MLA Format

Learn to write your research paper using the MLA format.

The most commonly used style to write papers and cite sources is the MLA (Modern Language Association) style. Writers using the MLA format must reference their sources of information using parenthetical citations in their essays and Works Cited pages. By providing references, a writer builds credibility and prevents accusations of plagiarism.

MLA Format Basics


Definition of MLA Format

The MLA format is a series of rules and guidelines for writers that have been used since 1985. The writing style prevents plagiarism and allows readers to easily access the sources cited by authors. Because the MLA writing style does not accommodate scientific and technical publications, it is primarily used in the humanities with subjects including the arts, media, literature, and social science.

MLA Format Guidelines

  • Double-space the text of your paper.
  • 1 inch margins
  • Font size should be 12 pt.
  • Choose a legible font such as Arial, Lucida, or Times New Roman.
  • Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks.
  • First line of paragraphs should be indented one half-inch from the left margin.
  • Page number in upper right-hand corner.


MLA Format example of a first page.

MLA Format example of a first page.

MLA Format: Parenthetical Citations

In the MLA format, a parenthetical citation is used when the writer references someone else’s work either through paraphrasing or quoting them directly. In order to give the original author credibility, the writer must reference the author’s idea by providing the authors name and the page number of the referenced work.

When the reference to a source is not to a specific passage within a text but to the text itself, only the author’s name needs to be referenced within the paper. However, when a specific passage is used within the research paper the authors name and page number are both required.

MLA Format - MLA Format example of a first page.

Citation example.

MLA Format: Works Cited

  • Works Cited page is on a separate page titled “Works Cited.”
  • Works Cited entries must be in alphabetical order.
  • Book, magazines, and film titles must be italicized.
  • Titles of poems, short stories, and articles must be in quotations.
  • Internet sources do not require URLs.
  • The 2nd and subsequent lines of each works cited entry must be indented.
  • Each works cited entry must be double-spaced.

MLA Format Example: Works Cited

mla format

Example of a Works Cited page.


MLA Format Changes in the 7th Edition

  • The biggest change to the MLA style is the use of italics. MLA formerly required titles of publications and media sources to be underlined, whereas the 7th edition of the MLA handbook requires these titles to be italicized.
  • Each citation entry under the works cited page must include the medium of publication. Such mediums include: Audiocassette, CD, DVD, Film, Print, Radio, Web, Film, Videocassette, DVD, Performance, Lecture, and PDF file.
  • When citing print publications such as a book or journal article, you must include the word “Print” within the citation.
  • When citing web publications, URL’s are no longer required under the 7th edition of MLA.
  • When citing online sources, the new MLA format requires a sponsor or publisher.
  • If a source has no sponsor or publisher, use the abbreviation “N.p.” (for “No publisher”) in the sponsor position.
  • A date must follow the sponsor name, if the online source does not include a date of publication then use the abbreviation “n.d.” which means “no date.”


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