A Research Guide for Students by I Lee

Format for a Research Paper

Based in part on MLA Handbook 7th Edition 2009
To old web page based on MLA Handbook 6th ed. 2003

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Links to related pages:

1. How to Format a Research Paper in MLA Style, 7th ed
2. How to Format a Research Paper in MLA Style, 6th ed
3. Quoting Passages Using MLA Style, 7th ed.
4. Quoting Passages Using MLA Style, 6th ed.
5. Content Notes and Bibliographic Notes in MLA Style, 7th ed
6. How to Write Footnotes and Endnotes in MLA Style, 6th ed.
7. Footnotes and Endnotes - Examples in MLA Style, 6th ed.
8. Footnotes in MLA Style, 6th ed. - Sample Page
9. Endnotes in MLA Style, 6th ed. - Sample Page
10. How to Write Parenthetical Documentation in MLA Style, 7th ed.
11. How to Write Parenthetical Documentation in MLA Style, 6th ed.
12. Parenthetical Documentation in MLA Style, 7th ed. Sample Page
13. Parenthetical Documentation in MLA Style, 6th ed. Sample Page
14. Works Cited, References, and Bibliography: What's the Difference? MLA Style, 7th ed.
15. Works Cited, References, and Bibliography: What's the Difference? MLA Style, 6th ed.
16. Guidelines on Writing a Bibliography or Works Cited Page in MLA Style, 7th ed
17. Guidelines on Writing a Bibliography or Works Cited Page in MLA Style, 6th ed.
18. How to Write a Bibliography or Works Cited Page - Examples in MLA Style, 7th ed.
19. How to Write a Bibliography or Works Cited Page - Examples in MLA Style, 6th ed.
20. Works Cited in MLA Style, 7th ed. - Sample Page
21. Works Cited in MLA Style, 6th ed. - Sample Page
22. Research, Writing, and Style Guides (MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian, Harvard, CGOS, CBE)

CONTENTS

Video
1. Paper
2. Margins
3. Title Page
4. Capitalization
5. Examples of Titles: When to Use Upper or Lower Case Letters and Punctuations
6. Acronyms
7. Numbering Pages
8. Spacing of Lines
9. Spacing between Words
10. Indentation
11. Justification and Automatic Hyphens
12. Titles of Books, Magazines, Newspapers, or Journals
13. Writing an Essay All in Capital Letters
14. Table of Contents
15. End of Essay
16. Keeping Essay Together

Video

MLA Style Essay Format - Word Tutorial by David Taylor, University of Maryland University College.
MLA style essay formatting: margins, font, line spacing, header, info block, title, indentation, block quote, Works Cited.
YouTube video, 10:00 min. Published on Jan 10, 2011.
Transcript of Video: Seventh Edition of MLA Style Essay Format.

1. Paper

Use clean, good quality 8 1/2" x 11" white paper, one side only.

Paper Sizes from Jim's Pages.

2. Margins

Leave margins of your essay 1" (2.5 cm) at the top, bottom, left and right sides of each and every page. Exception is made for your last name and page numbers which are placed 1/2" (1.25 cm) from the top upper-right hand corner, flushed to the right margin. When establishing your margin, 1" is about 10 typed spaces based on a standard font size such as Times New Roman set at 12 points. MLA Handbook 7th ed. also recommends that you "Choose a type font in which the italic style contrasts clearly with the regular style" (ch. 3.3).

3. Title Page

A title page is not essential for a research paper unless specifically requested by your teacher. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers 7th Edition provides an excellent and very detailed guideline on Research and Writing (ch. 1), Plagiarism and Academic Integrity (ch. 2), The Mechanics of Writing (ch. 3), and The Format of the Research Paper (ch. 4). In case of conflict, you should always follow guidelines set down by your teacher.

To start typing your essay without a separate title page, simply leave one inch margin all around the top, bottom and sides of your page, type every line double-spaced.

1. Begin by typing your last name, space, and the Arabic numeral 1 for page 1 (e.g. Jones 1) at the upper right hand corner, 1/2" from the top of the page, flush right.

2. Double space, flush left, type your first and last name (e.g. Tracy Jones).

3. Double space, flush left, type your teacher's name (e.g. Ms. K. Smith).

4. Double space, flush left, type your course code or course name and number (e.g. NRW-3A1-01).

5. Double space, flush left, type the date you hand in your assignment (e.g. 8 January 2010).

6. Double space, centered, type the title of your paper (not italicized, not underlined, not all in capital letters, not enclosed in quotation marks, not all in boldface or strange fonts or in different sizes and colors) but following capitalization guidelines as provided in Examples of Titles below (e.g. Gun Control: Pros and Cons).

7. Double space, begin typing your essay by indenting the first word of each paragraph 1/2 inch from the left margin, i.e. 1½" from left edge of the paper.

8. Begin your second and subsequent pages the same way by typing your last name and page number at the upper right hand corner, flush right, 1/2" from the top of the page, e.g. Jones 2, Jones 3, etc.

If your teacher prefers that the first page of your essay not be numbered, you will begin numbering with page 2.

Double-space after the date. On a new line, center the title of your essay. If you have a long title, double-space between lines of the title.

Example:

Jones 1

Tracy Jones

Ms. K. Smith

NRW-3A1-01

28 January 2011

Gun Control: Pros and Cons


Do not type your title all in capital letters. Do not put quotations marks before and after the title. Do not underline or italicize the title, and do not put a period at the end of the title. In general, do not add any punctuation mark to your title unless the title requires it, e.g.:

Who Killed Jesus?
Rise, Ye Sea Slugs!
If Not Now, When?

If your teacher prefers that you create a separate title page, you will need to format your title page as per instructions given by your teacher. The following is a suggested example of a title page. Begin the text of your research paper on a separate page after the title page without repeating the information already given on the title page. On your title page, center each line and double-space every line on a blank page: name of school (optional), title of essay in upper and lower case as appropriate, course code, course name (optional), teacher's name, your first and last name, and date, or in whatever format your teacher has specified.

Your separate title page may appear as follows:

Gun Control: Pros and Cons

NRW-3A1-01

Ms. K. Smith

Tracy Jones

28 January 2011

Generally, the following should NOT be done to a title page:

TITLE OF ESSAY: “GUN CONTROL: PROS AND CONS”

COURSE CODE: “NRW-3A1-01”

TO MY TEACHER: “MS. KATIE ELIZABETH SMITH”

FROM YOUR STUDENT: “TRACY MARIA CHRISTINA CARMELA JONES”

ASSIGNMENT DUE DATE: “FRIDAY, THE TWENTY-EIGHTH DAY OF JANUARY, IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD TWO THOUSAND AND ELEVEN”

It is not necessary to describe or explain the title page by adding the words: Title, Course Code, To, From, or Due Date. More is not better. Minimal information providing simple identification is adequate.

4. Capitalization

Proper names of people and places as well as important words, nouns, adverbs, adjectives, and verbs are capitalized in the title, but prepositions (above, across, against, along, among, at, below, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, by, despite, during, except, for, from, in, inside, into, like, minus, near, next to, of, off, on, onto, opposite, out of, outside, over, past, per, plus, since, through, throughout, till, to, toward, under, underneath, until, up, up to, upon, versus, via, with, within, without), conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet), and articles (a, an, the) not occurring at the beginning of the title or subtitle are normally shown in lower case letters. The same rule applies to headings and subheadings as well. Occasionally, one may get confused as to whether a word should or should not be capitalized when a preposition is not used as a preposition but as a noun or an adverb in a title.

The following are some examples of titles with capital letters and required punctuations. When typing entries for your Bibliography or Works Cited page, remember to italicize titles of works according to the MLA Handbook 7th ed. (ch. 3.6). See Sample Bibliography or Works Cited in MLA Style 7th ed.

5. Examples of Titles: When to Use Upper or Lower Case Letters and Punctuations

Absolution by Murder
Adam and Eve and Pinch Me
Allah Is Not Obliged
Antigonos the One-Eyed
Brightness Falls from the Air
Bully for Brontosaurus
Fire in the Sea: The Santorini Volcano
The Fish Can Sing
The Future Does Not Compute
Go beyond the Grand Canyon
Goodbye to All That
Guilt about the Past
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Here We Go around the Mulberry Bush
The House That Jack Built
Internetworking with TCP/IP, Volume I
It Ain't Necessarily So
James Tiptree, Jr.
Kea, Bird of Paradox
The Life and Adventures of Trobadora Beatrice as Chronicled by Her Minstrel Laura
Life As We Know It
Life At the Extremes
Madness under the Royal Palms: Love and Death behind the Gates of Palm Beach
The Man from Beyond
Meet Me at Infinity
Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow
Much Ado about Religion
My Brain Is Open
Nearly Out of Heart and Hope
Newcastle upon Tyne
None But the Lonely Heart
Novel Without a Name
Old English and Its Closest Relatives
Out of the Desert?
Painting by Numbers
Pigeon House and Beyond
Photography: A Crash Course
The Place Where Souls Are Born
Poles Apart
Postcards from Babel
The Revolution of Peter the Great
Scenes from the Life of a Best-Selling Author
A Song of Ice and Fire
South From Granada
South of the Border, West of the Sun
Stories from a Ming Collection
To Bid or Not to Bid
Turn Around and Run
Very Good, Jeeves!
What Is Life? The Next Fifty Years
What Is Life For?
What We Know about Childcare
Women Without Men
You're Broke because You Want to Be: How to Stop Getting By and Start Getting Ahead

Please email the author if you find any errors.

6. Acronyms

Follow the same capitalization rules for acronyms as you normally would in writing the text of the essay, e.g. FBI would be all in capitals being the acronym for Federal Bureau of Investigations. When using an acronym, especially an uncommon one, you must indicate what the letters stand for at the first occurrence in your essay. Example: The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is nearly finished converting from using standard desktop PCs to blade PCs.

7. Numbering Pages

Number your pages consecutively throughout the essay in the upper right hand corner, flush with the right margin and 1/2" from the top. Each page with your last name and page number. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers 7th Edition provides an example of what the top of the first page of a research paper should look like in Fig. 7 (ch. 4.3). The obvious reason for typing your last name and page number is to identify your work and to prevent your pages from getting misplaced. On page 5 of your essay, for example, your top right-hand corner should show: Jones 5

Page numbers must be written in Arabic numerals. Do not add anything fancy to decorate a page number. Do not underline it, enclose it between hyphens, parentheses, asterisks, or precede it with "Page", "Pg.", "P.", or add a period after the number. In other words, DO NOT use any of the following:

PAGE 5, Page 5, Pg. 5, P 5, pg. 5, p. 5, #5, ~ 5 ~, - 5 -, * 5*, (5), “5”, 5, or 5.

Simply write: 5

Remember, there is no period after the page number.

[1] If you are submitting your essay to your teacher via e-mail, he or she may prefer that you number all your paragraphs consecutively with reference points by adding [1] at the beginning of your 1st paragraph, [2] before your 2nd paragraph, and so forth. Electronic submission of documents is becoming more common as e-mail is being used widely. This system will facilitate the citation of sources by identifying a specific paragraph for reference very quickly.

8. Spacing of Lines

Whether your essay is handwritten or printed, the entire essay should be double-spaced between lines along with 1" margin on all sides for your teacher to write comments.

9. Spacing between Words

In general, leave one space between words and one space after every punctuation mark. Traditionally, two spaces after the punctuation mark are required at the end of every sentence whether the sentence ends with a period, a question mark, or an exclamation mark. Today, it is acceptable and more common to leave only one space after each punctuation, even at the end of a sentence. NO space, however, should be left in front of a punctuation mark. The following would be incorrect: etc    . or   "Why me   ?   "

For details on how to place tables, illustrations, figures, musical notations, labels, captions, etc. in your essay, please see MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers 7th Edition (ch. 4.5).

10. Indentation

If a handwritten essay is acceptable to your teacher, remember to double-space all lines, and begin each paragraph with an indentation of 1" from the left margin. Use the width of your thumb as a rough guide.

When typing the text of your essay, indent 5 spaces or 1/2" at the beginning of each paragraph. Indent set-off quotations 10 spaces or 1" from the left margin.

Your instructor may give you a choice to indent or not to indent your paragraphs. Whichever one you choose to use, you must be consistent throughout your essay.

If you are NOT indenting, you will start each paragraph flush to the left margin. It is essential that you double-space between lines and quadruple-space between paragraphs. When paragraphs are not indented, it is difficult for a reader to see where a new paragraph begins, hence quadruple-space is called for between paragraphs. Set-off quotations should still be indented 10 spaces or 1" from the left margin.

11. Justification and Automatic Hyphens

Do not right justify your entire essay and do not automatically format hyphens if you are using special features on your word processor. Left justify or justify your essay, but type in the hyphens yourself where needed. Left justification is preferred as it will not leave big gaps between words.

12. Titles of Books, Magazines, Newspapers, or Journals

When used within the text of your paper, titles of all full-length works such as novels, plays, books, should be italicized, e.g. Shakespeare's Theater.

Put in quotation marks titles of shorter works, such as newspaper, journal, and magazine articles, chapters of books, or essays, e.g.: "Conversational Marketing with Twitter."

For all title citations, every word, EXCEPT articles, prepositions, and conjunctions should be capitalized, unless they occur at the beginning of the title or subtitle. See Examples of Titles above.

Check in a dictionary or browse grammar websites whenever you are not sure whether a word is being used as a preposition, a conjunction, a noun, a verb, or an adverb. The word "near", for instance, may be an adverb, an adjective, a verb, or a preposition depending on the context in which it is used.

For complicated details on how to cite titles and quotations within titles, sacred texts, shortened titles, exceptions to the rule, etc. please consult MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers 7th Edition (ch. 3.64, 3.65, 3.66).

13. Writing an Essay All in Capital Letters

DO NOT WRITE OR TYPE YOUR ENTIRE RESEARCH PAPER ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS EVEN THOUGH THIS SAVES YOU TIME AND EFFORT NOT TO HAVE TO USE THE SHIFT KEY REPEATEDLY AND ALSO ELIMINATES THE NEED FOR YOU TO FIGURE OUT WHEN TO USE UPPER OR LOWER CASE LETTERS CORRECTLY.SOME PEOPLE WRITE EVERYTHING IN CAPITAL LETTERS BECAUSE THEY ACTUALLY DO NOT KNOW HOW TO WRITE CURSIVELY IN UPPER AND LOWER CASES OR PERHAPS HAD NEVER LEARNED CURSIVE WRITING PROPERLY WHEN THEY WERE IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.OTHER PEOPLE WRITE ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS BECAUSE THEY WANT TO MAKE WHAT THEY WRITE APPEAR IMPORTANT.READING AN ESSAY WRITTEN IN CAPITAL LETTERS IN ITS ENTIRETY,ESPECIALLY ONE WITHOUT SPACES AFTER PUNCTUATION MARKS,SLOWS DOWN READING SPEED AND MAY EVEN REDUCE READER COMPREHENSION,BESIDES BEING EXTREMELY ANNOYING TO THE READER.REMEMBER THAT THE PURPOSE OF WRITING ANYTHING IS TO COMMUNICATE WITH THE READER.MOST OF US ARE NOT CONDITIONED TO READ ALL TEXT IN CAPITAL LETTERS.WORD PROCESSORS ALSO TREAT WORDS STUCK TOGETHER WITHOUT SPACES AS SINGLE WORDS CAUSING OTHER PROBLEMS.TRY ACCESSING THIS PAGE USING THE URL TYPED ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS:HTTP://WWW.BYDEWEY.COM/4FORMAT.HTMLAND YOU WILL SEE THAT EVEN YOUR BROWSER WILL REFUSE TO FETCH THIS PAGE FOR YOU!

14. Table of Contents

A short essay or research paper requires no Table of Contents.

If your written report or research paper is extremely long, it may be helpful to include a Table of Contents showing the page number where each section begins.

For those writing a lengthy document, i.e. a book, here is the suggested order for placing items in a Table of Contents:

Acknowledgements, Foreword, Introduction, Body (Parts I, II, III), Summary or Conclusion, Afterword, Explanatory Notes, Appendices, Contact Organizations, Glossary, Endnotes (if not using Footnotes or Parenthetical citations), Bibliography, Index.

A less involved Table of Contents may include simply the following sections: Introduction, Body (use main section headings), Conclusion (or Summary), Works Cited (or References), along with the corresponding page number where each section begins.

Example:

 

CONTENTS
 
Introduction.............................................................................................. 1
Government ............................................................................................. 3
Economy .................................................................................................. 6
History ................................................................................................... 10
Conclusion ............................................................................................. 14
Works Cited ........................................................................................... 15

15. End of Essay

No special word, phrase or fancy symbol is needed to mark the end of your essay. A period at the end of your last sentence is all that is needed.

16. Keeping Essay Together

Sheets of paper should be stapled at the upper left-hand corner. Use a paper clip if no stapler is available. Do not use a pin or fold the paper. Unless specifically requested by your teacher, do not hand in your paper in a folder, a binder, a plastic jacket, rolled up with an elastic band around it, or tied with a ribbon or a string. Do not spray perfume or cologne on your paper or use scented paper. And NEVER hand in your research or term paper in loose sheets even if the sheets are numbered and neatly placed in an envelope or folder.

The condition of the paper you hand in is an indication of the respect you have for yourself and the respect you have for your teacher. Before handing in your paper, ask yourself, "Is this the VERY BESTthat I can do?"

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