How to Cite a Research Paper Using MLA Format

Students get all sorts of assignments to do and each comes with a different set of requirements. One of these is in the style of writing and formatting requirements. Therefore, being knowledgeable in your area of study is not enough. You need to know how best you can format your paper in the requisite standard manner in order to score a good grade.


There are different styles of formatting your papers and MLA is one of them. Ideally, MLA stands for the Modern Language Association. There are guidelines and rules that define this kind of formatting as would be outlined in this article. In most cases, MLA is used in literature, cultural studies, English studies and so on but you will be required to use it should your tutor demand it in any other assignment.

MLA is an academic writing style that is widely used by students across the globe. This has been a common requirement for students taking studies in English literature and humanities. So, how does the MLA writing style look like? Well, formatting your paper in MLA comes in all aspects and therefore, here is a standard way of doing so:

1. Your first page

The front page of an MLA formatted paper contains four main parts: Your full name, Name of your tutor, Name of the course and date of submitting your assignment. These details are to be provided at the top-left corner of the front page. Below is the format:

  • Your name
  • Name of tutor
  • Name of Course
  • Date of Submission

Essentially, an MLA formatted paper does not have a title page like is the case with other formatting styles. Again, each page of your paper must have a header indicating your surname to the left and an automatic numbering to the right side of the header. To do this, go to insert and choose header as shown below.

2. Basic paper formatting

To get started, there are some things you need to do. MLA is also defined through some settings on Ms Word and therefore, this requirement should be met before submitting your work. It is very important for you to consider making these settings because they count towards your chosen MLA style.

Word comes loaded with default settings of line height, margin, typeface and paragraph spacing. All these must be adjusted to suit the recommended MLA style. First, make sure that there is no extra spacing between paragraphs. Again, use 12-point typeface of the Times New Roman font.

To navigate to the spacing settings, go to the home page of your word document and click on paragraph. Set all values as shown in the image below. It will also be important to confirm these settings after you have finished writing your paper.

Yes, you can also make these settings after you have written your paper. All you need to do is select all content in your document by pressing Ctrl + A and then choose the Times New Roman font 12-point typeface. While your text is still highlighted, proceed to make the paragraph settings described above.

Prior to getting started with your writing, make sure that your page margins are set to 1 inch on both sides of your text. Next, the line spacing or line height should be made double-space or rather set to 2.0 as seen above. This helps in making your text less crammed on the reader’s eye and allows your tutor to make important comments in an organized way.

The default settings are usually 1.15 line spacing, Calibri 11-point typeface, all round 1-inch margins and 10pt spacing in between paragraphs. Here is an example of how you can change these parameters. For instance, to change margins, go to page layout and then click on margins and chose “Normal for a 1-inch margin” all round.

3. Citing your text

For one, there is what is normally called in-text referencing or basically citing sources within your text. Citing your research paper in MLA format would require you to include your references in two sections and this is one of them. Basically, in-text citation refers to the citations you make inside the body section of your paper. An in-text citation is most preferably used when a quote is used directly from a source or refers to it through the author or title.

For in-text citation, the author’s last name and the page number of the source used are enclosed in parentheses right after the quote. When the name of the author is part of the sentence, then you will only have to include the page number in the parentheses. Look at the example below:

Version 1: High quality roads guarantee safety for all road users (James 23)
Version 2: According to James, high quality roads guarantee safety for all road users (23).

Having made this requirement, there will still be another thing to do pertinent to all sources used in the in-text referencing. Here, you will be required to provide a page with all sources used after writing your research paper in the end.

This page must include a list of all sources quoted within the body of your research, basically, every source used in writing your paper.

The title of this page is known as a “Works Cited” page, where the works cited in your writing will be listed alphabetically. Again, there is a way in which they usually are listed and must adhere to it.

The source should include at least two full names of the authors (no initials), the title of the source, town/city of publication, the publisher and the page numbers of where the information was extracted from.

Here is an example of what to expect: “Surname, other names. Title of source. City of publication: Publisher, date/year of publication, page numbers xx-xx. Some sources will require more details.

For example, journals and articles may also include the volume and issue no, indicated in that order just before the date of publication. Having met all these requirements, your paper will be well formatted in the set MLA standard way of writing for your paper.


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