Format Papers Correctly
First impressions mean a lot, and it is important to make certain that research papers follow the formatting guidelines established in Chapter 4 of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.
- • Use white 8½ by 11 inch paper and print in black.
- • Use a standard typeface such as Times New Roman. Avoid unusual typefaces.
- • Use either a 10 or 12-point font.
- • Double-space between all lines of the manuscript.
- • Don’t justify the right margin
- • Except for page numbers, leave margins of one inch at the top and bottom and on both sides of the text. Number pages consecutively throughout the paper in the upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. Type your last name and leave a space before the page number.
- • A research paper does not need a title page. Instead, beginning one inch from the top of the first page and flush with the left margin, type your name, your instructor’s name, the course number, and the date on separate lines, double-spacing between the lines. Double space again and center the title. Do not underline your title or put it in quotation marks.
- • Indent the first line of each paragraph five spaces.
Use the Correct Form for In-text Citations and for the Works Cited Page
You must cite material that you paraphrase, summarize, or directly quote in your paper. Document your paper throughout by citing the author (or keyword of title if there is no author) and page number for the works you have used in your research in a parentheses at the end of the sentence containing the information you are citing. This style of citation briefly identifies the source for the readers and enables them to locate the source of information in the alphabetical works cited list at the end of your paper. References cited in text must appear in the works cited list; conversely, each entry in the works cited list must be cited in text. Because the purpose of listing references is to enable readers to retrieve and use the sources, reference data must be correct and complete. The parenthetical citation that concludes the following sentence is typical of MLA style.
Example: Ancient writers attributed the invention of the monochord to Pythagoras, who lived in the sixth century BC (Marcuse 197).
(Note that the information in this example is paraphrased, not directly quoted, yet the information still requires a citation.)
The citation (Marcuse 197) tells readers that the information in the sentence is derived from page 197 of a work by an author named Marcuse. If readers want more information about this source, they can turn to the works cited list, where, under the name Marcuse, they would find the following information.
Example: Marcuse, Sibyl. A Survey of Musical Instruments. New York: Harper, 1975.
Examples of Common In-text Citations
- • Author not named in text: One researcher concludes that “women impose a distinctive construction on moral problems” (Gilligan 105).
- • Author named in text: According to Gilligan, “women impose a distinctive construction on moral problems” (105).
• If you wish to cite an entire work—whether a print source or a non-print source, it is usually preferable to include in the text, rather than in parenthetical reference, the name of the author and the title of the work.
Example: Fukuyama’s Our Post human Future includes many examples of this trend.
• A work with no author listed: In a parenthetical reference to a work alphabetized by title in the works cited list, the full title (if brief) or a shortened version using the first important keyword of the title precedes the page or section number. When abbreviating the title, begin with the word by which the title is alphabetized.
Example: “The barber shop was a relic of the 1880s” (“Cruelest Cut”). This will be cited on the works cited page by the title “Cruelest Cut.”
• A work with two or three authors: If the source has two or three authors, give all their last names in the text or in the citation. Separate last two authors’ names with “and.”
Example: (Smith, Jones, and Bailey 112).
• A work with more than three authors: If the source has more than three authors, list the first author’s name followed by “et al.” (Latin abbreviation for “and others.”)
Example: (Smith et al. 112).
• Citing two or more works by the same author: In a parenthetical reference to one of two or more works by the same author, put a comma after the author’s last name and add a keyword of the title of the work followed by the relevant page reference.
Example: (Durant, Age 214).
• A personal interview: Indicate with a phrase that the material comes from an interview. Example: In a recent interview, Professor Smith indicated that . . . .
On the works cited page, list the interview in the following fashion:
Example: Smith, Lynn. Personal interview. 19 Dec. 1993.
• Electronic sources: Cite an electronic source as you would any other source, usually by author’s name or, if there is no author, by title. Do not use page numbers with electronic sources; you may use paragraph (par. or pars.) numbers if they are provided.
Examples: Twins reared apart report similar feelings (Palfrey, pars. 6-7).
“The barber shop was a relic of the 1800s” (“Cruelest Cut”).
• Government publications or works with corporate authors: If the author of the work is listed as a government body or a corporation, cite the work by that organization’s name. If the name is long, work it into the text to avoid an intrusive citation.
Examples: A 1996 report by the Hawaii Department of Education predicts an increase of enrollments (6). Or “Unemployment fell during the first half of 1999” (US Dept. of Labor 47).
- • A literary work: Novels, plays, and poems are often available in many editions, so provide information that will help readers find the passage you cite no matter what edition they consult. For novels, cite page number first, add a semicolon, and then give other identifying information, using appropriate abbreviations.
Example: Raskolnikov first appears in Crime and Punishment as a man contemplating a terrible act but frightened of meeting his talkative landlady on the stairs (Dostoevsky 1; pt 1; ch.1).
For poems that are not divided into parts, you can omit the page numbers and supply the line number(s) for the quotation. To prevent confusion with page numbers, precede the line number(s) with “line” or “lines” in the first citation; then just use the number(s). For verse plays and poems that are divided into parts, omit a page number and cite the appropriate part or act (and scene, if any), plus the line number(s). Use Arabic numerals for parts, including acts and scenes.
Example: Later in King Lear Shakespeare has the disguised Edgar say, “The prince of darkness is a gentleman” (3.4.147). The citation indicates that the quote is from Act 3, Scene 4, line 147.
• The Bible: When you cite passages of the Bible in parentheses, abbreviate the title of any book longer than four letters—for instance, “Gen.” for Genesis. Then give the chapter and verse(s) in Arabic numerals.
Example: According to the Bible, at Babel God “did . . . confound the language of all the earth” (Gen.11.9).
Long quotes: If a quotation runs to more than four lines in your paper, set it off from your text by beginning a new line, indenting one inch (ten spaces) from the left margin, and typing it double-spaced, without adding quotation marks. A colon generally introduces a quotation displayed in this “block quote” fashion, though sometimes the context may require a different punctuation mark or none at all. If you quote only a single paragraph or part of one, do not indent the first line more than the rest. A parenthetical reference to a prose quotation set off from the text follows the last line of the quotations. (The citation comes after the period with block quotes.)
As the heading indicates, the works cited page contains all the works that you cite in your text. The works cited page is double spaced and the second and subsequent lines of each source are indented five spaces (hanging indentation). The basic format for entries on the works cited page includes the following elements: 1) Author. Use the author’s full name: last name first, followed by a comma, and then the first name and middle name or initial. End the name with a period and one space. 2) Title. Give the full title, including any subtitle. Underline the title (or use italics), capitalize all important words, separate the main title and the subtitle with a colon followed by one space, and end the title with a period and one space. 3) Publication information. The city of publication, followed by a colon and one space, the name of the publisher, followed by a comma, and provide date of publication, ending with a period.
- • A book by one author (for books with more than one author see page two of this handout). Example: Tatar, Maria. Off with Their Heads. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1982.
• Two or more books by the same author: To cite two or more books by the same author, give the author’s name in the first entry only. Thereafter, in place of the name, type three hyphens, followed by a period and the title. The three hyphens stand for exactly the same name as in the preceding entry.
Example: Tarta, Maria. Off with Their Heads. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1982.
- - - . The Road to Ruin. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1994.
• A work in an anthology (stories and essays collected in larger, bound collections):
Follow the same procedure for books but include editor and page numbers for selection.
Example: Allende, Isable. “Toad’s Mouth.” British Women Poets of the Romantic Era. Ed. Paula R. Feldman. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1997. 472-73.
• An article in a reference book: Treat an encyclopedia article or a dictionary entry as you would a piece in a collection, but do not cite the editor of the reference work. If the article is signed, give the author first; if it is unsigned, give the title first. If the encyclopedia or dictionary arranges articles alphabetically, you may omit volume and page numbers.
Example: “Mandarin.” The Encyclopedia Americana. 1994 ed.
- • A pamphlet: Treat a pamphlet as you would a book. If there is no author, cite by title and give as much information as possible about the publisher and date of publication.
- • A government publication: If you do not know the author of the document, cite as author the government agency that issued it—that is, state the name of the government first, followed by the name of the government agency, using an abbreviation if the context makes it clear. In citing the Congressional Record (abbreviated Cong. Rec.), give only the date and page numbers (Cong. Rec. 7 Feb. 1973: 3831-51). In citing other congressional documents, include such information as the number and session of Congress, the house (S stands for Senate, HR for House of Representatives), and the type and number of the publication. The usual publication information comes next (place, publisher, and date). Most federal publications, regardless of the branch of government issuing them, are published by the Government Printing Office (GPO), in Washington, D.C.
Example: Hawaii. Dept. of Education. Kauai District Schools, Profile 1996-97. Honolulu: Hawaii Dept. of Education, 1996.
- • The Bible: When citing the Bible, do not underline the title or the name of the version.
Example: The Holy Bible. King James Version. Cleveland: World, n.d.
(“n.d.” indicates that the source lists no date of publication.)
• A signed article in a journal with continuous pagination: Some journals number the pages of issues consecutively throughout a year, so that issue number 3 might begin on page 261. For this kind of journal, give the volume number after the title and place the year of publication in parentheses.
Example: Lever, Janet. “Sex Differences in the Games Children Play.” Social Problems 23 (1976): 478-87.
• A signed article in a journal that pages issues separately or that numbers only issues, not volumes: Provide volume and number separated by a period.
Example: Dacey, June. “Management Participation.” Management 7.4 (1994): 20-31.
• A signed article in a monthly or bimonthly magazine: Abbreviate all months except May, June, and July. Don’t place the date in parentheses, and don’t provide a volume or issue number.
Example: Stevens, Mark. “Selling the Dream.” Worth Oct. 1996: 94-100.
• A signed article in a weekly or biweekly magazine (date includes a day).
Example: Tilin, Andrew. “Low and Behold.” New Republic 24 Dec. 1990: 27-30.
• A signed article in a daily newspaper: The name of the paper appears without A, An or The. If the newspaper lists an edition at the top of the first page, include that information. If the paper is divided into lettered or numbers sections, provide the section designation. Use a + sign to indicate that the story begins on one page and is continued on a later page.
Example: Ramirez, Anthony. “Computer Groups Plan Standards.” New York Times 14 Dec. 1993, late ed.: D5+.
• An unsigned article: The article is cited by keyword or the title if there is no author.
Example: “Gun Control Destroys Civil Rights.” Gun World. 12 June, 1999: 20-31.
- • Electronic sources:
Internet sites, such as information databases, scholarly projects, professional Web sites, and online periodicals, vary significantly in the publication information they provide. Electronic publication information usually includes the title of the site (underlined), the date of electronic publication or the latest update, and the name or any institution or organization that sponsors the site. If an editor’s or version number is stated, give that information directly following the title of the site. The date of electronic publication is required in addition to a date of print publication because the Internet version may differ from the print version. This list shows most of the possible components of an entry for an Internet publication and the order in which they are normally arranged.
- 1. The name of the author, editor, compiler, or translator of the source (if given), last name first for alphabetizing and, if appropriate, followed by an abbreviation, such as ed.
- 2. Title of the article, poem, short story, or similar short work in the Internet site (enclosed in quotation marks). Or title of a posting to a discussion list or forum (taken from the subject line and put in quotation marks), followed by the description Online posting.
- 3. Title of a book (underlined).
- 4. Name of the editor, compiler, or translator of the text (if relevant and if not cited earlier) proceeded by the appropriate abbreviation, such as Ed.
- 5. Publication information for any print version of the source.
- 6. Title of the Internet site (e.g., scholarly project, database, online periodical, or professional or person site [underlined] or, for a professional or personal site with no title, a description such as Home page.
- 7. Name of the editor of the site (if given).
- 8. Version number of the source (if not part of the title or, for a journal, the volume number, issue number, or other identifying number.
- 9. Date of electronic publication, of the latest update, or of posting.
- 10. For a work from a subscription service, the name of the service and—if a library or a consortium of libraries is the subscriber—the name and geographical location of the subscriber.
- 11. For a posting to a discussion list or forum, the name of the list or forum.
- 12. The number range or total number of pages, paragraphs, or other sections, if they are numbered.
- 13. Name of any institution or organization sponsoring the site (if not cited earlier).
- 14. Date when the researcher accessed the site.
- 15. URL of the source or, if the URL is impractically long and complicated, the URL of the site’s home page. Or, for a document from a subscription service, the URL of the service’s home page, if known; or the keyword assigned by the service, preceded by Keyword; or the sequence of lines followed, preceded by Path.
An Entire Internet Site
1.Title of the site (underlined)
2. Name of the editor of the site (if given)
3. Electronic publication information, including version number (if relevant and if not part of the title), date of electronic publication or of the latest update, and the name of any sponsoring institution or organization.
4. Date of access and URL.
Bartleby.com: Great Books Online. Ed. Steven van Leeuwen. 2002. 5 May 2002 <htto://www.bartleby.com>.
A personal web page: Cite by name of author (if given) or by title of the page, or, if there is no title, the description Home Page. Follow with the web address and date of access. Note that the URL is enclosed in angle brackets.
“The Cruelest Cut.” The Bad Hair Site. <http://www.badhair.com> 19 June 1999.
An article in an online periodical: The typical entry for a work in an online periodical consists of the following items: 1) author’s name (if given); 2) title of the work in quotation marks; 3) name of the periodical (underlined or in italics); 4) volume number, issue number, or other identifying number; 5) date of publication; 6) number range or total number of pages, paragraphs, or other sections, if they are numbered; 7) date of access and URL address. If the journal is include with in a database state the name of the database (underlined). If you cannot find some of this information, cite what is available.
Example: Markoff, John. “The Voice on the Phone Is Not Human.” New York Times on
the web. 25 June 1998 <http://nytime.com/library.html>.
A publication on CD-ROM, Diskette, or Magnetic Tape: Citations for these publications are similar to those for print sources, with the following difference: 1) include publication medium (CD-ROM, for example): 2) include vendor’s name; 3) include publication date.
Example: Beek, Melinda. “The Losing formula.” Newsweek 17 Apr. 1990: 56-71.
InfroTrack: Magazine Index Plus. CD-ROM. Information Access. July 1994.
A work from an online service: Provide a URL if the material is accessed through the URL. If you retrieve the material by entering a keyword or similar designation, complete the citation by writing Keyword and the word itself following the name of the service and date of access.
Example: “Table Tennis.” Compton’s Encyclopedia Online. Vers. 2.0. 1997. America
Online. 4 July 1988. Keyword: Compton’s.
An E-mail communication: To cite electronic mail, 1) give the name of the writer; 2) the title of the message (if any), taken form the subject a line and enclosed in quotation marks; 3) a description of the message that includes the recipient (e.g., “E-mail to the author”); and 4) the date from the message.
Example: Boyle, Anthony. “Re: Utopia.” E-mail to the author. 20 Aug. 1998.
A source found from a database
Example: Gray Katti. “The Whistle Blower.” Essence Feb. 2001: 148. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Texas Christian University Lib. 12 May 2003.
For additional details on citations of electronic sources refer to chapter five of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.
A Sample Works Cited Page
Beek, Melinda. “The Losing Formula.” Newsweek 17 Apr. 1990: 63-78. InfoTrac:Magazine Index Plus. CD-ROM. Information Access. July 1994.
Cane, Harriet. “Beware Liquid Diets.” Healthtouch Aug. 1996. 4 Mar. 1997 <http://www.geaktgiiycg.cin:80/cane/wcin.html>.
Rothenthal, Elisabeth. “Commercial Diets Lack Proof of Success.” New York Times 24 Nov. 1992, late ed.: A1+. New York Times Ondisc. CD-ROM. UMI-Proquest. Jan 1993.
Sachs, Andrea. “Drinking Yourself Skinny.” Time 22 Dec. 1988: 48-49. 21 Feb. 1997 <http://www.pathfinder.com/time.1988/dom.html>.
Slim Fast Foods. Label and insert with a can of Slim Fast powdered mix. New York: Slim Fast, 1997.
Revised 31 July 2006