How to Cite MLA in a Research Paper

Plagiarism is a serious issue and the consequences can be severe. In educational institutions, research papers are often checked with anti-plagiarism software, and students are expected to follow specific style guidelines given by the instructor. In some college liberal arts courses, professors require proper usage of the Modern Language Association, or MLA, style. MLA offers formatting, citation and style guidelines to help students and professionals write clear, well-organized and properly referenced works.

Style the MLA document properly

Make sure your entire research paper follows MLA style guidelines. While some word-processing software programs have a built-in option for citing in MLA style, your professor will likely expect the document to comply with the MLA formatting style as well. For this, you will need to manually enter some specifications.

Use a 12-point font, preferably Times New Roman. Double space the document and use 1-inch margins throughout. Do not add a second space after periods.

Indent paragraphs by half an inch using the Tab key.

Number each page in the upper right-hand corner.

In-text citations

Parenthetically cite all referenced sources within the same sentence. For example, if this sentence included paraphrased material from a book, it would need to include a reference to that work within the sentence (Author last name page number(s)). Note: there is no comma between the author last name and page number.

Ensure that each in-text citation corresponds to a full-text citation found in the "Works Cited" page of your paper. If you mention the author's name in your sentence, you may omit the name from the parenthetical citation. In these cases, your citation need only be a page number or numbers.

List multiple authors as follows:

(Smith and Cooper 322)


(Smith, Cooper, and Hoover 322)

Put the name of the article or document in quotes, followed by the page number, in cases when no author is given. For example: ("How to Cite MLA" 322).

For corporate or organization "authors", replace author last name with organization name as follows:

(Government Organization 322).

Bibliography or "Works Cited" Page

Include a bibliography with detailed citations corresponding to all in-text citations found within the document. These references will generally be for books, articles or website material.

Use italics for titles of books -- do not underline. Use quotes for articles or website page titles.

As of January 2011, the format appears in the following format:

Author or authors. "Article Title." Book title (if applicable, in italics). Publisher, date. Website name (if applicable). Date of access (if applicable).


Cite website material in the same format as other literature whenever possible.