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MLA Format for Research Papers

Updated on December 23, 2012

So you have to write a research paper...

Writing research paper is the bane of nearly every college and high school student's life. Hours of tedious research followed by equally painful hours trying to fill the required word count. Lucky for me, my research writing days are behind me. Still, one of the quickest ways to lose points on a paper is to not follow the correct format. The style format will determine which font you should use, what size margins your paper should have and how you cite the sources you used. Don't lose points needlessly for not following the correct format!

Here are the basic guidelines for a MLA paper, with a bit of my charm and wit thrown in for fun!

What is MLA?

The acronym MLA stands for "Modern Language Association". They are a group of language snobs whose sole goal is to make student's lives difficult. Seriously.

Alright, so its a group of professors and academics who got together and agreed on the easiest format for research papers. Whatever. MLA format is usually used for papers written about humanities, other fields have their own ways to torture high school and college students. The format is pretty basic.

Page Set Up

MLA page set up requires one inch margins all the way around. Don't be an idiot and make larger margins to reach your page requirement. Your teacher doesn't have to be a genius to compare your margins with the other 50 papers on her desk. The first page should list start like this:

My name

Prof's name



(Center the Title of the Paper)

Any additional pages of your paper should have your last name and the page number in the far right corner. This will save your butt if your paper clip or staple doesn't to the only job it has and your pages come apart.

Make sure to double space your paper and use an easy to read font (Times New Roman is always safe) at 12 point.

MLA bibliography

The bibliography (AKA the works cited page, though not exactly the same thing) is pretty simple in MLA. Here is the basic format for books (list in alphabetical order by last name):

Dude who the book. Title of that Ungodly Long Book. City of Publication: Publisher, Year.

For multiple authors, list the first author (last name then first) then et al

For magazine articles:

Dude who wrote the article. "Title of that Article because I have to have one magazine source."Title of Magazine Date: Page.

Internal Citations

In addition to listing your sources at the END of your paper, you also need to list your sources within the paper. Every time you say anything. YAY! Yes its obnoxious, but apparently not telling your reader where you got every nugget of information is really bad. Otherwise it could be made up BS or plagarisim. Luckily, its pretty easy to do. There are two ways. If you acknowledged the writer in the sentence or use a quote, you can just give the page number like so:

According to Dr. Suess, ham and eggs can also be green (19).


Dr. Suess insists "I do not like green eggs and ham" (19).

Other wise, internal citations look like this.

Many people do not like green eggs and ham, no matter where they are served (Suess, 19).

And that's a wrap!

MLA format is pretty simple, and you will likely be using it for the next four to eight years of your life. Fun, huh? Unless your teacher decides to further torture you by insisting you use APA or Chicago Style format.

If you need help doing your research, contact The Paper Heroes!


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    • BLACKANDGOLDJACK profile image

      Jack Hazen 

      6 years ago from Blitzburgh area

      Definitely this is something I will need to know since my daughter will be attending college in the fall.

      It's not like they are teaching her how to write papers in high school.

    • moiragallaga profile image

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 

      7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Very useful and informative hub danielleantosz.


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