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MLA Research Paper Formatting Instructions For Dummies

MLA style for formatting and citing resources is the preferred style used within the humanities and liberal arts. Properly referencing and citing resources is a very important form to add validity and credibility to a student’s arguments his research paper, and it is also an important way of protecting a student against allegations of plagiarism. The following are easy to follow instructions for how to properly use the MLA research paper format:

Formatting the Research Paper Settings

Most word processing programs come with default settings, but you should always double-check them to ensure they meet the precise requirements of the format style you need to employ. In MLA, for instance, you need to set 1-inch margins all the way around. You’re usually required to use a 12-pt size font with a legible typeface such as Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial. Each line should be double-spaced with no extra space before or after paragraphs. The start of each paragraph should be indented ½ -inch (or about five spaces).

Creating the Document’s Page Header

The page header is a piece of text that automatically fills in your last name and page number at the top of each page. In other styles, such as APA, the page header also includes a shortened version of the research paper title; this is not required in MLA. Again, most word processing programs have an automatic function to include the page header. Make sure the header is no more than ½ down from the top of the page and that the head information rests flush right against the margin.

Creating the Research Paper Title Block

MLA does not require a separate page for your name, research paper title, and course information; this only needs to appear on the first page of text immediately followed by the start of your content. Each line within the block is double-spaced, with your name, your professor’s name, course title and number, and the assignment’s due dates on separate lines, placed in the upper-left hand corner.

Including Proper Citation Information

Any information or ideas borrowed from another source should be cited within the text in which it appears. Complete citation information includes the author’s name and the page number in which the information originally appears. If you are using a quotation of less than three lines you should place this within your text; if you are using a quotation of four lines or more, use a block quote.


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