This presentation is brought to you by the Daytona State College-University of Central Florida Writing Center. Its purpose is to give an introduction to reading and writing research papers in MLA style.
To begin with, MLA stands for the Modern Language Association, which was founded in 1883 to support the study of languages and literature. The MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing is the extended full style guide referred to by writers interested in publishing, while the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers is a guide for students on how to write research papers and cite sources. You might be expected to use MLA for English, religion, philosophy, theater, or music classes.
The reason we use citation styles in the first place is to give credit to others’ ideas and work to avoid plagiarism. A reader is more likely to believe an argument or statement if it is followed by a citation that can be verified.
When you begin your research paper, you will be combining your own ideas with the research of others. If asked to use primary sources, your teacher wants you to use historical documents or material from the specific era at hand. Secondary sources are created after an event has passed.
Every paper you write is for a specific course and situation, so every paper is different. These tips are general guidelines to get you started; always ask your professor if you have any questions about who you are writing to or why you are writing, or before making stylistic choices like using first or second person pronouns, like I, we, and you.
Any paper or speech needs clear transitions between points and should allow the reader to easily follow the author’s ideas. The conclusion of a paper should tie together all of the ideas discussed without introducing new ideas or simply restating the introduction.
As you read your research, notice if the citations in the text are in MLA format. As you read sources that are in MLA, you’ll pick up on the style and how to use it in your own writing. Let’s talk about what MLA citations in the text look like.
As mentioned earlier, you must cite your sources to build your credibility and avoid plagiarism. Any time you directly use material word-for-word from any source, you must place those words in quotation marks and cite the source. However, even if you paraphrase an idea and put it in your own words, you need to give credit to that source as well. Paraphrasing is also more than changing one or two words—more than just moving words around in the sentence, changing tenses of the verbs, or right clicking to find synonyms. You must take the text and put it in your own words. When you summarize, or explain the overall main idea, you still need to give credit to the source as well. When you take several ideas from different sources and compare or contrast them, you are synthesizing. You can cite more than one source in a sentence, and if the citation is parenthetical, separate the sources with semi-colons and arrange them in alphabetical order.
When you cite your sources, you can either cite them in the sentence or at the end of the sentence. Generally, the best way to integrate your sources into your writing is to introduce them with signal phrases. A signal phrase lets the reader know that the following information is coming from a source.
Sources can also be cited parenthetically at the end of sentences. The period will go outside the parentheses at the end of the sentence. List all authors for every citation when a source has one, two or three authors, but list only the first author and the words “et al.” if the resource has four or more authors.
Frequently, internet sites or other sources do not have a listed author. To cite these sources, use the title of the work. If citing the source in parentheses, you may shorten the title to a however many words are sufficient to direct the reader to the Works Cited list and to identify that source from other sources.
How to cite poetry in text depends on how many lines you are quoting. When citing 2-3 lines, you can separate them with a spaced slash, but for over 3 lines, type the lines as a block quote (which is indented 1” and does not use quotation marks). If you are quoting poetry with unusual spacing, reproduce that spacing as much as possible.
When citing plays, up to four lines spoken by one character can be cited in the regular text. For more than four lines or for dialogue between two or more characters, indent the text 1” and set the character names in all caps and follow the names with a period. All runover text should be indented a further ¼” inch. The act, scene, and line numbers should also be provided in parentheses, if available.
MLA format applies to headers, typeface, line spacing, and references. Your professor may provide sample papers or have requirements that do not directly follow MLA style; always follow your teacher’s preferences and ask for clarification as necessary.
A title page is not necessary for MLA unless requested. In the upper left-hand corner, type your name, followed by your instructor’s name, the course, and the date the assignment is due. This text should all be double-spaced, Times New Roman, size 12. All margins are 1”, but in the top margin, in the header, your last name and page number should appear ½” down. The title of the paper should be centered on the page below the date.
To insert the page header, right click in the top margin, select Edit Header, then in the Header & Footer toolbar, click on the Page Number drop-down button and select Top of Page Plain Number 3 (right aligned). The cursor should be blinking in front of the page number, so type your last name and a space. Make sure the font is Times New Roman 12. Double click in the body of the text or click the red Close Header & Footer button to exit the header.
To change line spacing, click the small arrow in the corner of the Paragraph section of the tool ribbon. It will open the Paragraph dialog box, where you can change the space above and below the paragraph to 0 points and the line spacing to double.
To always begin the Works Cited page on a new page, on the last page of text, go to the Insert tab and select Page Break. “Works Cited” should be centered at the top of the page. Your citations should be in alphabetical order with a hanging indent—that is, the first line of the reference is left aligned, and all lines that follow the first line are indented ½”. To get the hanging indent, open the Paragraph dialogue box from the Home tab, and under Special, select Hanging. You can alphabetize your sources by highlighting them all and clicking the AZ sort button in the Paragraph section of the Home tool ribbon, but be sure to double check that they are correctly alphabetized. If you have two or more works from the same author, arrange them in chronological order, with the earliest publication first.
Here are examples of the most commonly cited sources in MLA: a scholarly journal article, book, anthology, website with an organization as an author, and a website with no author. Your job as an author is to use reliable in-text citations that direct your readers to your list of references, and your references should give your readers enough information that the readers can find the sources themselves.
The pattern here is author last name, first name; article title in quotes; journal title; volume number, period, issue number; publication year in parentheses, colon; page range. If you retrieved the article from a database, follow the page range with the database name in italics, followed by “Web.” And the date of access. If no database, follow the page range with “Print.” When citing authors, only the first author is listed with last name first. In article titles, standard Title Case capitalization applied. Journal titles are also in standard capitalization, and “The” is dropped if it is the beginning of the journal title.
The pattern here is author last name, first name; book title in italics, city of publication; state abbreviation; press, comma; year of publication, period; print, period.
The citation is an example of a block quote, which is over 5 lines of directly quoted material, indented 1”, without quotation marks. This is the only time the period goes before the parentheses. If part of the material in the section you are quoting is not as relevant, you can remove it and place ellipses (…) in its place, then continue the quote where you wish to pick up. If you need to edit or add a word or phrase for clarity, using square brackets around the inserted material.
The pattern here is author last name, first name; article or chapter title in quotation marks, period; book title in italics, period. Ed. + First name Last name of editor, period. Volume or edition in parentheses; city of publication; state abbreviation; press, comma; year of publication, period; page range, period; print, period.
Notice the quotation of poetry included the spaced slash and the numbered lines.
The pattern here is organization name; article title in quotation marks, period; name of the website in italics, period; name of the publisher, comma; publication date, period. Web, period. Access date, period. URL in angle brackets is optional.
Notice how to abbreviate an organization name in brackets within a parenthetical citation.
The pattern here is article title in quotation marks, period; website title in italics, period; publisher, comma; publication year, period. Web, period. Access date, period. Optional URL in angle brackets.
In parentheses when you are citing a source with no author, you use a shortened version of the title in quotation marks. Remember, your job is to direct the reader from your parenthetical citation to your reference list, so only the first few words are necessary, but you must enough words to distinguish one source from another.
Wowsers! That was a lot of information on MLA! Have questions? Make an appointment with a Learning Specialist at the DSC-UCF Writing Center by calling 386-506-3297, or visit these other helpful resources online. Thanks for looking at our MLA presentation, and good luck with your research and writing!
Working with MLA
Working with MLA
MLA = Modern Language Association
The MLA Style Manual and Guide to
Scholarly Publishing is for grad students,
scholars, and professionals writing and
publishing in the humanities.
The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research
Papers is a style guideline used mostly by
undergrads writing research papers in the
The humanities include English language and
literature, foreign languages and literatures, and
What is MLA?
You must cite others’ ideas and work, especially direct quotations, to
As an author, you build your ethos (credibility) by citing your sources.
Citations direct your readers to the sources you consulted for your
MLA style is one of the simpler style guides that requires only enough
information in the parenthetical citation to locate the source at the end of
the paper in the Works Cited list.
Why do we use MLA?
Studying a subject firsthand: analyzing text, film, or performance;
conducting survey or interview; performing an experiment.
Primary sources include statistical data, historical documents,
and works of literature or art.
Studying what others researchers have said about a subject.
Secondary sources include articles and books about issues,
events, debates, and works.
Types of Research
Catches readers’ attention
Provides context for the paper
Tells the readers why you are writing and
why the topic is important
Often the last sentence of the first paragraph
Typically states a claim that you will support
throughout the paper or provides a map of
what you will be discussing
Begin paragraphs with clear topic sentences
Use transitional words and phrases to connect or
contrast ideas and paragraphs
Do not repeat the thesis word-for-word
Wrap up what you have discussed
Leave the reader thinking about the topic
Directly Quote – copying and pasting, word for word, from
another text: Use quotation marks and cite the source, either as
part of the sentence or parenthetically.
Paraphrase – more than changing just one or two words: Put a
sentence or chunk of text into your own words and cite, but do
not use quotation marks.
Summarize – explain the main idea(s) of a text: Cite.
Synthesize – compare and contrast several sources: Cite more
than one source in a sentence (sources are separated by semi-
The best way to integrate sources into your writing is to introduce them
in the sentence with signal phrases. A signal phrase is the name(s) of
the author(s) and a present tense verb. You can also include a
description of the author. For example:
As Dr. Hank Jones, an English professor at Harvard, notes,
“Students sometimes have difficulty using MLA style, especially
when it is their first time” (199).
Jones finds that “students often had difficulty using MLA style
their first time” (199); what does imply for teachers?
According to Jones, MLA style is a difficult citation format for
Readers will expect citations for statistics, facts, definitions, and
phrases like “research shows” or “studies suggest.” These sentences
are ideal for parenthetical citations at the end of the sentence, which
include the last name of the author(s) and the page number, if available.
“Approximately 78% of all statistics are made up”
(Smith, O’Doole, and Jones 224).
MLA style is proven to increase your social skills and
sharpen your wit (Browning et al.).
For sources with more than 4 authors,
list only the first author and then et al.
Note that there is no
comma or “p.” between
the authors and the page
number & that the period
goes outside the
When a source does not have an author, use the title as the citation
instead (the URL is never a citation!).
According to the "Animal Care and Service Workers" job fact
webpage, if I become a zoo keeper, I face the risk that "the work
... may be unpleasant and emotionally distressing."
If I become a zoo keeper, I face the risk that "the work ... may be
unpleasant and emotionally distressing" ("Animal Care").
version of the
title goes in
enough for the
reader to find
the source in
Be still, sad heart! And cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary. (5-8)
Cullen concludes, “Of all the things that happened there / That’s all I remember” (lines
spacing as much as
Use “lines” only for the first reference to the
poem; thereafter, only use numbers.
Separate 2-3 lines of poetry with a
slash with space on either side ( / )
For more than 3 lines of poetry, type each
line on a separate line and indent 1” from
margin. Do not use quotation marks.
JULIET. If they see thee, they will murder thee.
ROMEO. Alack there lies more peril in thine eye
Than twenty of their swords! Look thou but sweet,
And I am proof against their enmity.
JULIET. I would not for the world they saw thee here. (2.2.70-
For two or more
characters, indent the
dialogue 1” and set the
character names in all
CAPS, followed by a
period. All run-over
lines for that character
should be indented an
additional ¼”. The
citation goes after the
If a quote from a play takes
up <4 typed lines and is
spoken by only 1 character,
use quotation marks and
include the act, scene, and
line numbers in
parentheses, if available.
Romeo spies Juliet in the balcony and whispers, “But soft,
what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east and
Juliet is the sun!” (2.2.2-3).
MLA First Page
• MLA does not require a title
• Style: Times New Roman, 12 pt,
double spaced, 1” margins
• Top left corner: Name,
Professor Name, Course, Date
• Centered Title
• Running head: ½” margin: Last
name, page number
1. Right click in the top margin
2. Select Edit Header.
3. In the Header & Footer toolbar, click on
the Page Number drop-down button
select Top of Page Plain Number 3
4. The cursor should be blinking in front
of the page number. Type your last
name and a space.
5. Make sure the font and size is Times
New Roman 12.
6. Double click in the body of the text or
click the red Close Header & Footer
button to exit the header.
• Click on the corner of
the Paragraph toolbar
• Double spaced
• Left aligned
• ½” paragraph indents
to begin paragraphs
• 0 pt space before &
Go to Insert, Page Break.
The page should be double
spaced—no extra space between
Type “Works Cited” on the first line,
Select all of your citations, then
open the Paragraph window and
select Hanging under the “Special”
List alphabetically (Use AZ Sort
List works by the same author
chronologically from earliest to
Wyman, Sarah. “Telling Identities: Sherman Alexie’s War
Dances.” American Indian Quarterly 38.2 (2014): 237-
255. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.
According to Sarah Wyman in her article on Sherman
Alexie’s book, War Dances, Alexie is asking readers, “How
do we attempt to know each other and to narrate
From a Database
Spell out full author
name; use standard
capitalization rules for
article title; if article is
from a database,
name in italics, “Web”
and date accessed. If
not, follow page range
Italicize book titles. Cite page number
after the quote.
Alexie, Sherman. War Dances. New York: Grove
Press, 2010. Print.
In his short story, “Breaking and Entering,” Alexie writes,
Now please forgive me if my tenses—my past, present, and
future—blend, but one must understand that I happen to
be one editor who is not afraid of jump cuts—of rapid
flashbacks and flashforwards. In order to be terrified, one
must lose all sense of time and place. (16)
Block quotes are
over 5 typed lines,
indented 1”, and do
not use quotation
Page citation goes
after the period for
Alexie, Sherman. “Evolution.” Exploring Literature. Ed. Frank
Madden. (5th ed.) Boston: Pearson, 2012. 947. Print.
Chapter in an Anthology
In “Evolution,” Alexie begins with the lines, “Buffalo Bill
opens a pawn shop on the reservation / right across the
border from the liquor store” (lines 1-2).
Website: Organization as Author
Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Therapist.”
Occupational Outlook Handbook. U.S. Bureau of
Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014. Web. 22 Apr.
In May 2012, the average yearly income for
occupational therapists was $75,400 (Bureau of
Labor Statistics [BLS]). The job outlook for this
career field is a projected growth of 29% (BLS).
If an organization has
an acronym, you can
abbreviate it in
spelling it out the first
time. If the first time
you use it is in
square brackets inside
The name of the
webpage follows the
word “In” and the
webpage title should be
“Frequently Asked Questions about Bipolar
Disorder.” Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.
Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, n.d. Web.
22 Apr. 2014.
Bipolar disorder is diagnosed based on reported
symptoms, cycles, and family history; it cannot be
identified through blood draws or brain scans
Website: No Author
When there is no
author, the article title
The title of the article
goes in quotation
marks and is
abbreviated to 1-2
DSC-UCF Writing Center Resource:
Use Google! “MLA + ______”
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