The MLA (Modern Language Association)
styling manual is one of the most highly regarded styling manuals in use today. Most educational institutions as well as publishers require this format for a large number of document submissions and publications. The MLA guide, in a nutshell, provides a set of guidelines and requirements for referencing materials in and outside the text of a paper, as well as details of how to format a paper for publication. Though used in many disciplines, MLA is known for its connections to English, history and the humanities.
When aiming to provide a quick and easy-to-use reference sheet for the MLA styling guide we can first divide the set of standards into three main categories; formatting
, in-text citations
, and work cited
. Along with the explanations of each category we can also mention examples of sources that are commonly used by students in essays
and term papers
The basic formatting guidelines for the MLA styling guide include; double-spaced text, traditional sized letter paper and size 12 lettering (in a clear font such as Times New Roman for example). In addition to this, some other specific requirements are as follows;
First page of the work
Your identifying information should appear in the upper left hand corner of the page and include your name, professor, course, and date. Afterwards you should go down two spaces and type out the title of your paper in the center of the page. Then go down to more spaces and begin typing the text of your paper.
*MLA does not require a cover page therefore one should not be added unless specifically requested by an instructor
All pages need to include a header that provides your last name and the page number. These two items should be separated by one space.
Your margins should be one inch on all sides with a 1/2 inch left indentation in the first line of each paragraph. The header should also be 1/2 inch margin from the top of the paper and be aligned to the right.
In-text citations, also known as parenthetical references, are a trademark of styling guides such as MLA and APA. These citations need to be included whenever outside sources are referenced in your paper; whether in the form of a direct quote, summary, or paraphrase. In the text of your paper theses references are only indicated by the author's last name and page number(s), though the full information regarding the source should be provided at the end of your paper on the work cited page.
*Note that if the authors name is included in a signal phrase or otherwise in the paper then there is no need to repeat their name in the parenthesis-only the page number is indicated.
Example of one author using a signal phrase
As Clark noted, "The changes in the animals natural habitat are clearly diminishing" (15).
Example of one author without signal phrase
"The changes in the animals natural habitat are clearly diminishing" (Clark 15).
Example of two authors
"Troubling times may be ahead for this species due to the many harms of human habitat alterations" (Lopez and Smith 233).
Example of a paraphrase
Clarks understanding of clear changes in the animal habitat contradicted the statement of notable men of science (15-18).
In general, when citing web sources in-text, or any sources for that matter, the name or wording that you place in parenthesis should match what is listed on your corresponding work cited page. Therefore for online sources you would similarly list the last names of authors if those names coincide with the listing on your work work cited or reference page.
Other key factors to note for online sources is that page numbers are not required for websites and likewise the specific address of the website should not be placed in text such as, http://www.samplesite.com for example (unless it directly represents what is in the begining of the listing on the reference page). Also when referring to websites in-text simply state the name and the corresponding ending such as Nytimes.com or Census.gov as opposed to the full web address.
Work cited page
Your works cited page must begin on a separate sheet of paper and include the running head indicated on all other pages as well as the title 'Work Cited' centered in the middle (as well as the one inch margins on all sides). Similar to the first page, all of the information should be double-spaced including two spaces between the words 'Work Cited' and the the first reference.
All entries should start from the left margin and be listed in alphabetical order according to the author's last name. The second line of each entry should be indented by a 1/2 inch from the left. *This will likely be for most entries as they usually take up 2-3 lines of space. If no author is indicated then the alphabetization should be based off of the title of the work without counting any words such as A, An, and The.
*Each listing in the work cited page will differ in format based on the medium of the publication. Below are examples of referencing for books, journals, and online sources.
Example of a book entry with one author
Hafeez, Khalid. Understanding Horticulture and Today's Technology. Dubai: Al-Amin Press, 2012
Example of a print journal entry
Christopher, Lewis P. and Carlos L. Astoria. "Recent Horticulture Developments in the Southeastern United States." Horticulture Quarterly 38 (2012): 76-83. Print.
Example of a website entry
Dutch, Morlow. Recent Improvements in Horticulture Technology. The Horticulture Society, Inc. 2010. Web. 3 Aug. 2012.
Other important issues to consider for the work cited page, not mentioned here are the differences in referencing for information obtained from online databases and journals versus websites and webpages. Also special attention should be given to non traditional sources such as interviews which usually take on a simple format similar to a book or journal entry.
Lastly, an important note to mention for the MLA styling format is that the work cited page and the bibliography are not interchangeable; that is one cannot be used in place of the other. The bibliography page is used to reference all of the works consulted in your research-whether they made it into your paper or not. But the work cited page on the other hand is only utilized for those things cited directly into your paper (and therefore is a quick verification system for readers).