MLA Style Guide for Academic Research Papers

What is MLA format for a paper? This is a style used to show the authority of sources used in a manuscript when citing research in your work. Formatting an MLA paper is important as it emphasizes brevity and clarity while promoting consistency within a discipline.

Although there are multiple referencing styles, formatting a paper in MLA is the most recommended for literature and humanity disciplines.

Formatting a paper in MLA

MLA has flexible guidelines with few general formatting rules to follow. These rules include:

  • Numbering your pages
  • 1-inch margins (all sides)
  • Readable fonts
  • Double spaced
  • ½ inch indents for new paragraphs
  • Only one space between sentences

Below are the steps to proper formatting of MLA paper:

1. Cover Page

An MLA cover page has general information for your research paper. It includes the following:

  • University/school’s name
  • Title of the page
  • The subtitle if you have one
  • Your name
  • Course name and number if you need it
  • Professor
  • Due date

The information presented on the cover page should be centered. The school’s name should be on the top with the title at the center of the page. Your name, course name and number, the professor and due date all going towards the bottom of the page.

2. Headings

Apart from a cover page, your paper also has a title on the first page of your work. The header includes your name, instructor, course and date aligned to the left. Additionally, each page of your paper has a running header with your name and page number including the work cited.

3. Body text and formatting

Your body typically consists of readable fonts, right spacing, numbers and abbreviations. There are a few recommended fonts which are: Arial and Times New Roman with a font size of either 11 or 12. For the spacing it is recommended to stick with double spacing throughout the entire body and citing. You need to make sure that your text is left justified.

It is also vital to indent every new paragraph by pressing your tab button. To keep things neat and clean it is vital to follow the punctuation rules for commas and periods. There are other things within the formatting sector that you need to address. They are;

  • Numbers – There are a few rules when it comes to numbering that you need to follow. MLA clarifies when to use Arabic and Roman numerals and when to spell out numbers.
  • Abbreviations – The rules need to be followed for abbreviations. For months longer than four letters you should abbreviate them and you end abbreviations with a period if they end in lower case letters.

4. Formatting tables

When it comes to tables you need a clear and well written table format for easy presentation.

  • You need to label it “table” and ensure it’s to the left followed by an Arabic numeral (table 1).
  • You need to give the source of your table right below the table. It needs to be left and should include a hanging indent.
  • The information should be double spaced, and a dividing line should be used to separate the source from the table.

5. Citation

For how to cite a research paper in MLA format you need to follow the following simple rules. First you use the author’s last name and page number from which the quotation or paraphrase is taken. An example is: (Smith 163). But if the source does not use page numbers, you should not include a number in your citation. For example: (Smith).

Final Take

This MLA quick guide should guide you to editing your paper to avoid any plagiarism issues relating to referencing. It would be best if you searched for an MLA research paper sample to check the above tips in use.

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