jones, Brian, “The Destruction of the Sea of Japan Ecosystem,” Environmental News, March 13, 2014 (date you accessed it),

If you are using unusual resources, such as a speech you attended, you will need to check with the official MLA style guide, which is available online.

There you have it! Writing a research paper is probably not our favorite thing to do, and making sure that all of the details of the format style are correct is just one ore added irritation. If you are concerned about getting it right, you can always contact an online writing service and have a formatting pro do the “dirty work” for you!

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