How to Write a Research Paper in MLA style

Writing guide
Posted on June 11, 2013

When writing, it is of paramount importance that one formats their paper using one of the accepted styles available. One of the commonly used formatting styles when writing research papers is MLA. This style refers to a writing method recommended by the Modern Language Association. This style is mostly used in humanities, more particularly in language related papers such as literature, as well as manuscripts. Other humanities, such as history, may require a different writing style.

When using the MLA style, one should use the standard, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper. The text should be double-spaced, and typed using a legible font. The recommended font is Times New Roman with a 12 pt size.

One should leave a single space after a full stop or any other punctuation mark. The margins of your document should all be set at 1 inch. For well presented and organized work, the first line of each paragraph should be indented one half-inch from the left margin. In MLA, it is recommended that one uses the Tab key to indent, instead of pressing the space key five times.

A key feature of MLA is that one uses parenthetical citations to acknowledge work borrowed from another person. When making the citations, one is supposed to use present tense for quoted material, as well as for personal comments. The past tense is used when reporting a historical event or when making a direct quote. The works used are then listed on a Works Cited page at the end of the paper.

Research papers written using MLA do not have a separate cover page, unless the given instructions state otherwise. The header is placed at the upper right-hand of your paper, along with your surname. The header should also be in Times New Roman font, at 12 pt font size and double spaced. However, this too may vary depending on the instructions given. After the header, at the upper left-hand corner of your document, write the student’s name, tutor’s name, course and the date. The title then follows in Title case. It should be in bold and centered.

Notably, it is essential to always write work that is free from plagiarism. Due to this, one should always make references to the owner of the work used through in-text citations and by listing the work on the Works Cited page. There are a number of websites that provide guides on how to write in MLA format, one being the Purdue Online Writing Lab. Please refer to one of these for further details on how to make in-text citations and list sources used on the Works Cited page.

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