Most academic disciplines will follow a specific research and writing style guide, such as Harvard, APA, Chicago/Turabian and MLA. Used broadly in academic disciplines literature, media and cultural studies throughout the world and commercial publications, understanding MLA is imperative to students and professionals writing research-based material. MLA refers to specific document formatting, the style of in-text citations, resource citation (print and electronic media), and bibliography format. Included in this resource is the history of MLA, the MLA format, parenthetical citation (in-text citation), citing sources and a section on plagiarism. Carefully citing sources is the best way to avoid accusations of plagiarism, which can damage academic and professional careers. This resource is part of a collection of writing resources and is useful to students and professionals using the MLA style in their writing.
The Modern Language Association (MLA) was founded in 1883. MLA developed a standardized research paper writing style and reference citation format commonly used in humanities and liberal arts courses, scholarly journals, and commercial publications in countries around the world. The style is detailed in the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, which was recently updated in April 2009, and the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.
Adhering to MLA style includes following specific guidelines for formatting the written document as well as the citation of research sources.
- Use standard 8.5 x 11-inch paper.
- 12-point type font size.
- The font must be understandable and the italicized font must be an obvious contrast.
- 1 inch margins (includes sides, top and bottom of document).
- Each paragraph is indented.
- Number pages on the time right-hand corner. Typically the number on the first page is omitted.
- Your name and other pertinent information such as class name, professor name should be written in the upper left-hand side of the document. For example:
First Name Last Name
Professor of Class
Name of Class
- The title of the paper is centered just above the first paragraph.
In-Text Citation (Parenthetical Citation)
To cite another author or speaker within the text of the document in MLA format, the author’s name and the page number the information is taken from is noted within parentheses. If the author or speaker is referenced in the sentence, it is not necessary to reference the name in the parenthetical citation.
Temple Grandin states in her book Thinking in Pictures that teaching social skills to people with Asperger’s is crucial so that they maybe successful in the workforce. (163)
It is crucial to teach social skills to people with Asperger’s so that they will be successful in the workforce. (Grandin, 163)
People with Asperger’s face significant issues in the workforce because, according to Temple Grandin, “today’s society fails to teach social skills.” (163)
The point of this type of citation is so that the source of the reference may be easily identified in the Bibliography or Works Cited section at the end of the paper.
- Citation generator KnightCite helps generate the proper citations in any citation style format.
- EasyBib is a free online service that generates citations and a Bibliography in a variety of citation formats.
- More information about in-text citation from the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), including multiple authors, unknown authors, including the volume, chapter, book, section or paragraph in citation, etc.
Citing Different Types of Sources
Conducting research for any written work will inevitably include using various sources from different mediums. Books, journal and periodical articles, and electronic sources are commonly used. Each medium has a specific way it is cited, although the general format applies to each one.
The format for citing a book is:
Author Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Publisher, Year Published. Publication type.
- Grandin, Temple. Thinking in Pictures My Life with Autism. Vintage Books, 1995. Print.
(Note: The title of the book and the subtitle are both used.)
- Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers,1947. Print.
Multiple authors may be noted is this way:
- (First author) Last Name, First Name, (next author) First Name Last Name.
- Webber, James, Anthony Jones. It Goes Without Saying. Random House, 1983. Print.
More than four authors should be indicated by using “et al.”
- Webber, James, et al. It Goes Without Saying. Random House, 1983. Print.
- Author or authors. “Title in Quotation Marks.” Periodical Title in Italics Day Month Year: Page number(s). Publication Medium.
- Katz, David. “Tracking Changes in the Genome.” Doctor’s Monthly 25 June 1997: 47-83. Print.
Scholarly Journal Article:
- Author or authors. “Title in Quotation Marks.” Journal Title in Italics Volume Issue (Year): Pages. Publication Medium.
- Wadsworth, Kim. “The Sociological Model of Modern Parenting.” Social Science Today Volume 4, Issue 7 (2007): 17-28. Print.
Try to gather as much information as possible, including the author’s and editor’s names, the name of the article, website title, the domain name, date of the post, date the material was accessed and the URL (website address).
Cite in this format, according to OWL:
Name of Author or Editor. Website Name. Version Number. Publisher or sponsor of site, date resource was created. Medium. Date material accessed. <URL> (If providing the URL is required.)
Works Cited (References) and Bibliography
The MLA Style guide requires the inclusion of the list of references (or cited work) at the end of the document. A bibliography lists every source consulted in the course of researching a paper, but not every source listed is specifically cited.
The rules for creating the Works Cited page include:
- Center the words “Work Cited” on the top of the page in the same size font as the rest of the paper.
- Double-spaced without additional space between references.
- The formatting should be the same as the rest of the paper (1 inch margins, 12 pt. font, double-spaced), except every entry should be indented five spaces after the first entry.
Passing off another person’s ideas or words as your own without properly crediting them is plagiarism. Plagiarizing work is a serious offense. It is important to cite your sources and give credit to the original author. Plagiarism may take many forms, but it is essentially the theft of someone else’s ideas and work in a written document that may be turned in for credit in a class or submitted to a professional publication, which is known as copyright infringement. The bottom line is: if it is not your idea, it should be cited.
- The Purdue Online Writing Lab: Is It Plagiarism Yet? article covers the material that does need to be credited in order to avoid plagiarizing material, even inadvertently. Visual aids, song lyrics, phrases, comments made in an interview and specific wording or ideas encountered in any publication represent some of the sources requiring citation.
- Software company Turnitin that serves professors and class instructors provides a service for students called Writecheck that will scan a document for plagiarism.