Guide to MLA Style
(printable version here)
The Modern Language Association (MLA) style is the most commonly used format for citing research sources in academic writing. Here are the guidelines for formatting a paper according to MLA style.
- Printed on standard 8.5 x 11-inch paper
- Legible text (typically Times New Roman, at least 12 pt. font)
- 1 inch margins on each side of the document
- The first line of each paragraph should be indented a half inch (MLA recommends using the TAB button rather than the space bar)
- Italicize or underline larger works referenced throughout the essay; put smaller works, such as journal article titles, in quotations; poems and other short works should be placed in quotations as well
- Do not include a title page unless specifically requested to do so
- When referring to other literary works in your title be certain to employ proper citation methods; for example in the following title, the literary work "Goblin Market" is properly cited in quotations: Desire and Sin in Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market"
- Include a header in the upper right hand corner of the page, listing your name followed by a space with the page number
- Headings may be included between different sections of the paper to improve clarity and flow
If your paper does not include a title page, your first page should resemble the following model from Purdue OWL
Formatting in Microsoft Word 2007
Featured below is a tutorial explaining how to properly format Microsoft Word 2007 to MLA style. Note that the default settings of Microsoft Word 2007 are not in accordance with MLA requirements and must be edited in order to fit this format.
Work Cited Format
MLA style formatting demands that a work cited page be included at the end of a research paper. Before jumping into the specifics of different source type formatting, note the following general rules:
- The Work Cited page should always begin on a separate page at the end of the research paper
- This page should be labeled Work Cited (centered, not italicized or in quotations)
- If the citation extends beyond one line, the second and subsequent lines should be indented five spaces (using the TAB button)
- The first letter of every word should be capitalized unless the word is an article (a, an, the), conjunction (and, but, or) or short preposition (of, to)
- Italicize or underline longer works, such as books, and put smaller works, such as article titles, in quotations
- URLs are not required for web entries, unless the teacher specifies otherwise
- If citing an article available in print but accessed via an internet database, cite both the journal and the database
Formatting Source Citations
(a) Single Author
- Author's last name should be listed first, followed by first name and possible middle initial
- The title of the work may be italicized or underlined depending on preference
- If the citation extends to a second line, indent five spaces before continuing citation (MLA recommends using the TAB button rather than the space bar)
- Indicate the format of the accessed work (i.e. Did you access it via the Web or in print?)
Author. Title of Book. City of Publication: Publisher, Year. Format.
Hasset, Constance W. Christina Rossetti: Patience of Style. Charlottesville: University of Virginia, 2005. Print.
(b) Two or More Authors
- List author names in accordance with how they appear on the title page of the work.
- Only the first author's name should be listed in inverted order (i.e. Last, First).
- Authors names should be divided by a comma, include "and" between the last two authors' names.
Majors, Richard M, and Janet M. Billson. Cool Pose: The Dilemmas of Black Manhood in America. New York: Macmillan Inc., 1992. Print.
Smaller Works in Anthologies
- Need the author, title, and (if relevant) translator of the piece.
- Need the name of the editor(s), translator(s), or compiler(s) of the book being cited.
- The edition number and/or editor may not be given.
- Book title may be either italicized or underlined.
Author of Smaller Work (Last name, First name). "Title of Smaller Work." Title of Book. Name of Editor. Edition. City of Publication: Publisher, Year. Page number range of smaller work.
Hill, Marylu. "Eat Me, Drink Me, Love Me: Eucharist and the Erotic Body." Augustine and Literature. Ed. John Doody, Kim Paffenroth, and Robert F. Kennedy. Oxford: Lexington Books, 2006. 215-232. Print.
Article in a Scholarly Journal (Print)
- Need author's name, title of the article, and all relevant publication information.
Author. "Title of Article." Title of Journal Volume Number. Issue number (Year): Page number range. Print
Peterson, Randall S. and Charlan J. Nemeth. "Focus Versus Flexibility: Majority and Minority Influence Can Both Improve Performance." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 22.1 (1996): 14-23.
Article in a Scholarly Journal (Online-Only Journal)
- Follow the same format as a print journal, but specify "Web" instead of print after the page numbering, and include the date of access.
- Do not include a URL with your reference.
Author. "Title of Article." Title of Journal Volume Number. Issue number (Year): Page number range. Web. Date accessed (Day Month Year).
Grass, Sean C. "Nature's Perilous Variety in Rossetti's 'Goblin Market.'" Nineteenth-Century Literature 51.3 (2009): 129-54. Web. 4 Apr. 2010.
Article in a Scholarly Journal (Print Journal Housed in Online Database)
- Follow the same format as the online-only journal article, but include the database in italics before writing "Web."
- If the article does not have pages, write "n. pag."
- As with online-only articles, do not include a URL with your reference.
Author. "Title of Article." Title of Journal Volume Number. Issue number (Year): Page number range or n. pag. Database. Web. Date accessed (Day Month Year).
Chan, Evans. "Postmodernism and Hong Kong Cinema." Postmodern Culture 10.3 (2000): n. pag. Project Muse. Web. 5 June 2008.
Herzog, Werner. Grizzly Man. Real Big Films, 2005. Film.
Useful Resources for MLA Style Citations
Above is listed the general format of the most commonly cited source types. For further clarification on how to cite a variety of different source types visit the Writer's Web page on MLA Citation Style; to access a citation generator visit EasyBib. Note that for the second site you will need to create a user name and password in order to use its services. If you do choose to use a citation generator, be certain to review the citations and correct any mistakes the automatic generator may have made--DO NOT simply copy and paste the information without checking its accuracy.
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The following two sample research papers are typical of the papers that might be submitted in different kinds of courses.
Reading these papers will help you learn about organizing an argument and working with sources. The papers also demonstrate the use of MLA style to document sources and the formatting of the margins, line spacing, and other physical attributes of a printed paper. The MLA’s guidelines on formatting papers appear elsewhere on this site.
The sample papers were written by MLA staff members who are experienced college teachers. You may find that the writing and documentation seem polished. Because the sample papers serve as models, we aimed to make them free of errors in grammar and documentation. Nevertheless, we hope that the papers usefully represent good student work.
This paper, on Jacob Lawrence’s Migration series, shows you how to incorporate figures into your text, style a block quotation, and cite a variety of sources. Read about block quotations in the MLA Handbook (1.3.2–3, 1.3.7).
This paper, on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and the courtship novel, features examples of how to use notes in MLA style, cite a dictionary definition, and more.