Unraveling the mysteries of MLA
Most students feel slightly overwhelmed when they hear the acronym MLA for the first time. Some ask, "What in the world is MLA?" or they wonder "Why do I need to know MLA?" This Lib Guide hopes to answer these questions and give you a place to start when you feel a little confused about MLA.
This guide will provide you with a general overview of MLA. Remember if you have specific question on how to cite a source consult your text book or your English handbook or better yet, stop by the Learning Commons and one of our English Learning Consultants will be glad to help you unravel the mysteries of MLA .
What is MLA Citation Style and why do I need to know it?
- MLA stands for Modern Language Association.
- MLA style is a standardized system of documentation for academic papers in the humanities.
- MLA style provides a consistent way for readers to look up/duplicate research cited in a paper.
- The Modern Language Association oversees and publishes the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.The latest updated edition is the 7th edition (blue book).
For a paper to be correct MLA style, it must contain and follow MLA guidelines for the following:
2. In-text citations also known as parenthetical citations
3. Works Cited page
Why do I need to know about MLA and use it?
- To avoid plagiarism
- To give credit to the work of others
What is plagiarism?
According to the KCTCS Student Code of Conduct plagiarism is defined as:
- The act of presenting ideas, words, or organization of a source, published or not, as if they were one’s own.All quoted material must be in quotation marks, and all paraphrases, quotations, significant ideas, and organization must be acknowledged by some form of documentation acceptable to the instructor for the course.
- Plagiarism also includes the practice of employing or allowing another person to alter or revise the work that a student submits as the student’s own. Students may discuss assignments among themselves or with an instructor or tutor, but when the actual material is completed, it must be done by the student and the student alone. The use of the term “material” refers to work in any form including written, oral, and electronic.
- All academic work, written or otherwise, submitted by a student to an instructor or other academic supervisor, is expected to be the result of the student’s own thought, research, or self-expression. In any case in which a student feels unsure about a question of plagiarism involving the student’s work, the student must consult the instructor before submitting the work.
Preparing to write a MLA documented paper
- Understand the assignment and develop a working thesis/focus
- Find sources (leave plenty of time to go to library and/or do internet research. Do your research (read and take notes)
- A caution about research, make sure you use reputable sources. On the web, sources ending in .gov, .edu, and .org are usually good sources. Be aware of bias!
- At least 90 % of the paper needs to be in your words. 10 % can be quotes from sources that back up your points you have made and developed. Do NOT just hang quotes together with one connecting sentence and think this makes the paper yours. Just think about it for a moment, if the instructor wanted to read a bunch of web sites he/she could do so as easily as you. What the instructor interested in is your analysis and thoughts, and your ideas which developed from your research.
How to format a MLA style paper with Word 2007 or 2010
Overview of MLA Format
- 12-point font size
- Times New Roman is an acceptable style of font (nothing “funky”)
- Black ink
- 1-inch margins all around (top, bottom, right, and left)
- Header (as shown in the YouTube video on this page)
Overview of in-text citations
- Placed in parentheses, usually after direct quotes or paraphrased or summarized segments of information
Information inside parentheses depends upon type of source used, usually author's name and page number (Faulkner 269); if no author is given, put the name of the short story or article in quotation marks and then page number within the parentheses ("Global Crisis" 24). Note: punctuation always follows the parentheses, for example, " He was a very smart man" (author page number).
- Please be aware that web documents usually do NOT have any pagination, unless they are PDF documents. If no pagination is given do not add page number.
Overview of Works Cited page
- Alphabetically organized by author’s last name or title (if no author is given for a source)
- Every source listed on the Works Cited page MUST have been used and cited (with in-text citations) within the body of the paper.
- For each source entry, all lines AFTER the first are indented.
Your Work(s) Cited page needs to be at the end of your paper on a new page. In order to achieve that you can simply insert a page break after you write the last sentence of your paper. Your Work(s) Cited page will have the same header and continuing pagination as your paper if you do it this way.
Center the title on top of the page and remember, when you only have one source title it Work Cited, and when you have more than one source title the page Works Cited.
All entries must be double-spaced and the second and subsequent line of each citation must be indented five spaces; the best way to achieve that is to use a hanging indent.
List page numbers correctly, for example, if you read an article in a magazine or journal and the article is 5 pages long and appears on pages 24 through 29, make sure your citation reflects this by listing the pages as 24-29.
For every citation you must determine the medium of publication, such as Print, Web, Digital File, etc. The majority of your citation will probably be print (books, magazines and journals) or electronic sources (Internet, Library data bases).
When you are using an article or a publication that was originally issued in print form, but that you retrieved from an online database, you should type the online database name in italics. For example, if you retrieved an article from our library's EBSCO databases such as the Academic Search Premier database, you need to list the database in italics Academic Search Premier. Be aware that EBSCO houses many different databases, so do not just cite EBSCO, but the specific database within EBSCO.
Capitalize each word in the titles of articles, books, etc, but do not capitalize articles (the, an), prepositions, or conjunctions unless one is the first word of the title. Use italics for major works such as book titles, names of paintings and movies, CD titles etc., and quotation marks for minor works, such as article titles, short story titles, songs, and poems. Do not underline any title!
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