We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

How to Write a Research Paper in MLA format

Although the MLA citation style belongs to one of the most popular and accessible formats, it’s still confusing when you have to compose a perfect research paper for the first time! Provided by the Modern Language Association, the MLA research paper format explained here refers to the 9th edition released in April 2021. This time we shall focus on learning how to write a research paper in MLA format by mastering the basic rules, the best ways to format your page layout, and ensuring that your Works Cited page is done properly. We shall also learn the basics of content formatting and the use of quotations and paraphrasing.

The basics of MLA style: know before you start!

When you are asked to provide a research paper in MLA style, always start with your grading rubric with specific university or college-based rules. It means you may have to provide information or skip certain paper bits. This guide will help you learn the basic requirements and ensure nothing is missed!

The main purpose of using MLA research paper format is to keep your content within formatting, fonts, and page layout and guarantee that every reference you make has been appropriately cited. It helps to avoid plagiarism and show your target audience that an academic reference supports your research work, as one can look at the Works Cited page and check your in-text citations.

How to format your MLA paper: page Layout and MLA header

Turning to the MLA Handbook, we can see the following page layout requirements:

  • Set page margins to 1 inch.
  • Times New Roman, Arial, or Verdana, point 12, is a recommended font.
  • All your content must be double-spaced unless specified otherwise.
  • Every new paper paragraph must have a 0.5 inches indent.
  • The title of your research paper must be centered.
  • No period is placed after the title or headings.
  • Title capitalization must be used for all MLA-style headings.
  • MLA paper header must be placed in the top left corner.
  • Page numbering must be in the top right corner of each page with the student’s last name and the number (Jones 1).

Learning to write a paper in MLA format for the first time, you might receive a ready-made MLA template example to help you start. If you do not have one at hand, the MLA header is one of the first things to start with on the first page of your research (unless you have been asked for a title page). Here is what a typical one will look like:

John Smith

Professor Jones

English 1201

13 May 2023

How to create a title page in MLA style?

MLA style format uses an MLA header instead in the top left corner of your first research paper. Unless the talk is about MLA formatting for research papers publication of research, there will be no need for a separate MLA title page. However, if your college professor is insisting on a separate page, it should include the following:

  • University Name is centered and goes on top of the page.
  • Every word in the title is capitalized, and the title is centered.
  • The subtitle (if necessary) goes as the second line below the main title.
  • The bottom of the page starts with a student’s name (centered).
  • The course name and number go below the author’s name.
  • Professor’s full name goes as the next line.
  • The last line is the date of submission or due date.

MLA Style abstract in research paper

An abstract is an important part of a research paper that is required when it comes to publications in academic journals or scientific publications. While it won’t be obligatory for a typical MLA style research paper, you may be asked for it anyway. If you find yourself in such a situation, follow these MLA research paper formatting rules:

  • Abstracts should be between 100 and 250 words or around seven sentences summarizing your research.
  • Your abstract should have a sentence that reflects your motivations and objectives.
  • Include one sentence about your research methodology and findings.
  • Do not use any citations or references in your research paper abstract.
  • Provide a reason why you have conducted the research and why it’s important.

MLA format for research in paper body and in-text MLA citing

In most cases, writing a paper in MLA format will have an introduction with a thesis statement, three to five body paragraphs, a conclusion section, and a Works Cited page. For now, we shall focus on the less-known aspects of the body parts for MLA-style research.

  • Introduction. It should talk about the importance of your subject and provide a basic background of your subject. Give something inspiring to motivate your readers to read further. Using no more than two citations in your MLA research paper introduction is recommended. It should be up to 15% of the total paper’s amount.
  • Thesis Statement. Your thesis statement is the heart of your paper, meaning you must provide the main argument or make an assumption reflecting your main topic or an idea you follow.
  • Methods. Explain your methodology and provide information on whether it’s a qualitative or quantitative method. Talk about why it’s the most suitable method and why you think it is helpful.
  • Results. The next section should discuss the research results by offering statistical data and all relevant information that can be used for research purposes and replication.
  • Discussion. This is the part where you should provide an analysis of research findings and justification. If there were any limitations, you should talk about them in this part of your MLA research paper.
  • Conclusion. Explain your thesis through the lens of research that has been done. Avoid using citations in this section, and do not introduce new ideas!

Now, speaking of in-text citations in MLA-style research papers, things will look this way:

According to Michael Stipe, “Most songs that have been written had a certain social agenda that reflected the spirit of times” (11).

Due to political bias, UNESCO representatives did not notice the challenges refugee children face (Young 12).

MLA Works Cited page

The Works Cited MLA format college paper should start on a separate page and must be located right after your Conclusion part. MLA uses the author-page citation style, meaning you should first provide the author’s last name and include the page number(s) where and if possible.

Here are the main things to remember:

  • The “Works Cited” must be placed in the center without being bold.
  • All of the MLA research paper references must be sorted alphabetically
  • Avoid using sources that have not been cited in the paper.
  • Press the “enter” key once after the Works Cited line and place your MLA research paper references next.
  • Each second line of the reference is done with a hanging indent (0.5 inches).

The general MLA research paper citation template would look this way:

Last Name, First Name of the author. “Your research paper title.” Title of Journal, edited by Editor’s Name(s), Publisher, Year (pages range).

Quotations and paraphrasing in MLA format

Quotations are necessary when dealing with direct information that must be provided in an original form. Paraphrasing, on the other hand, must be processed in your own words as you explore and analyze the source. As a rule, adding an MLA research paper in-text citation is still necessary. Notice that a period in the in-text paraphrasing goes beyond the brackets. Remember to put a paper in MLA format and paraphrase; you do not require quotation marks since it is not a direct quote. Still, quotation marks are necessary if you plan to use certain words or ideas from the source along with your personal thoughts!

Quotations always start on a new line of your MLA research with the indent for the entire quote by 1/2 inch from the page’s left margin. It must be double-spaced. If quoting poetry in your MLA research paper, keep up with the original line breaks with double spacing.

How to avoid plagiarism in MLA research papers?

The most important aspect of avoiding plagiarism is using the correct citation style and providing complete and original information for the chosen source type. Avoid web page citations and focus on the book and journal references, as these will provide better credibility. Learning to write a MLA research paper, check your references for credibility! If you are unsure whether the author or your citation is incomplete, it is better to avoid it. Poor referencing and weak sources may force a college professor to lower the final grade.

Now, when paraphrasing, keep the original idea of the information and always provide due credit to the original author. As you use citations, introduce them first and ensure your author’s voice is included.

Once done with your MLA research paper, always edit and proofread twice to ensure every in-text citation is mentioned on your Works Cited page. Following these simple MLA style rules, you can decrease plagiarism risks!

MLA style heading for research paper writing purposes

According to the MLA style manual, using headings and subheadings is optional as per the latest publication, yet they can be useful with longer research papers.

  • The MLA research paper headings must be written in the Title case style.
  • All the headings are aligned to the left margin of the page.
  • There is no period at the end of the headings, as you may have noticed by checking an MLA research paper template online.
  • The font and size must be the same throughout your MLA research paper, with title capitalization.
  • Using bold fonts for headers is only used to indicate greater importance
  • Italics are only used for subordinate headings

Need research paper from scratch?
4,8 / 5
Writers Experience
Recommended Service
4,5 / 5
Writers Experience
4,4 / 5
Writers Experience
* All Partners were chosen among 50+ writing services by our Customer Satisfaction Team

Diana from A Research Guide Don't know how to start your paper? Worry no more!
Get professional writing assistance from our partner. Click to learn more