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MLA Format Examples

Regardless of the arena you are writing for, it is agreed upon in all academic and scientific fields that when you borrow someone's work in your own paper, you should credit the work properly to the original author. In the humanities, using MLA style is generally preferred.

MLA: A Popular and Simple Style

The MLA format is one of the most popular and simplest forms used to attribute information. This particular style is the one most schools have adopted and accepted. It is also an acceptable format for writing research papers on literature. This format is used by nearly 1,100 scholarly journals, newsletters, and magazines as well.

MLA Format Examples: In-Text Citations

Like all other style formatting guidelines, MLA requires the use of in-text citations for work that is paraphrased or quoted within a paper in order to attribute the work.

Text citations, or parenthetical citations as they are better known, must be presented in a certain format depending on how the information is used.

To directly quote another author in your paper your parenthetical citation would appear in one of the following ways:

Author Name stated the fact that "insert very interesting fact" (202).

My paper includes "this very interesting quote" (Author 202).

Author Name extensively explored the concept of this very interesting idea (202).

As shown above, each in-text citation must include both the author's name as well as the page number where the information in the sentence can be located.

Different rules apply for citing different resources under the MLA. With the MLA 8 revision, a container system using nine core elements became the standard. This container system allows for flexibility while creating your citations; however, you'll still follow a basic format.

Using the Nine Core Elements

While creating citations using MLA 8 format, include these nine elements, in this order. If you don't have data for each element, skip it. Use the punctuation as shown:

  1. Author.

  2. Title of source.

  3. Title of container,

  4. Other contributors,

  5. Version,

  6. Number,

  7. Publisher,

  8. Publication date,

  9. Location.

Look at these examples to see how the in-text citation and the Works Cited reference should change based on each unique situation.

Author Is Known

My paper is improved by Johnson's description of the idea as "very interesting" (202)

My paper has been described as "very interesting" (Johnson 202)

My paper has been described by Johnson as "very interesting" (202)

Human beings have been described as "symbol-using animals" (Johnson 3)

The information in these examples will correspond to an entry in the Works Cited section at the end of the paper formatted as follows:

Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Publisher, Publication Date.

No Known Author (Cite the article name and page number)

I am making my paper more interesting by including this referenced idea that "the sky is blue..." ("Article on Blue Skies" 8)

The information in this example will correspond to an entry in the Works Cited section at the end of the paper formatted as follows:

"Article on Blue Skies." Name of Magazine. Month, Year.

Authors with the Same Last Name (Use the first name initial)

Although some believe this interesting fact (A. Author 202), others note that something else may be true (B. Author, 203)

The information in this example will correspond to an entry in the Works Cited section at the end of the paper formatted as follows:

Author A's Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Publisher, Publication Date.

Author B's Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Publisher, Publication Date.

Works by Multiple Authors

If three or fewer authors, mention all names in the parenthetical citation.

If more than three authors, mention all the first time and for each subsequent appearance use the last name of the first listed author followed by the abbreviation et al.

For example:

Author, Writer, and Other argue that this concept is quite interesting (202).

The authors state "this concept is quite interesting" (Author, Writer, and Other 76).

The information in these examples will correspond to an entry in the Works Cited section at the end of the paper following the same format.

Electronic Sources

The name of the author should be cited in-text if known. If not known, the name of the article can be cited. You may use a shortened version of the article's title.

For example:

The easiest way to prepare the ground for planting is to add a rich soil conditioner (Last Name, "Title of Article").

The information in this example will correspond to an entry in the Works Cited section at the end of the paper formatted as follows:

Last Name, First Name. "Title of Article." Website. Month Day, Year. URL.

You don't need to include the access date, unless you can't find a date for the article.

Format for Works Cited

As the final page for your research paper, you will need to create a Works Cited page. This page should contain all the specific information regarding the whereabouts of the information that was cited in parenthetical citations throughout your paper. Use a hanging indent to create each entry.

List the entries in Works Cited page in alphabetical order and double space just the same as the rest of the paper.

General MLA Formatting: Page Setup

In order to adhere to MLA requirements, you will need to make set up your page layout accordingly.

Set the Margins

Set the top and bottom margins at one inch and the left and right margins at one inch.

Insert a Header

The MLA-formatted paper requires a header. Here's the format:

Last Name

Blank Line

Page Number

Make sure that you know the specific requirements of your paper when setting page numbers because sometimes a number is not required on the first page.

Line Spacing

Set line spacing to double space.

Other General Formatting Requirements

While MLA formatting is not as strict as some other citation styles, MLA does require that you use a legible font and keep the font a certain size.

Before you begin to write your paper, make sure you intend to use a uniform heading plan throughout the whole document. For example:

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