(Based on MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Eighth Edition - 2016)


Frequently Asked Questions
Questions Answers
What are MLA research papers?
  • A research paper is an investigation of a topic. It is a document that you write with experts' information that you collect from several sources.

  • You write MLA papers by following the rules in the MLA Handbook (8th ed.).

  • You use a formal writing style. Do NOT use first person – “I,” “we,” “us,” “my,” and “our.”

  • Do NOT use second person – “you.”

Are all research papers MLA papers?

  • No.

  • MLA papers are written by writers studying liberal arts (history, philosophy, and literature). They follow the Modern Language Association guidelines (rules).

  • APA papers are written by writers studying psychology, education, and other social sciences. They follow the guidelines set by the American Psychological Association.

  • (Doctors and other health professionals use guidelines set by the American Medical Association. Some professors require college students to use the Turabian style.  It can be used for all subjects. Journalists often use the Chicago style.)

What is the MLA?
  • MLA stands for Modern Language Association. The MLA is a group that was created in 1883, and it is made up of teachers and researchers who establish rules for writing formal papers.
Why should you follow MLA rules?
  • Following MLA rules lets the readers of your paper know that the ideas and facts in the paper came from experts and also lets readers find the original sources.
  • Following these rules makes it easy for people to read your paper.
  • Following these rules keeps you from getting into trouble for plagiarizing.
What is plagiarism?
  • It is stealing someone else’s work and presenting it as your own.
  • It happens when you write someone else’s ideas without giving them credit.
  • It can result in an “F” on the paper, an “F” for the semester, or even possible suspension.
  • Avoid it by not copying and pasting. Read your source, look away, write what you remember, and then use MLA documentation style to give credit to the author.
What are the required parts of MLA research papers?
  • A numbered first page with a header, a heading, title, and an introductory paragraph (which ends with a thesis), and, perhaps, some of the first supporting body paragraph

  • A body which continues with numbered pages and contains supporting paragraphs which provide evidence proving the thesis

  • A concluding paragraph which reminds readers of the thesis and main points and adds a look to the future; paragraphs must contain in-text/parenthetical citations which refer to the sources the writer used to create the paper

  • A Works Cited page

Note: Some teachers/professors require an outline to be submitted separately from the paper, after notes are taken and before the rough draft of paper is written, and some require a separate title page followed by an outline, then the full research paper. Ask your teacher what he/she requires and follow your teacher's preferences for all parts of the paper.
What are the two parts of MLA documentation style?
  • In-text/parenthetical citations
  • Works-cited entries
What are in-text and parenthetical citations?
  • They are words that make up the first part of how you show where you got your information. You may refer to your source directly in text by writing, “According the movie The Crucible,…” or you can identify your source inside parentheses after a quote, summary, or paraphrase - (The Crucible).
  • The information in text or in parentheses tells readers where to look on the last page of your paper to learn where you got your information.
  • The last page of your paper is called a Works Cited page.
What are different ways to create in-text and/or parenthetical citations for information found in a book?

You can write a sentence with words introducing the author by stating his or her first and last name (unless you have already given the first name in an earlier sentence - if so, just put in the author's last name), then the information, and finally, the page number where you found the information in parentheses.

You can write a sentence containing the information you found and then put the author's last name and page number in parentheses.

What does it mean to cite a source? To cite a source (the place from which you got information), you must do two things. First, in the body of your paper, write inside parentheses where you are getting your ideas from (usually the author and number of the page or just the page number, if you give the author's name in your sentence ). Second, on the works-cited page (last page of your paper) give specific publication information, so readers can find the same sources you read.

Example of an in-text citation with the author's name in the sentence and page number in parentheses, followed by its matching entry for the Works Cited.

According to Edward W. Said, imperialism is defined by “the practice, the theory, and the attitudes of a dominating metropolitan center ruling a distant territory” (9).


Works Cited
Said, Edward W. Culture and Imperialism. Knopf, 1994.
What is on a Works Cited page?  
When do I create works-cited entries?

As soon as you have read your sources and know that they can provide the evidence you need to support your thesis (the last sentence of your introductory paragraph which states your topic, position, and main points), create your works-cited entries, and arrange them in alphabetical order on your works-cited page. Later, if you discover that you did not use a source, you must delete it from your works-cited page.

What are the MLA Core Elements of every entry in a works-cited list?
  1. Author.  (Who created the work? Author's name: Last, First. Skip if no author is given.)
  2. Title of source. (Titles of short works are in quotation marks. Titles of books and long works are italicized.)
  3. Title of container. (Is the source part of a larger source? If so, the larger source is the container. If not, skip.)
  4. Other contributors, (Are there editors, illustrators, translators, or others who helped create the work? If not, skip.)
  5. Version, (Some works have more than one version. For example the Bible has many versions: The King James Version, The New International Version, etc. Some works have more than one edition, indicated by numbers: 2nd edition, 8th edition, etc. If no version is given, skip.)
  6. Number, (Some works other than editions also have numbers. Some have volumes (vol.), or issue numbers (no.) while others, like television shows, have season and episode numbers. If no numbers are given, skip.)
  7. Publisher, (What company or organization made the work available? If no publisher is given, skip.)
  8. Publication date, (When did the source become available? Abbreviate months except May, June, July. (Use Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec. If no date is given, skip. If you are giving information for a source you found online, type in Accessed Day Abbreviated Month Year. Example: Accessed 26 March 2016)
  9. Location. (This is needed when the work is inside a larger book, is online, or is a physical object like a painting. For a document inside a larger document, give page number range - pp. 21-30; for an online work, give the URL (Web address); for a painting available only in a museum, give the city. )
Where can I find a sample MLA research paper that has explanations? To see a complete MLA paper (not just the beginning which is pictured below), please click here. You will see a header, a heading, a title, an introductory paragraph with a thesis statement, supporting body paragraphs with in-text and parenthetical citations, their matching works-cited entries on a Works Cited page, and a conclusion.



What are the general rules a writer must follow to write MLA papers?
  • MLA papers use in-text or parenthetical citations that tell readers to go to the last page of the research paper to see a list of works cited. A works-cited list gives the sources the writer used and their publication information. The sources are in alphabetical order. Each item on the list must be referred to in the text or in a parenthetical citation in the body of the paper.

  • An in-text citation names the author of the source, either in a signal phrase or in parentheses and gives the page number, when available, of a source in parentheses. At the end of the paper, a list of works cited provides publication information about the source.

  • The works-cited list must be alphabetized by the authors’ last names (or by titles for works without authors). Hanging indents for each entry, created by using the feature of your word processing program. (A hanging indent is where all of the lines are indented in a paragraph except the first one. It is the reverse of an ordinary paragraph).

  • The paper must be typed on a computer.

  • Each page must have a header with the research paper writer's last name followed by a space and a page number.

  • The entire text of the paper must be double-spaced and Times New Roman font size 12 should be used.

  • The margins should be set to 1 inch on all sides.

  • The first line of each paragraph must be indented a half-inch  from the left margin.

  • Italics are used for the titles of longer works and quotation marks for titles of short works.

How do I begin the process of creating a paper?

·   Your topic might be assigned or you might have a choice. Whatever the case, you must begin collecting information about a topic. If you have a choice of topics, take about an hour to browse online and to look at print sources in your school library. Choose the topic that interests you and about which you can find the most information. Decide what information about the topic is most interesting or controversial.

·   After reading several sources, write down a working thesis statement: a sentence that states your topic, your position about the topic, and three or more main points that provide evidence for your position.

·   Example thesis: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should not be banned because it is historically accurate, shows the dangers of racism, and shows how people can learn not to be racist.

Remember your position and points must be supported by what the experts in your sources have written. If you don't agree with information in a source, don't use it! If most or all of your sources disagree with your position, you will have to change all of your sources (VERY time consuming) or change your position.

·   If your time at the library is limited, print out or check out all of the sources which will help you prove your position.

·  Writing a research paper requires thought, time, and effort. If you get behind, don’t give up; ask for help.

What does the first page of an MLA research paper include?

·   A header states your last name and page number, and it is in the upper right-hand corner of each page. Word processing programs have a feature that does this for you.

·   In the upper left-hand corner of the first page, type your name, your instructor's name, the course, and the date. This is your heading. The date must be in the day, month, and year format (with no commas). Be sure to use double-spaced lines.

·   Hit Enter and center the title. Don't underline your own title or put it in quotation marks. Don't change the font size. Capitalize the first letter of the first word and each word in the title unless the word is a conjunction, preposition, or article. Those words are not capitalized. Use a dictionary to check the part of speech, if necessary.

·   Use italics or quotation marks when referring to works by other authors in your title, just as you would in your text. 

Example of a research paper title that includes a book title: 

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: A Book That Should Not Be Banned

·  Do not put an extra line space between the title and the first line of the text. Each and every line of an MLA paper is double-spaced—no more, no less.

What should the first page of a research paper look like?


To watch a video tutorial on how to use Microsoft Word to create this first page, click here. (You may skip ahead 1 minute and 40 seconds to skip the introduction.)

A sample of the top of the first page of a research paper is shown below. The first example shows how the paper actually appears. The second example is labeled to show you what the parts of the first page are.



·  Doe 1 is the header.  Use the feature in your word processing program that creates this.  Do not type the number 1 yourself as that will place the number 1 on each page of your paper instead of numbering the pages consecutively

·  The information before the title of the paper is the heading.

·  The title has two parts.  To the left of the colon is the topic; to the right is the main focus of the paper.

How do I avoid the failing grade and possible suspension that could result from plagiarism?

·  To create a passing research paper, you must use in-text and parenthetical citations that match works-cited entries.

·  You must use an in-text citation for each idea that is not your own whether you quote it, paraphrase it, or summarize it.

·  Read your sources and write down the publication information for each source you have decided to use, so that you can create works-cited entries which match your in-text or parenthetical citations.

How do the two parts of MLA documentation work together to prevent plagiarism?
How do readers find an author’s name (Irving) on a Works Cited page? Works-cited entries are in alphabetical order. Readers look for the author’s last name which hangs over the publishing information, so readers can easily find authors. (Word processing programs call this style a “hanging indent.” )

The author of the top works-cited entry is Washington Irving.



The author of the bottom works-cited entry is Charles Warner who is writing ABOUT Washington Irving.

What does a parenthetical citation for a book look like?

What does a works-cited entry for a book look like and how do I find the necessary core elements to create it?


Note: All entries of more than one line use a hanging indent – all lines are indented except the first line.





What do a title page and a copyright page look like?


1 = author

2 = title

7 = the company that published the source

8 = the most recent year of publication


The works-cited entry for a book looks like the line below, except it has been numbered to show you the required core elements.

  1. Author.  (Author's name: Last, First.)
  2. Title of source. (Novel title: Italicized)
  3. Title of container. (Skipped. The book is NOT in a container like a textbook or anthology.)
  4. Other contributors, (Skipped.)
  5. Version, (Skipped.)
  6. Number, (Skipped.)
  7. Publisher, (The name of the publishing company is Warner Books.)
  8. Publication date. (The last publication date on the copyright page is 1982. Note that the date is followed by a period instead of the usual comma because the last core element - location is not needed.)
  9. Location. (Skipped. The book is not in a container or online.)

Open the bookLook at the title page and then the copyright page that comes after the title page to get publication information. The picture below has the core elements numbered to show where they can be found.

What do I need to have to create works-cited entries for online sources? For sources found online, you need to find the URL (the Web address) to help readers locate your sources. Because Web addresses sometimes change and because documents sometimes appear in many different places on the Web, the MLA says you should cite containers such as EbscoHost, Youtube,  or Netflix in order for readers easily find and check your sources. (A container is a larger body of works from which you have selected one or more works.) The MLA only says to eliminate http:// or https:// when putting URLs into works-cited entries.

Scholarly journal articles found in databases often include a DOI (digital object identifier). If a DOI is available, cite the DOI number instead of the URL.

Online newspapers and magazines sometimes include a “permalink,” which is a shortened, stable version of a URL. Look for a “share” or “cite this” button to see if a source includes a permalink. If you can find a permalink, use that instead of a URL.
What does a quote look like in a research paper?
When should you use citations?     


How do you use a quote that is more than four lines long?
What is the easiest way to create any type of works-cited entry? Here is an example of how to quickly create accurate works-cited entries. You simply go online to Google and type in the words "purdue owl mla cite" + the words that describe the source you are looking for. Please see the example below.

1. To create a works-cited entry for a YouTube video.  Go to and type in the words "purdue owl mla cite youtube video."  

 Then hit the "Enter" key.   +  

2. You will get a list of possible sites to visit. Click on the title of the top result.

3. You will be taken to a page on the Purdue Online Writing Lab site. Scroll down the page until you see "A YouTube Video. In your own document, copy and paste the appropriate example, and then replace the words in the  example with information about your own source.







Note: Some people use EasyBib or other Web sites to create citations. The problem is that students often don't know what information to put into such sites. The Purdue site is easy to understand and is accurate; however, I do not recommend their sample MLA paper because it lacks the formality required by most instructors.

How do I find the necessary publication information to create a works-cited entry for an online journal?

To create a works-cited entry for an online journal article, open the site and find the following core elements:

  1. Author.  (Author's name: Last, First. Skip if no author is given.)
  2. Title of source. (Article or page title - in quotation marks)
  3. Title of container. (Name of Web site - in italics)
  4. Other contributors, (Skip.)
  5. Version, (Skip. This applies to print editions and versions.)
  6. Number, (Any version numbers available, including editions (ed.), revisions, volumes (vol.), or issue numbers (no.)
  7. Publisher, (The name of the online journal)
  8. Publication date, (If missing, skip. Look at the top or bottom of the article.)
  9. Location. (The URL - Web address without the http:// or https://)
  10. Access date. (If there is no publication date, write Accessed Day Month Year. Put in the day, month, and year you accessed the source.)

Example of Collection of Core Elements for an Online Journal

 (The student/researcher writes down MLA core elements followed by the appropriate punctuation mark. The MLA list of core elements is in black font. The researcher's collected information is in green font. Added explanations are in red font.)

  1. Author’s Name. Gregory, Leslie.

  2. "Title of Source." "Finding Jim Behind the Mask: The Revelation of African American Humanity in Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." (This is the title of the article.)

  3. Title of Container, Ampersand, (The name of the journal is the container of the source article.)

  4. Other contributors, (Skipped.)
  5. Version, (Skipped.)
  6. Number, vol. 1, no. 1,  (These numbers are the volume number and the issue number.)
  7. Publisher of Site, Florida Gulf Coast University (The name of the publisher may be omitted for journals, magazines, and newspapers if the researcher wishes.)
  8. Date of Publication, 1998 (Date is the year of publication.)
  9. Location. (The writer of the research paper copied and pasted the URL (Web address), then deleted the http://.)
  10. Accessed Date. (This example has a date of publication, so the optional date of access is not needed. If there had been no publication date available, the student would be required to put the date she visited the Web site. Providing the publication date also may be done if the source is old or the location may change. This source is old, so an access date is provided in the works-cited entry.)

(Each numbered element on this list matches the numbered element shown in the following pictures.)

To find some core elements, you may need to go to the URL window (where you see the "http" address). Then backspace to delete all information that follows the first single slash mark (the /). Hit enter to see a new page. This new page shows that Florida Gulf Coast University is the publisher. This lets you check that your source is reputable and the information you cite will be accurate. Sometimes you can also find the publisher at the end of the article. Be careful not to cite from the author’s own list of works cited; cite only the author of the article you used as a source.


The date of publication is often found at the end of the article.  If it is not given, just skip it.




Once you have gathered the information about the core elements, put in the information on your Works Cited page in the correct format as shown below. Notice the hanging indent: all lines are indented except the first. This is the reverse of an ordinary paragraph.

Gregory, Leslie. "Finding Jim Behind the Mask: The Revelation of African American Humanity in Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." Ampersand, vol. 1, no. 1, Florida Gulf Coast University, 1998, //  Accessed 2 April 2017.



I’ve written a works-cited entry for each source that I am going to use. Now, how do I take notes?

  • Determine three or more points that the sources collectively make about your topic.

  • Write a working thesis statement which states your topic and the three or more points you and your sources can make about your topic.
    Mark Twain’s novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should not be banned because it accurately reflects the society of its time, demonstrates the evils of slavery, and shows how an individual can learn compassion.

    Note: The above thesis states the topic and position: “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should not be banned.”  It gives three reasons (points) and sets up the organization of the paper.

  • Take notes by writing quotes, paraphrases, and summaries that support each of your three (or more) main points


Sample Blank Note with Labels


Warning: If you decide to just copy and paste to take notes, you must also copy and paste the URL (the Internet address beginning with "http." Remember you must be able to write introductory phrases, summaries, and paraphrases (sentences where you put the information into your own words), citations, and works-cited entries. Copying and pasting is dangerous; it's faster and easier to put another person's words into your own if you look away from their words. Most of my students found it faster to print out blank note cards and actually write notes. Those students did not plagiarize.

How do I turn my notes into a good paper?

Click here to see a complete MLA sample paper which explains each part of the paper, shows how to support a position with clear main points and evidence, and how to use different types of citations.


How do I write my conclusion?

To write your conclusion, begin with a transitional expression such as “Clearly,” “Obviously,” or “In conclusion” (unless your instructor has a different preference). Follow the transitional expression with a comma and a restated thesis. Remind readers of your main points. End with a look to the future. Look at the sample paper for more guidance.

What does a Works Cited page look like?


You can look at the complete sample paper here.

Where is an MLA Research Paper template (a fill-in-the-blank research paper)?

Google Docs Template (for those who have Google accounts; others use the Microsoft Word Template provided below)

Click on the link - MLA Eighth Edition Research Paper Template.

You will be asked to sign in to Google. After you do, go to File  and click on Make a copy.

Change the name of the document; for example, Sam's Copy of MLA 8. Then click ok.

By following the directions in the template paper, you should be able to quickly create an organized and correctly formatted paper.


Microsoft Word Template

MLA Eighth Edition Research Paper Template



This presentation is based on information from the MLA Handbook, Eighth Edition.


To get a printable MLA worksheet to use for collecting publication information, please go to


To see the MLA worksheet filled out with examples, please go to


To see more examples of works-cited entries, please go to


To go to Purdue University’s MLA Formatting and Style Guide, please go to