MLA Format and Citation － A Detailed Guide with Examples
Being a mature and responsible researcher demands many things from you. Among these are avoiding plagiarism, proper citation, paper formatting, etc.
Learning how to format and cite sources is an important skill that you will need in order to succeed academically. There are many different formatting styles you can follow, like APA, Chicago, Harvard, and MLA, etc.
In this blog, you will learn to format your paper according to MLA format and citation. Moreover, you will also get an understanding of citing the original sources you have used during your work.
What is MLA Format?
Modern Language Association, MLA in short, was formed with the purpose of providing instructions related to language and literature. It also gives complete guidance on formatting your paper in an organized format. Similarly, it also allows for the proper use of grammar in academic writing.
The association instructs you to cite your work both with the help of in-text citations and citations at the end of the paper. It not only makes it easier for students to check their work but also helps them to avoid the risk of plagiarism.
There is a proper citation format that you can follow to cite your document. Furthermore, it also gives credits to the person whose work you quoted or just studied for reference.
Importance of MLA Style
Papers or journal articles that are written in MLA style establish the writer’s authenticity within the text and the work cited pages.
Similarly, the underlying source types are also given credits as citations. The credibility of these texts also becomes apparent when they are written in MLA format. It is because the work cited list can be easily referenced.
Apart from this, it is beneficial to refer to the MLA Handbook (8th edition) while writing in MLA style. Moreover, you can also refer to MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (3rd edition) if you want to publish your work.
Purpose of the MLA Format
This style is mainly used by scholars, researchers, or students to format their writing assignments. It guarantees that the paper is drafted in a readable form.
In contrast to other styles like APA, Oxford, and Chicago, MLA is recognized as the simplest and the easiest one. However, there are other two important elements for which this style is being used.
- For stability
- Against the risk of plagiarism
- It also enables you to use the work of other researchers because:
- You are giving them credit
- You are not falsely claiming it as your own
Despite the fact that many MLA format citation generators are available, you still need the given information for starting the MLA template.
- A title
- Web address
- ISBN number
- MLA citation model basic guidelines
MLA instructs you to pay attention to certain details and follow the guidelines to design your paper in a proper format. Here you will learn about several guidelines for different sections.
Below are detailed instructions on the title page, running head, margins, abbreviations, etc. But let us first discuss the paper choice.
Many professors allow electronic submission; some also prefer printed and hard copies.
Title Page and Heading
When it comes to the format of the heading and title page, there are two different methods, and both are correct. MLA has not yet stressed any method of writing a title page.
So, you can follow any one of the two methods. Your professor might also suggest one of these titles page methods.
The first method involves creating a separate title page for your heading. Also, write the heading and title according to the given guidelines.
- Use the title case for your title. That is, capitalize initials of all nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs. Note that the initial of the first and last words would also be capitalized.
- Use double spacing throughout the page.
- Move the title of the paper to the center of the page.
- Avoid writing the title in bold letters, italicized letters, enclose in the quotation or write in capital letters.
- If you have any source included on your title page, you can write that in italic letters.
- Keep the font size of the title exactly 12 points or close to 12 at least.
- You can add the page number on the first page if your instructor allowed it. Similarly, add the page numbers in the running head section.
- MLA has provided no guidelines regarding placing any fancy image on the title page. Therefore, avoid adding them.
- The recommended font is Arial and Times New Romans. However, MLA put no such obligations. You can choose any font style that is easy to read. The same goes for the font styles and sizes in the Font Style section.
Here is how you can follow the second method:
- Write your name in the upper left corner of the first page.
- Leave one inch on the left margin and one on top.
- Now write the name of your professor.
- Note that you will have to place a double space between two lines.
- In the third line, write the name of the subject or the course name.
- And in the fourth line, you can write the due date of the paper.
- Now, after a double space, you can add the title of the assignment, centered aligned.
- Use only the standard title case. Avoid bold, italics, and underlining the letters. You can only use italicizing the words if you are using the title of another source.
- After the title, leave a double space and start writing your body text on the paper.
You can also take the idea of drafting a title page for writing a research paper.
Here is an example that will help you better understand the title format:
Student's full name
Due date in the form of DD MM YYYY
Here is another example:
19 January 2020
The Trials of Kennedy's Delivering of Inaugural Address, 1961.
(half inch indent) Your text starts after a half-inch indent from the left.
The work cited page at the MLA format paper is usually found at the end. It includes a list of all the citation sources for the research paper. However, you should follow the following guidelines for the work cited page.
- Make sure to have a separate page at the end of the paper.
- The running head will be the same
- Title the page as “Works Cited”
- The title should be one inch from the top and centered in the middle
- Double-space the entire document
Generally referred to as a running head is placed on the top right corner with a one-inch space left on the right side and a half-inch from the top of the page. Some people write the word “page” short-form, “pg.” or “p.” which is incorrect.
Simply write your last name in the header, followed by the page number. If your instructor doesn’t want a page number on the first page of the document, then avoid writing the page number.
Moreover, if you are using your computer or laptop for writing your document, go to the setting of your word processor. Check if it has the feature of automatically adding the running head.
Use the one-inch space around the entire page, including the left, right, top, and bottom margins. In the head margin, only the running head can be included.
It is not possible to check one inch manually. In word processing software, go to page settings and set if it is not already set by default.
Similarly, all the paragraphs should be double spaced and must be started one and a half-inch from the left margin. Simply press the ‘tab’ button to create half an inch of space.
To write someone's words exactly as said, use quotations. Enclose the text in quotation marks and write the name of the original author.
We use quotes to reinforce our argument with the help of an authentic source. Since a quote is someone else's work and is written as it is. Therefore, it can't be paraphrased. Moreover, it is also cited in a different way from other citations. The two most commonly used ways are:
- A writer can name the original writer in the sentence while writing the quotation.
- A writer can write the name in brackets at the end of the sentence.
Always include a parenthetical citation when you summarize, quote, or paraphrase.
It is when a writer takes a text from another source, summarizes the piece of information, and includes it into a project.
Although the writer is not adding the text as it is, it still needs to be credited by following the proper format. The paraphrased information should follow the same reference guidelines used to cite a quote.
Font Style and Size
MLA puts no obligations on font style. You can use any font style that fits the eye of the reader. An easy-to-read font style work in proper MLA format. It offers a visible difference between Bold and Italicized words.
Arial and Times New Romans are two of the most used font styles. Make sure that the same font style is used throughout the document.
Moreover, the recommended size is 12-points. In some word processors, 11 is the default size which is also acceptable. Nevertheless, the pattern should remain the same throughout the document.
Generally, abbreviations are used extensively in many writing pieces, for example, books, websites, magazines, articles, and blog posts. However, creating an MLA doesn’t suggest using abbreviations.
The Association suggests spelling out complete words. This helps avoid any sort of confusion while reading the document. Instead, continuing in a natural way is suggested.
There are some super famous words like the US for the United States, the UN for the United Nations, IMF for International Monetary Fund, etc., that you often use. In such cases, follow these instructions.
- For lowercase abbreviations, you can use periods in between as in e.g (for example)
- For a mix of lower and uppercase, avoid periods as in Ph.D.
- For uppercase abbreviations, do not use periods, as in the UK for the United
Footnotes are a form of references you can use. MLA format requires footnotes. They are generally used when you are providing background information regarding a matter. Moreover, a properly formatted footnote helps the audience to stay focused.
You simply put a superscript numeric number with the word or phrase you want to explain or provide information about. At the end of the page, you will provide explanations, translation or any other relevant information that you were referring to.
Here are some instructions for using punctuation in a proper format.
- Periods: Put a period whenever needed, avoid any unnecessary use.
- Commas: Put commas when you want to tell the reader to take a pause and then start reading. It develops a better understanding of both the texts, which is before and after the comma.
- Spacing: Place a single space when you finish a sentence, not two spaces. And the spaces between lines are a double space throughout the paper.
- Quotes: When writing someone's words, use quotation marks. Include the text in a quotation, write the name of the author in parenthesis, followed by a period.
Avoid placing a period at the end of the quote, instead use it at the end of the line. Don't forget to italicize the line.
Here is an example:
“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining” (Kennedy).
Images and Tables
We often add images to our papers. While adding an image to an MLA format essay, you need to place the image as close to the information as possible.
Moreover, all the used images should be labeled with their origin information. They should be tagged as Fig. 1, Fig. 2, and so on.
After Fig. #, add an inscription. There is no need to cite the image if the inscription underneath the image is indicating all about the image and its source.
Strictly avoid writing “Fig.” with the tables. Instead, use “Table.” followed by a numeric.
The numeric will represent the number of the table. The first table will get number 1, the second 2, and so on.
Don’t forget to mention the source of the data below the table.
There is no restriction to add a list in your MLA format essay as long as the required guidelines are followed throughout.
Avoid the traditional vertical style and list down the item in horizontal order.
There is no obligation to submit your document in printed form as many professors accept e-submissions. If your instructor wants you to submit the hard copy, here are the instructions to follow.
For an MLA format paper, use plain white paper. Avoid using any other color like ash or off-white.
Similarly, the recommended paper size is 8 ½-by-11-inch. Consult the supervisor if you want to choose different paper size. Lastly, use a hanging indent to indent all the text in the paragraphs.
Writing a paper or doing assignments are not creations of our own. We find someone's work and extract the required information.
Your professor or readers need to know that you consulted this work. And that individual also deserves credit for his work. For that purpose, we do proper citations in alphabetical order.
As mentioned above, the MLA is also responsible for providing proper instructions on the format of citations.
In 2016, the Modern Language Association released its latest edition of their Handbook. The 8th edition is an updated edition of the handbook that provides guidelines for work that follows MLA Format.
Importance of Citations
Citation is considered one of the most important parts of your paper. Basically, it proves two things about you.
- First thing is, that you went to an authentic source for your information. It strengthens your argument by validating your points. It also tells the reader that you have put effort into the paper.
- Secondly, your citation indicates that you respect the people who contributed to the field. It also clarifies that you are not stealing someone's work. Instead, it proves you are an accountable researcher.
Now the first question that comes to your mind is, “how would we cite in MLA Format?”. Here is how you will cite your source with MLA Citations.
MLA Citation Format
Why do we use a standard citation method?
Hundreds of thousands of researchers publish their research papers. Reviewers and researchers read these papers for reference or further research work.
Now, if everyone followed their own citation style, it would become difficult for researchers to understand and find out the sources of information.
For the ease of everyone, MLA and other citation methods are being defined to generalize the citation method. This made it very easy for everyone to read and understand the source of information.
Below mentioned are some essential elements of MLA Citation Formatting.
- Name of Author - First thing to include in your citation.
- Title of the Source and Container - Indicate the title in italics.
- Other contributors - Add other field contributors. Capitalize the first alphabet if their names are written after the period. Use small letters if they are written after a comma.
- Version - If the sources are different, include the information in the citation.
- Number - It should be included in the citation noting volume and issue numbers.
- Publisher - The publisher of the source should be cited before the publication date.
- Publication Date - Write it at the end of the text citation, including the date, month, and year.
- Location of the source - It is the URL and page numbers where the source is found.
Here are citation methods for different sources.
Author's last name, author's first name. Title of the book. Book Version, Publisher Name, Year published.
Dawkins, Richard. The Blind Watchmaker. 2nd, Norton & Company, Inc, 1986.
Citing a PDF is a bit different since its source could be the internet. Here is an example of citing a PDF.
Author's name. Title. Publisher, date followed by the source (a link is taken from the internet)
Look at this example and see how you can add a citation for a survey.
World Food Organization. “Food poisoning in South Africa” Diet Journal,2013.
Last name, Middle name, Surname. “Title of the blog post.” Blog Title, Publisher, date posted, URL.
Roijoon, van, Eva. “Scarcity of the Digital Age” Medium, Medium online publishing, 23 Dec. 2019
If you consult youtube for information, you can cite that too. To cite a video, follow the generalized procedure, which is the:
The last name followed by the first name followed by the video title enclosed in quotation marks.
After the video title, you will write the website title (italicized), last and the first name of the people who contributed to the video, version if any, number, name of the publisher, publishing date, and finally, the URL of the video.
Social media has made a place deep in our lives. It's a gigantic source of information today. We can use information from social media in our paper.
But being a responsible researcher, you have to mention the sources where you got your data from.
In its 8th Handbook, MLA has provided enough guidelines to mention any source you refer to for data. So here are methods to cite a website.
You can cite a tweet, too, as most of the updates today come to Twitter first.
Format: @twitterhandel. “Description.” Twitter, date, time. URL.
Here is an example of how to cite a tweet
@johansson. “We introduced our first fully electric car in the New York auto show.” Twitter, 15 Jan. 2016, 10:30 am., twitter.com/Showauto/g/73529434303.
Let’s assume you are analyzing the acting of Maisie Williams in Game of Thrones. And you have to mention lines from the play. Now that you are going to add a citation for that purpose cite it like this. According to MLA format:
Williams, Maisie, performer. Game of Thrones. Directed by Woody Allen. HBO, 2013.
An example for Instagram citation is given below:
Cardone, James. “Awarded with best speaker award at Digital Marketing Summit 2020” Instagram, 11 Jan. 2018, www.instagram.com/p/DfGaC/?83728393020230.
Follow the format: last name, first name: “Description” Website Title, date, URL.
MLA Format Example
Learning different citation methods isn't easy enough unless we find examples. You can find below a detailed example of MLA Format.
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