Basic MLA Research Paper

Video Description: Basic MLA Research Paper

In this article, we will take a look at some of the basic elements of MLA formatting for research papers. To make sure we’re in alignment with the rules, this sample paper comes from the Online Writing Lab at the University of Purdue.

This is a wonderful website which you can find very quickly by typing “Owl” into Google. The entry for an Owl on Wikipedia doesn’t come up first. It’s a wonderful resource, and it will show you all of the details and clarifications and variations on using MLA formatting.

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MLA Basics

We will cover some of the basics here and to give you a sense of how it should look consider the following pictures. This is the top of your paper:

You can see that your name on the left-hand side, flush with the left margin should be followed by the instructor’s name, the course, and the date in what we could call European-style. The day, the month, and the year should be double-spaced so format exactly how you see it in the example.

You’ll see in the top right-hand corner the last name of the author of the paper. They are followed by the page number, and that should appear on every page in your document. Then the last part is the title itself, and that is centered.

Look at the title on the first picture “Toward a Recovery of 19th Century Farming Handbooks.” This topic is centered (basically just a space above the actual beginning of the text).

Format your paper like that with a page number, your last name, the title with your name, the instructor, the course, and the year. Then your make title centered. It goes without saying that the paper, the text itself is double-spaced.

MLA in-text citation

Now we will point out some of the usages of MLA in-text citation and the work cited at the end of the paper. Here we have the first usage of an in-text citation.

Here’s a good example to use. We have Danhof 5: this is the basic language of MLA citation. We have the last name of the author or at a minimum the last name of the person who is being cited in the sentence and the page number that it appears on page five. We want to avoid using a comma and avoid using P or PG. It’s just the last name and the number. That’s the basic language, and then the basic formatting is to have the period outside the parentheses and the end quote with the words that are being quoted.

  1. You’re going to finish your
  2. You’re going to insert a space.
  3. You’re going to have a parenthesisfollowed by the last name of the author.
  4. Put another space, the number, no P no PG, no comma, just the number.
  5. Then put the parenthesis and the period outside the parenthesis.

Essentially this period is the period of this sentence that was just written. So you don’t need to end your quotation with a period or your sentence with a period. Put the period outside the parentheses that indicate that this citation Danhof 5 refers to the previous sentence. If you think of this basic format and think of some variations on this, then you should be able to avoid a lot of mistakes.

MLA Works Cited Page

Now we’ll go back to the Works Cited at the end of the paper and see how Danhof relates to what comes at the end of the paper. We want to think about this citation “Danhof 5” is a kind of primitive hyperlink. You can click on Danhof, and it would take us all the way to the bottom of the page. This is what happens when you click on the endnote or a citation in Wikipedia. It takes you all the way down to the bottom where the source material is listed.

Нour work cited should look like this: works cited centered much like your title.

Here we have all the sources listed in alphabetical order. Danhof does appear in alphabetical order. We have Alan, we have Baker, there’s Danhof.

Danhof five in the text is just a shorthand to get us to the actual source. If we were to look up “Change in Agriculture,” then the Northern United States 1820 to 1870 and if you to open that up and go to page five, you would find word-for-word the quotation that was pulled and used in the paper above.

We have Danhof, Clarence H: it’s last name, first name, middle, initial.

We have the book that it’s taken from in italics followed by a period. We have the Press Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1969: the year was it printed and then followed by Print this is something that’s relatively new in an MLA formatting.

Sentence Finisher

Let’s go all the way back up to Danhof five. There’s Danhof 5.

If the basic idea is to cite the last name and the page number you, may not have it. If it’s a document that doesn’t have page numbers and then to cite it in work cited at the end, there are a range of things that can happen when you quote some material. The basic setup here is a sentence finisher, that is the writer of this paper has started with their own words. This is the preferable way to do it. You’re writing the paper, you’re making the arguments, you’re framing the paragraphs, you’re framing the arguments, and you’re bringing in someone else’s words to finish your thought, to complete it, to add detailed nuance, to add credibility.

Right in the middle of the sentence, we complete our thoughts with the quotation. And you’ll see that we’ve got some variation. This is a phrase that you may not use very often or at all, but it essentially means that there was an error in the original text. Any time you use a bracket, it implies that what you’re putting in the bracket is something that you, the author of the paper, has added. Here the author has chosen to use this sort of Latin signifier for error or a mistake in the quotation. You may not want to worry about that. That’s a small detail, but nonetheless, this is a more common usage of the brackets here again.

If the brackets are being inserted in a quotation, it means that this phrase “a farmer’s” was inserted by the author of this paper. The author of the paper revised or edited the quotation from Danhof, and they did so in order to make something clear to the reader.

We needed to put “a farmer’s” in there probably because there was a pronoun “his,” and we didn’t know what that was until it was clarified by the author of the paper. This is a relatively rare occurrence, but you could need to make this change in order to make this quotation fit with your own words, to change the verb tense or to clarify something for the reader. In any event, the basic idea is that you’re going to make arguments and you’re going to complete some of these arguments by pulling in quotations. We’ll call this “the sentence finisher format.”

Then every time we bring in something from another source (even if it’s just an idea that we’ve paraphrased), we need to make a citation, and we’re going to include Danhof as the last name. It registers with our works cited if we go all the way to the back and find Danhof in alphabetical order.

Quote within a Quote

Let’s take a look at a few more examples here and make sure we cover just the basics so that you’re avoiding some mistakes. As we go through the paper, we see the sources are used again in a similar fashion Danhof from page 7.

It’s this quote here that is being used now in small minor variation. We get a quote within a quote, so if you go to Danhof and you go to page 7, you’ll see that the word “tinkering” appears in quotes. If you are quoting someone who’s already used a quote in that phrase that they have quoted, it must appear in the single quotes. So “tinkering” in single quotes and then it appears in double quotes. We’ve got a range of citations here.

Multiple Quotes

One variation is that if you’re going to use multiple quotes in a row, you have to tell us the last name first. Then if you use back-to-back quotes and you do it again, you have to give us the page number. We’re going to assume that that’s another quote from Hurt unless you change sources.

Here’s another quote from Hurt, and another quote from Hurt. So we don’t need to keep listing the author’s last name, we need to do it once. Then if we list a few quotes in a row, insert the page numbers, and then when we switch to another source, we’ve got to get that new last name in there to let the reader know we’re switching sources.

The Blockquote Format

As we scroll through the paper, we’ll see the same thing again: period outside the quote used and we get a kind of a variation on some of these usages. This is the one example that’s a bit different. This is often called the block quote format, and as it says here: you’re going to use this when your quotations are longer than four typed lines, and that’s what we have here:

We have six lines in this example. If you have a long quote, this is what you’re going to do.

  1. You’re going to end your sentence leading up to your quote.
  2. You’re going to put a colon in.
  3. You’re going to hit return.
  4. You’re going to tab over twice.

You can see this is two tabs if you look up. We have the paragraph which is one tab, but the blockquote is two tabs.

  1. We’re going to get rid of the
  2. We’re not going to usequotations in this block quote format.
  3. We’re still going to double space.
  4. We’regoing to set it up just like this on the picture.
  5. We’re going to follow up with a citation.

Now you’ll notice that the period is not outside the citation. The reason for that is because we have more than one complete sentence. So we do not include this citation in the last sentence. We’re indicating that it is multiple sentences in a row.

Those are the basic formats there:

  • the sentencefinisher;
  • the blockquote.

You can also quote, paraphrase, put ideas into your own words as long as you include the citation of the source that you’re getting it from.

There are endless variations on this, but if we get the basics down and make sure we’re doing it correctly, then we’ll be on safe ground.

No Author is Works Cited

On a separate page at the end of your paper include Works Cited as the title, and all of the sources you’ve used should be alphabetic by the author’s last name first, then the first name. All MLA shows you all the variations here, but the basic idea is the author, what they wrote, and where it can be found or where it was published.

Their variations whether it’s a website, whether it’s journal article, whether it’s a television show and so on, and all of those you can access on MLA.

Now one variation is if you don’t have the author. Here’s how you do that:

  1. You slide over.
  2. You use the title.

On this picture, you see on the top: Drown, William and Solomon Drown. We have two authors. We have what they wrote. If you don’t have the author, if it’s not available, you’ve got to slide that over and start with what they wrote. You’re going to alphabetize it based on what they wrote.

Here H is what we’re going to use: The Age of Historical” as opposed to the last name of the author. That’s how you solve that problem.

Multiple Authors

If you have multiple authors, you only use the last name first for the first author. Drown William is what we’re going to start with. Then we’re going to list with the second author, and we’ll use commas.

If we have three or more authors, you don’t do Drown, Solomon for the second author. You put it in the regular order with the first name. That’s one variation you may run into.

They’re going to be endless variations, but the central idea is that:

  • if you’re formatting the title page correctly,
  • if you’re using your insectin-text citations correctly with a period outside the parentheses, the author’s last name, the page number,
  • ifyou’re using a sentence finisher format and the blockquote format correctly,
  • if you have your sources alphabetizedwith all the correct information in the right order on your works cited page at the end of the paper,

You’ll have all the fundamentals down.

Access MLA for more Details

You can also access on MLA, and there is a wealth of information. Let this MLA stuff kind of fade to the background to have our paper be strong presenting the arguments. We’re making arguments for bringing in credible sources to support them, and we’re making sure we’re doing everything correctly. That is why the reader doesn’t notice all the particulars of the MLA formatting that it fades to the background because we’re doing it all correctly.