Cathy Aranda
Cathy Aranda

MLA Paper Format: Guidelines With Examples for Students and Researchers

7 min read

Published on: Apr 30, 2024

Last updated on: May 2, 2024

MLA Paper Format

Have you ever wondered why some papers look so professional and clear, while others look messy and confusing? The answer is the lack of paper formatting. 

If you are writing an academic paper, you might be following the Modern Language Association (MLA) to format your paper. 

The MLA style format helps you create a consistent, professional, and clear document that meets the high standards of this popular style. 

In this guide, we will show you how to format your paper using MLA rules. 

Margins and Font

According to the MLA handbook, you need to set your document margins to one inch from all sides. This will give your paper a neat and well-organized look. 

Next, choose a readable font like Times New Roman and set the font size to 12 points. This will ensure that your text is uniform throughout your paper.

Here is what a properly formatted paper in MLA should look like:

MLA formatted paper

Header and Page Numbers

To make your pages easy to identify and arrange, you need to add an MLA header and page numbers on each page of your paper. 

Go to the upper-right-hand corner of each page, and insert a header that consists of your last name followed by a space and the page number. 

This will create a consistent header that will not distract from your content.

Title

You should center the title, use capital letters, and make sure it is informative. 

Avoid using underlining, italics, or quotation marks for your title – keep it simple and clear. Your title should reflect the main idea of your paper and catch the reader’s attention.

Line Spacing

To make your paper easy to read and professional, you need to use double-spacing throughout your entire paper. This includes text, quotations, notes, and the Works Cited page. 

Double-spacing will create a visual breathing space for your readers and allow them to follow your arguments more easily.

Here is an example to help you understand better:

    Social media has become an integral part of modern life, especially for young people. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 95% of teens in the United States have access to a smartphone, and 45% say they are online “almost constantly”. While social media can offer many benefits, such as connecting with friends, learning new things, and expressing oneself, it can also pose some risks to mental health. Several studies have found associations between social media use and depression, anxiety, loneliness, and low self-esteem among adolescents and young adults. 

Paragraph Indentation

To show the structure and organization of your paper, you need to indent the first line of each paragraph by half an inch from the left margin. 

This will create a visual cue that indicates a new paragraph and a new idea. Indenting your paragraphs will help your reader navigate your thought flow and understand your logic.

Take a look at this example to have a better understanding:

         However, the causal mechanisms and moderating factors behind these relationships are not well understood. Therefore, this paper aims to explore the following research question: How does social media affect the mental health of young people, and what factors influence this effect? 

         To answer this question, this paper will review the existing literature on the topic, analyze the main theories and findings, and discuss the implications and limitations of the research. This paper will also provide some suggestions for future research and practice in this field.

Section Headings

If your MLA research paper is long or complex, you may need to use headings to divide it into sections. Headings will help you organize your paper and guide your reader through your main points. 

If you use headings, follow these guidelines:

First-level Heading

It is written in the title case; centered and bolded. Use this for the main sections of your paper, such as Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion.

Example:

Introduction

[It is bold, flush left]

Second-level Heading

Aligned to the left margin, they are italicized. Use this for the subsections of your paper, such as Literature Review, Data Analysis, Limitations, and Implications.

Example:

Literature Review

[Italics, flushed left]

Third-level Heading

Third-level headings are centered and, bolded. Use this for the sub-sub-sections of your paper, such as Research Questions, Hypotheses, Findings, and Recommendations.

Example:

Research Questions

[bold, centered]

Make sure you use headings consistently and appropriately for your paper.

Tables and Figures

If you use tables or figures to present data or information, you need to label them and position them correctly. 

Tables and figures will enhance your paper and support your arguments, but they should not interrupt the flow of your text. 

Follow these rules for tables and figures:

  • Label each table or figure with a descriptive title. Use the word Table or Figure followed by a number and a title. 
  • Position the label above tables and below figures. Align the label to the left margin and use the same font and size as the text.
  • Include source information if needed. If you use data or images from other sources, you need to cite them properly. Use a note below the table or figure and indicate the source in parentheses. 
  • Refer to the table or figure in your text. Use the label and number to direct your reader to the table or figure.

Quotations

If you use direct quotations from other sources, you need to format them correctly and cite them properly. 

Quotations will add credibility and authority to your paper, but they should not replace your voice or analysis. 

Follow these tips for quotations:

  • Use quotation marks to indicate the exact words of another author. Do not change or omit any words from the original source.
  • Maintain double-spacing and use the same font and size as the text.
  • Include the author’s name and page number in parentheses after the quotation. This will allow your reader to locate the source and verify the information. For example, (Smith, 2020, p. 42).
  • Use block quotations for long quotations. If the quotation is more than four lines, you need to indent it by one inch from the left margin and omit the quotation marks. Use a colon to introduce the block quotation. 

Here is an example to help you understand better:

      According to Jones (2019), “The most effective way to prevent plagiarism is to cite your sources properly” (p. 15). This statement emphasizes the importance of academic integrity and following the citation guidelines. However, some students may find it difficult to keep track of the different citation styles and formats. In such cases, Jones (2019) suggests using online tools or consulting with librarians:

     Many online resources can help you with citations, such as citation generators, style guides, and tutorials. You can also ask for assistance from your library staff, who are trained and experienced in citation and referencing. They can provide you with tips, examples, and feedback on your citations. (p. 16)

So There You Have it!

We hope this guide has helped you understand the basics of MLA paper formatting and how to apply them to your work. 

Remember, MLA paper formatting is not a complicated or daunting task; it is a simple and rewarding skill that will improve your academic writing and impress your readers.

Citing in MLA Made Easy - Use Our Free Citation Machine 

If you want to simplify your work when citing your sources in MLA style, you can use our MLA citation machine to generate your references in minutes.

Just enter the details of your source, choose the in-text or works cited system, and get your citation formatted according to the latest MLA guidelines.

Our citation machine is reliable, user-friendly, and free. Try it today and see the difference.

Cathy Aranda

WRITTEN BY

Cathy Aranda (Marketing)

Cathy is a highly dedicated author who has been writing for the platform for over five years. With a Master's degree in Mass Communication, she is well-versed in various forms of writing such as articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As an essay writing guide author at PerfectEssayWriter.ai, she has been helping students and professionals improve their writing skills by offering practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style.

Cathy is a highly dedicated author who has been writing for the platform for over five years. With a Master's degree in Mass Communication, she is well-versed in various forms of writing such as articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As an essay writing guide author at PerfectEssayWriter.ai, she has been helping students and professionals improve their writing skills by offering practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style.

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