MLA Formatting For Your Research Paper

The final step to writing your research paper is formatting the paper. Some professors are strict when it comes to following rules, even subtracting points if a paragraph is not indented. On the other end of the pole, however, are students lost in the mumbo-jumbo of academic citation. Worry not for we have prepared a guide for formatting a paper in MLA style.

MLA format

MLA Style

The MLA style is a system of citing sources that was formulated by the Modern Languages Association, thus its name. The MLA Handbook, where the guidelines are laid out, is updated regularly to accommodate new types of sources. In fact, it is currently in its 8th edition. It is commonly used for essays in the field of humanities. So, you’ll find that your Literature professor will likely require you to use this academic style.

The paper

  1. On your standard 8.5x11-inch paper, set the margins to 1 inch on all sides.
  2. All pages of your paper should have a header on the upper right hand corner. This consists of your last name and the page number.
  3. There is no specific font, as long as it is formal and legible. The most commonly used font is Times New Roman. However, the font size should always be 12 pt.
  4. Unless specified by your instructor, MLA recommends using double-spacing for your text to make it easier to read.
  5. The first line of each paragraph should be indented exactly one half-inch from the left margin.
  6. The MLA style does not require a cover page. Instead, your name, instructor’s name, course, and date appear on the upper left-hand side of the first page of your essay. This should also be double-spaced.
    MLA format heading
  7. The title of your essay is placed below your name and other details.
  8. It should be formatted in the same way as your essay, except it should be centered. So, no need to underline, bold, italicize, or enclose your title in quotation marks.
  9. Should you need to divide your essay into sections, use section headings. These should be on the left, and not indented. To write a section heading, simply use Arabic numerals followed by the section title. However, if you prefer it, you can also choose to format your headings in bold or italics. The only important note is to keep everything uniform.
  10. For longer essays, you can use multiple levels of subheadings, too. You can opt to use Arabic numerals or you can underline, bold, or italicize them, as long as you keep the format uniform. Remember that the purpose of headings and subheadings is to guide the reader in navigating your essay.
  11. The Works Cited page should always be in a new page. The heading should also be centered.
    mla works cited page example

Another important note in writing academic essays is to cite your sources. Make sure to properly attribute any ideas and quotations that are not yours to avoid plagiarism. You can also go here and here for more specific guides on MLA citation.