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Writing a Research Paper in MLA Format

The Modern Language Association (MLA) format is one of the most commonly used research formats in higher education. Master’s levels programs and below will often require its use, with science disciplines being the typical exception. The format may appear complicated, but once you understand the basics it is easy to write a research paper in it. The focus of the MLA format is in structuring how references and resources for the research paper are documented. It also allows for inline citations so the source for ideas and information is clearly assigned to the responsible author.

Citing a Direct Quote

If you are going to directly quote from a source is must have a citation included at the end of the section. Depending on the length of the quote, you may have to indent and separate the section from the rest of the text; however for shorter quotes an inline inclusion is permitted. In the MLA format, if this is the only instance of a reference being used, it can be acceptable to footnote the reference information at the bottom of the page and not include the information on the Works Cited page. The resource must be listed again in the bibliography. It is up to the professor assigning the paper to determine if footnotes are permissible or if the bibliography must also be included.

Citing Paraphrased Information

The MLA format allows for citing paraphrased information within your paper. This is something that you must be very conscientious about doing to avoid any claims of plagiarism. You do not have to use and quotation marks around the material or reference the author within the text. At the end of the paraphrased information, in parenthetical remarks, include the author name and the number of the entry that will list the resource information on the works cited page.

Works Cited Page

One of the most important parts of the MLA format is the works cited page that must be included at the end. It is important to note that the Works Cited page is separate from the bibliography may be required as well. The bibliography lists all works referenced in the course of developing the paper, but it is not a requirement in the MLA format, it is optional. The Works Cited page lists the full source information for any works cited within the paper. Each instance of the reference is called out individually, so there will be duplicate entries on the Works Cited page. Each entry is numbered to match the order of occurrence in the paper.

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