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Research Paper – MLA Style

Research Paper – MLA Style

Author: Kristina Jacobs

How to write a paper using MLA style and how to cite references using MLA style.

This packet goes over the basics of using MLA style in text citations and how to create a reference page using MLA formatting.

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MLA (The Basics)


Animals stuck together by their horns.

Sometimes citations can make us feel like we're stuck, but these MLA basics should help!

General Information on MLA Style

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th edition)MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (3rd edition)

MLA style is a form of academic writing guidelines that has been created by the Modern Language Association. The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th ed.) and the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (3rd ed.) are two guides that writers can use to learn how to format papers according to the guidelines suggested by the Modern Language Association. This style has been created for use in the field of Humanities and Liberal Arts and is used in a variety of fields including by writers in the fields of Humanities, Education, Literature, History and Sociology.


MLA Style Requirements for Citing Research

MLA style guidelines require that authors give a formal reference to indicate the source of information used while researching a topic and writing a paper. If you use information from someone else's work, you must cite the original source of that information.


MLA In Text Citations and Works Cited Page

MLA style requires both a list of "works cited" at the end of a paper as well as "in text" citations following a specific format that lists the author or authors of a work and the page number where the information can be located in the original text.


MLA Examples- In Text Citations

    * MLA style looks for "signal" phrases to indicate the author of a work (or title if no author is known) and the page number where the information cited in your paper can be found.

    * You should cite the author or authors by their last name at the beginning of the sentence such as, "Jones explained", "Smithwick and Cook found that" or "Scotts discovered".

    * You can also cite in text by placing the reference in parentheses directly after the sentence where you refer to their work. Be sure to include the page number where the information can be found. Here are some examples: (Violet 11), (Violet, Bask, and Joey 62), or (Violet et al. 201). Use the abbreviation "et al." followed by the page number when referring to works with three or more authors.

    * If you use more than one source to support the same idea, list your citations alphabetically by the last name of the first author listed on the material that you wish to cite, separated by a semi-colon in between each. Place the citation directly after the idea that you are presenting in your paper.  Here is an example: (Coney and Parker 3; Lily and Marks 63).

  * When quoting from a source you must put the quoted information in quotations and cite the page number where the information can be found directly after the quote. For example, your paper might look like this: According to Johnsonville, "Liberal Arts majors gain a variety of types of employment after graduation including work in government, education and business sectors" (Johnsonville 78).

MLA Works Cited Page Formatting

 How to Format Your Works Cited Page in MLA Style


The "Works Cited" page be placed at the end of your paper and should be formatted according to MLA style guidelines.

Each citation that you mentioned in your paper should be listed in alphabetical order by the author last name followed by a comma and their first name and a middle initial if available.

The words "Works Cited" should appear at the top of the page, centered. [with no quotes]

If a reference is long and takes up more than one line, every line after the first should be indented five spaces (hanging indent). The Works Cited page should be double spaced with no extra spaces in between each entry. 


Helpful tips

If you are a visual learner then the easiest way to learn to format your MLA Works Cited page is to find a citation of the same type as yours and copy the formatting for your own reference.


Here is an example of a Works Cited page of references in MLA format.


Works Cited


Collins, Pauline M., Hugo A. Kamya, and Robbie W. Tourse. "Questions of Racial Diversity and Mentorship: An Empirical Exploration." Social work 42.2 (1997): 145-52. Web.

David Comp. "U.S. Heritage-Seeking Students Discover Minority Communities in Western Europe." Journal of Studies in International Education 12.1 (2008): 29-37. Print.

Frame, J. Davidson. Project Management Competence : Building Key Skills for Individuals, Teams, and Organizations. 1st ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999. Print.

Freestone, Robert, et al. "A Quantitative Approach to Assessment of Work-Based Learning Outcomes: An Urban Planning Application." Higher Education Research and Development 26.4 (2007): 347-61. Print.

Goldner, Limor, and Ofra Mayseless. "The Quality of Mentoring Relationships and Mentoring Success." Journal of Youth & Adolescence 38.10 (2009): 1339-50. Web.

Headey, Bruce, and Ruud Muffels. "Do Generous Welfare States Generate Efficiency Gains which Counterbalance Short Run Losses? Testing Downside Risk Theory with Economic Panel Data for the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands." Social Indicators Research 86.2 (2008): 337-54. Print.

Mandelbaum, D. E., et al. "Sensorimotor Performance in School-Age Children with Autism, Developmental Language Disorder, Or Low IQ." Developmental medicine and child neurology 48.1 (2006): 33-9. Print.

Marris, Paul, and Sue Thornham. Media Studies : A Reader. 2nd ed. New York: New York University Press, 2000. Print.

Peterson, Kimberly. Welfare-to-Work Programs: Strategies for Success. ERIC Digest. EDO-JC-02-04 Vol. ERIC Clearinghouse for Community Colleges. University of California at Los Angeles, 3051 Moore Hall, P.O. Box 951521, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1524. Tel: 310-825-3931. For full text:, 2002. Print.

Wilson, Frank Arnal. Towards Sustainable Project Development. Cheltenham, UK ; Lyme, NH, US: E. Elgar, 1997. Print.

Zhang, F. H., et al. "Clinical Characteristics and Speech Therapy of Lingua-Apical Articulation Disorder." Zhonghua er ke za zhi.Chinese journal of pediatrics 44.3 (2006): 210-3. Print.

Let's Break it Down! MLA Example step-by-step

This PowerPoint breaks down a typical MLA citation and formatting step by step.