MLA format for research papers is based upon the Modern Language Association (MLA) citation standards. MLA style is commonly used in undergraduate research papers in the Humanities such as English Literature, Theater, The Arts, Philosophy and Religion.
The two premier sources for how to utilize and cite in MLA properly are MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (6th ed.) and the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (2nd ed.). With these in hand, citation is less complicated and all "how to" questions can be address properly.
General MLA Format Guidelines
Research papers should be on standard, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper,
All research papers must be Double-space with a common san serif font like Times New Roman or Courier New, 12 pt.
Space only once after periods.
1 inch Margins. Indent one half-inch from the left margin for each paragraph.
All pages must be numbered in the header at the top right hand corner of the page.
Use italics throughout your research paper for titles and points of emphasis.
In-Text Citation in MLA
MLA style uses parenthetical citation. When directly quoting material or paraphrasing someone else's idea, place the author's name and the page number(s) in which you obtained the information from in parentheses. Below is an example:
An article in Chickens and Hens Quarterly stated, "Chickens lay eggs on every Sunday and Tuesday of a full moon" (Milazzo, 25).
If no author is known, simply utilize a few words in the title and then the page number. Each in-text citation must correspond with a citation in a works cited page at the end of your research paper. For the example above, the corresponding citation would look as follows:
Milazzo, Lurae. The Mysteries of Chickens and Moons. Chickens and Hens Quarterly. 12, 6: 2008.
Author Named in Sentence
James Smith once stated, "The fundamental truth for all men is that we started from dust and will return to dust some day. There is no man that can get beyond this and there's no man that can escape this truth" (25).
Author in Parentheses
There are many beliefs about the fundamental truth. "The fundamental truth for all men is that we started from dust and will return to dust someday. There is no man that can get beyond this and there's no man that can escape this truth" (Smith, 25).
In the 1st example the author's name is used prior to listing the quote. Therefore, you only need to do to put the page number at the end of the sentence. In the 2nd example the author has not been introduced and you must put the authors name, and the page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence.
Citation from the Same Source
Often times you will cite from the same source more than once within a research paper. This is done most often in book reports and when citing from sources of fiction such as the following example:
Billy jumped off the bus and ran into his mother's arms and exclaimed "mommy I missed you" (Brown, 2). With a smile his mother looked down at him and said, "I missed you to son" (3).
The fundamental truth for all men is that we started from dust and will return to dust someday. There is no man that can get beyond this and there's no man that can escape this truth ("Philosophy of Life").
When the author is unknown, you can use the complete title, if it is short, or, if it is longer, you can use a short form of the title in parentheses. Always italicize books and put articles in quotation marks.
A bit about page numbers
Current MLA format states that you do not have to use page numbers if none exist as in the example of a website. Another example of where you don't have to use page numbers is if the source is only one page long.
Two or More Authors
Many times a source will contain 2 or more authors. When putting them in parenthetical referencing group them as in a phrase such as:
Smith and Wesson state that it is bad to carry guns (62).
It is bad to carry guns (Smith and Wesson, 62).
An Organization is your Author
Many organizations publish material that is perfectly acceptable to use within a research paper. However, they require special citation and consideration. Note the following example from the Justice Department:
According to the Justice Department crime has risen over the last few years. This is a terrible thing and it will be stopped in America soon as we can. The Justice Department official response is a policy against crime (U.S. Just. Dept., 3).
Note that the Justice Department is abbreviated in any organization with a long name needs to be abbreviated within the text of the paper. The full name will always be located in the bibliography.
Two or More Different Citations
It is good practice in a research paper to often site more than one source for argument you are trying to make. Here is how you cite multiple sources for the same information in your research paper.
Nobody likes cookies without sugar (Smith, 23; Jones, 45).
There are many other nuances of MLA format citation. These are the most common and the ones that you will be using in your research paper frequently. Form more information on MLA format, see the excellent resource guide by Diana Hacker.
Author's Last Name, First Name. Book Title Publication Place: Publisher, copyright date.
Smith, Joe. I Eat Worms. New York: McMillan, 2010.
Smith, Joe, and Jack Wesson. Guns are Bad. New York: Schribner, 2002.
Books-More Than Three Authors:
Author's last name, first name, et al. Title of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher, copyright date.
Smith, Joe, et al. All You Need To Know About Life. Boston, Penguin, 2011.
More than One Book by the Same Author:
---. Title of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher, copyright date. ‚Ä®---. More Everything You Need To Know. Boston, Penguin, 2012.
Author(s). "Title of Article." Title of Journal Volume.Issue (Year): pages. Medium of publication.
Havish, Christopher. "Crime Statistics." Criminal Justice Review 6.15 (2010): 15-21.
Journal Article-Author Unknown:
"Title of Article." Title of Journal Volume.Issue (Year): pages. Medium of publication.
"Crime Statistics." Criminal Justice Review 6.15 (2010): 15-21.
A Word About Internet Sources
Citation standards for Internet sources are still in a state of flux. MLA citation standards have changed yearly in regards to how to cite Internet sources in a research paper. Currently information that you must gather and cite is as follows:
Author name/s‚Ä®Article name‚Ä®Title of the Website, project, or book.‚Ä®Any version numbers available, including revisions, posting dates, volumes, or issue numbers.‚Ä®Publisher information, including the publisher name and publishing date.‚Ä®Take note of any page numbers (if available).‚Ä®Medium of publication.‚Ä®Date the material was accessed.‚Ä®URL (if required, or for your own personal reference; MLA does not require a URL).‚Ä®"How to Cite a Research Paper." papermasters.com. Paper Masters, n.d. Web. 12 Feb 2012.
Sonnenberg, Karen. “Research in MLA Ciation.” Citation America Journal 6.2 (2012): n. pag. Web. 12 Feb 2012.