MLA formatting can seem a little confusing at first, and it can be helpful to view a sample MLA paper when you are new to this documentation style. The following short video casts are designed to give you an overview of the basic requirements for page set up, in-text citations, and works cited in MLA format.
This first video will demonstrate the requirements for the MLA heading, headers, and page set up.
First, you will notice that MLA does not require a cover page as some formatting styles do. In MLA, on the first page of your essay, you should have what is called a “heading.” This heading is placed in the top, left-hand corner of your page.
You should list the following items in the correct order:
- Your name
- Your professor’s name
- The name of your course
- And the date (using military format where the date appears before the month)
Remember, the heading appears only on page 1.
At the top right hand corner of each page, you will place your header. Your header should include your last name and the page number. You will need to use the “header” function in your word processing program to make proper headers that will appear on every page.
The header should be placed ½ inch from the top of the page and 1 inch from the right side of the page.
We will now look at the text of your essay and examine the formatting requirements that begin here.
You will center your title below your heading. Your title should be the same font as the rest of your text and should not be in italics or bold font.
In terms of line spacing, you will notice your text is double-spaced–always. There are no exceptions to this in MLA. Even long or block quotes should be double-spaced.
You should use 12 point font in MLA format. The MLA recommends a clear, standard font style, such as Times New Roman.
You should also set your margins to 1 inch and use left alignment. This means your alignment is standard on the left but jagged on the right.
In terms of spacing within your text, you should always indent for new paragraphs ½ inch. Using your TAB key will allow you to indent appropriately.
MLA recommends single spacing after end punctuation, such as periods. However, the MLA does not consider it to be “incorrect” to double space after end punctuation, as some professors may prefer double spacing after periods. Be sure to check with your professor, but know that single spacing is considered the “standard.”
These are the basic requirements for setting up your document in MLA format. For more detailed information, be sure to consult The MLA Handbook, 8th edition.
This second video will show you what in-text citations should look like and explain why you must use them.
It is first helpful to get an idea about why in-text citations are important and when they should be used.
In MLA, you should use citations in parentheses, within the text, to let your audience know when you have borrowed information and where that information has come from.
Most students know to cite direct quotes, but it is important to remember you must also include in-text citations for summarized and paraphrased information. You are not just citing words; you are citing ideas.
For more information about when you should cite borrowed information, be sure to check out the Avoiding Plagiarism tutorial here in the OWL.
The basic in-text citation in MLA format includes the author’s last name and the page number.
Here, you will see the basic version of an in-text citation. Here are two examples.
In the first example, you see a citation for Neitzsche with a page number of 125 and then another basic citation with the last name LeGuin and a page number of 828.
You should notice that MLA requires no commas between the author’s name and the page number.
If you use the author’s last name to set up your quoted or paraphrased material, you do not need to repeat the author’s last name in the citation. You would just include the page number, as you see here, with the number 827 in the in-text citation.
If you need to cite an electronic source with no page numbers, as in this instance, you should just include the author’s last name.
Although we do not have an example here, if you find a credible source that does not have an author, you would simply place the title of the work in your in-text citation.
In closing, the important thing to remember about in-text citations in MLA format is to cite any ideas you borrow and to include only the required information in your in-text citation. Full publication information will be saved for your works cited list.
And keep in mind that your in-text citations and your Works Cited page must coordinate or “match.”
In this third and final video on MLA format, you’ll see a sample Works Cited page with some tips on creating a works cited list of your own.
- No source should appear on your works cited list that is not cited in your paper with an in-text citation. Your teacher may offer the option of a “works consulted” page, but “cited” means you cited that source in your text.
- Your sources should be listed in alphabetical order by the first word of each entry.
- The 8th edition of the MLA Handbook provides a system of “containers” for presenting each source on your Works Cited list. Because each source type has different kinds of publication information, each source will be formatted a little differently. The MLA resources in the OWL provide models for each source type to help you follow MLA’s new “container” system. Be sure to refer to those resources as you format each source.
Let’s take a look at one example from a Works Cited list to get an idea about how entries should be formatted.
The first entry on this Works Cited list is a journal article found within a database. There are specific publication elements of journal articles from databases that you should provide.
You will first provide the original publication information in the first “container.” This includes the author, the title of the article, the title of the journal, the volume number, the issue number, and the date. If your source has page numbers, the page numbers should be placed after the date.
Because this source has no page numbers, after that information is provided, the second “container” information is provided. In this case, the database is the second “container” for the source provides information about how the source was accessed. It was accessed through a database called JSTOR, so that information is provided.
Because each source type includes specific information unique to that source type, once you become more familiar with MLA style, you can recognize a source type just by looking at the Works Cited list.
Here, you can see that a journal article accessed from a database looks very different from a book.
Remember that your Works Cited entries should always be double spaced.
You should use the hanging indent to indent any lines after the first line in each entry.
This sample Works Cited should get you started, and the MLA Works Cited resource here in the OWL can help you format each of your Works Cited entries using the new MLA “container” system.