BASIC MLA FORMAT
Academic writing is done following certain elements of style. The Modern Language
Association (MLA) format has very simple elements that help the overall look of a paper. MLA
gives a document a professional look; that is why it is very popular in many of the liberal sciences.
Additionally, the MLA style makes the paper credible because it provides students and
professionals with a method of documenting their sources. The following is a simple guide to the
basics of the MLA style of documentation. There are two sample pages of the MLA style attached
to this handout, including how the first page of your document should look and how your last, or
“Works Cited,” page should look. The pages in between should have your document text with the
running header at the top right. Take a good look at these pages, and then come back to follow the
steps below as you start your document.
Basic Features of the MLA Style:
• Use Times New Roman font, 12 point size
• Double-space the whole paper.
• All margins should be set to 1 inch.
• According to MLA 7th
edition, using either single or double spacing after punctuation is
acceptable. Check with your instructors for their preference.
• Each page should have a “header” that includes your last name and page number at the
upper right-hand corner of each page. This should be 1/2" from the top edge of the page;
this measurement is already set for you in Microsoft Word, but you still have to type
your last name and insert the automatic page numbers properly.
• Your paper should begin with a heading in the left corner of the first page, including the
following: your name, your instructor’s name, the class name and the date (for an
example, see the attached sample first page).
• The title of your paper, centered, should follow the heading – do not underline, bold or
“quote” your title.
• When ending a quote with punctuation, the punctuation should be inside the quotation
marks. For example, Juliet lamented Romeo’s familial ties saying, “O Romeo, O Romeo,
wherefore art thou Romeo?” (Romeo and Juliet 2.2.36).
The MLA Handbook provides students with a way to document the resources they used in
an academic essay. There are two ways instructors expect students to document their sources: in-
text, or parenthetical, citations throughout the essay and with a Works Cited page at the end of the
In order not to interrupt the flow of the essay or distract the reader, in-text citations should
be kept short – most will consist solely of the author’s last name and the page number or numbers
the quote can be found on; they should also be found at the end of the sentence containing the
quote. If you mention the author’s name in the sentence, it is not necessary to put the last name in
• Book with an Author
In A Thousand Splendid Suns, the author uses foreshadowing to further the plot saying,
“Nana cherished each blue-and-white porcelain piece, the graceful curve of the pot’s spout,
the hand-painted finches and chrysanthemums, the dragon on the sugar bowl, meant to ward
off evil. It was the last piece that slipped from Miriam’s fingers, that fell to the wooden
floorboards of the kolba and shattered” (Hosseini 3).
Here are some more complicated citations:
• Book without an Author
If a book does not have an author, use the last name of the book’s editor or the name of the
organization that released the text.
Example: According to the 2008 World Malaria Report, “Most countries in the WHO
African Region adopted, by the end of 2006, the policy of providing ITN’s free of charge to
children and pregnant women, but only 16 aimed to cover the whole population at risk”
(World Health Organization16).
• Website without an Author
When citing an article from a website that does not have an author, use the organization or
website name in your citation in place of the author’s last name.
Example: Although “the public followed news about the 2008 presidential campaign more
closely than any presidential election in the past 20 years,” 82% of the respondents said that
they “will not miss following election news” (Pew Research Center).
• The Bible
When citing the Bible, since there are so many different versions and translations of it, use
the book name, chapter and verse of the passage you are quoting.
Example: In one of his many letters to Christian communities outside of Israel, St. Paul
explains, “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not
inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick tempered, it does not
brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth”
• Classic Poetry or Play
When citing a play or poetry, the format you will use and the way you will cite it depends on
when it was written. If it is a classic play (for example one written by Shakespeare or
Sophocles), you will cite the play by title, act, scene and the line number or numbers the
quote can be found at. Each new line will be separated by a slash.
Example: Shakespeare allows his hero to reveal his weakness when Hamlet questions, “To
be, or not to be – that is the question./ Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer/ The slings
and arrows of outrageous fortune,/ Or to take arms against a sea of/ troubles/ And by
opposing them. To die, to sleep” (Hamlet, 3.1.56-60).
• Modern Play
When citing a modern play, you will use the same format you would use for any book for
both the quote and citation.
Example: Torvald admits to Nora that his reputation is far more important to him than she
is saying, “I would gladly toil day and night for you, Nora, enduring all manner of sorrow
and distress. But nobody sacrifices his honour for the one he loves” (Ibsen 1312).
• Two Sources by the Same Author
If you are using two sources written by the same author, in order to let your reader know
which work you are quoting, it is necessary to include the title of the work in addition to the
author’s last name and the page number in the citation.
Example: Through Gabriel’s waking dream, the author offers his ideal version of death:
“One by one, they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the
full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age” (Joyce, “The Dead”
748). While Gabriel’s reflection has some peace in it, Mr. Hynes laments opportunity lost to
death saying, “He would have had his Erin famed,/ The green flag gloriously unfurled,/ Her
statesmen, bards and warriors raised/ Before the nations of the World” (Joyce, “The Death
of Parnell” 714).
Works Cited Page
The works cited page, a list of all the outside sources used in a paper, provides a more in-
depth way to document sources used in an academic paper and is a necessary part of any essay.
According to the MLA Handbook, the list “simplifies documentation by permitting you to make
only brief references to these works in the text” (Gibaldi 144). The list should be a new page at the
end of the document. Make sure to alphabetize the entries by author’s last name. (If there is no
author, use the first word of the work’s title to determine its place on the list.) For a sample works
cited page, please see the end of this handout.
Additionally, in research papers you will be required to add a page with a bibliography, or
the list of sources you have used to write your paper. In MLA format this is called the “Works
Cited” page. The “Works Cited” page is a list of the sources you cite when you write your paper,
and creating this page serves as a documentation and acknowledgement of the sources you have
used to create your essay. Without this page your paper cannot be considered complete.
It is absolutely necessary that you learn how to properly cite any other sources used in
composing an essay in order to avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism is the act of using another person’s
words or ideas and attempting to pass them off as your own. There are many ways to plagiarize,
even if it is unintentional, “Buying a term paper from an online paper mill or ‘borrowing’ a friend’s
completed assignment are obvious forms of plagiarism. But plagiarism also includes paraphrasing
or summarizing material without properly citing its source” (Maimon 265).
Plagiarism is a serious offense that comes with serious consequences. According to Valley
College’s 2008-2009 Catalogue, the consequences for this offense and other types of academic
dishonesty could result in suspension or even expulsion (7).
Remember that handing in a paper you previously got credit for in a different course is
plagiarism, even though you are the one who wrote it. The MLA Handbook warns, “If you must
complete [an essay] to earn a grade in a course, handing in a paper you already earned credit for in
another course is deceitful . . . If you want to rework a paper that you prepared for another course,
ask your current instructor for permission to do so” (Gibaldi 2.7).
Plagiarism does not only refer to taking someone’s exact words without giving them credit –
it also refers to taking an author’s ideas, even if you paraphrased them, without giving the proper
attribution. To avoid being accused of plagiarism, make sure to cite any and all information you get
from somewhere else. Unless the idea or information came directly from your head, you must tell
your reader where you got it. You do not need to cite common knowledge, for example that the
Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 because that is a fact that many people know.
For more information about plagiarism, see the Writing Center’s handout on plagiarism.
This handout was based on the following sources:
Gibaldi, Joesph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th
ed. New York: Modern
language Association, 2003.
Maimon, Elaine P., Janice H. Peritz and Kathleen Blake Yancey. A Writer’s Resource: A Handbook
for Writing and Research.
Russell, Tony, Allen Brizee, and Elizabeth Angeli. "MLA Formatting and Style Guide." The Purdue
OWL. Purdue U Writing Lab, 4 Apr. 2010. Web. 10 November 2010.
Please visit our website at www.lavc.edu/WCweb/index/html for additional resources and
Political Science 1
13 January 2009
The Constitutionality of the Patriot Act
Although the government has a responsibility to ensure the safety of its citizens, it also has a
responsibility to protect their freedoms. When the U.S. government knowingly encroaches on the
rights of its citizens, even in the name of national security, it is going against the very freedoms the
Founding Fathers wrote into the Constitution. James Madison and the others who gathered to write
this nation’s most important document included amendments that would, if followed, ensure every
citizen’s right to privacy.
The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to
Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (USA Patriot Act) was a rushed response to the September 11,
2001 terrorist attacks. It “was passed without meaningful review. Many members of Congress
hadn't read the bill; some still haven't” (Levendosky). The law denies Americans the privacy rights
guaranteed in the Fourth Amendment because it bypasses the legal checks that are meant to
guarantee that suspect’s rights are not being abused.
The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon revealed some very real problems
when it came to intelligence gathering and communication between the various agencies
responsible for ensuring the nation’s security. Supporters of the law “claimed that the Patriot Act
would improve lines of communication between agencies such as the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), thereby allowing the government to
better anticipate terrorist plots” (Bardes 133).
The work cited sample on the following page reflects the following MLA updates in
• Italics is now used everywhere in place of underlining—for titles, for words, etc.
• Every entry has a medium of publication designation, such as the following: Print, Web,
Radio, Television, CD, Audiocassette, Film, Videocassette, DVD, Performance, Lecture,
and PDF file.
• MLA no longer makes a distinction between journals paginated by volume and journals
paginated by issue. All entries must have both volume and issue numbers for all journals.
• MLA does not require a URL in citations for online sources. However, some instructors
may ask you to include the web address of an online publication. This should be placed in
between angle brackets after the date accessed. <lavc.edu/WCweb>.
• MLA no longer requires the location of the database (the library name, for instance).
• MLA style requires a sponsor or publisher for most online sources. If a source has no
sponsor or publisher, use the abbreviation “N.p.” (for “No publisher”) in the sponsor
• If there is no date of publication or update, use “n.d.” (for “no date”) after the sponsor.
• For an article in an online journal or an article from a database, give page numbers if they
are available; if they are not, use the abbreviation “n. pag.”
• For any source you have that does not contain an author, or the initial information shown in
these citation examples, list alphabetically the next piece of information available to you.
For a complete list of sources, please consult an MLA handbook available at The Writing Center.
Also try www.easybib.com for assistance with creating a work cited page.
Works Cited Center title
Film: All the President’s Men. Screenplay by William Goldman, Dir. Alan J. Pakula, Perf. Dustin
Film Title Screenplay Writer, Director, Performers.
Hoffman, Robert Redford. Warner Bros., 1976. Film.
Distributor, Release Date. Medium.
Book by Bardes, Barbara, Mack Shelley, Steffen Schmidt. American Government and Politics
Two or Last Name, First Name, First Name Last Name, First Name Last Name Title of Book.
More Today: The Essentials. 2007 ed. Belmont, CA: Thompson Wadsworth, 2008. Print.
Authors: Edition. Place of Publication: Publisher, Pub. Date. Medium.
Article Gosselin, Peter G. “Stimulus Dusts Off an Old Theory.” Los Angeles Times 11 Jan.
From Last Name, First Name. “Title of Article.” Title of Newspaper. Pub. Date:
Journal & 2009: A1+. Print.
Newspaper Page Number. Medium.
Translated Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Books, 1996. Print.
Work: Author. Title of Book. Translator. Place of Publication Publisher, Pub. Date. Medium.
Web Site: Hoover’s Online. Hoover’s, Inc. n.d. Web. 19 June 2008.
Title of Website. Name of Website. No date Medium. Date of Access
*provide additional information if it is available.
Book: Hosseini, Khaled. A Thousand Splendid Suns. New York: Riverhead Books, 2007. Print.
Last Name, First Name. Title. Place of Publication: Publisher, Pub. Date. Medium.
Anthology Joyce, James. “The Dead.” Masters of British Literature. Ed. Robert A. Pratt et al. Vol. 2.
Book: Last Name, First Name. “Title of Story.” Title of Anthology. Editor.
Boston: The Riverside Press; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1958. 727-48. Print.
Place of Pub: Publisher, Copyright Date. Page #. Medium.
---. “The Death Parnell.” Masters of British Literature. Eds. Robert A. Pratt et al.
“Title of Story.” Title of Anthology. Editor.
Vol. 2. Boston: The Riverside Press; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1958. 714-15. Print.
Place of Pub: Publisher Copyright Date. Page #. Medium.
Online Levednosky, Charles. “Unconstitutional Sections of the Patriot Act Should be Repealed.”
Book: Last Name, First Name. “Title of Article”
Opposing Viewpoints: The Patriot Act. Ed. Louise I. Gerdes. San Diego:
Title of Book. Editor. Place of Publication
Greenhaven Press, 2005. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale
Publisher Publication Date Database
Web. 2 April 2008.
Medium. Date of Access.
Article Pew Research Center. “Few Will Miss Campaign News.” Pew Research Center.
from Author (Person or Organization). “Title of Web Article.” Title of Web Page.
Website: 12 Nov 2008. Web. 17 Nov 2008.
Date of Web Pub. Medium. Date You Viewed.
Reference “Sonata.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 15th
ed. 1997. Print.
Book: “Entry.” Title of Reference. Edition. Year. Medium.
Library Stuckey, P. Sterling. “Reflections on the Scholarship of African Origins and Influence in
Subscript- Last Name, First Name. “Title of Article.”
ion Service American Slavery.” The Journal of African American History. 91.4 (Fall 2006):
Title of Journal or Magazine. Volume # Publication Date:
425-44. InfoTrac US History. Web. 13 Jan.
Page Number. Database. Medium. Date of Access
Hanging indent. Tab all lines after the first one.