The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers

The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers

"The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers" (1977; 6th ed., 2003) is an academic documentation style guide widely used in the United States, Canada, and other countries, providing guidelines for writing and documentation of research in the humanities, especially in English studies; the study of other modern languages and literatures, including comparative literature; literary criticism; media studies; cultural studies; and related disciplines ("What Is MLA Style?").

"The MLA Handbook" is addressed primarily to secondary-school and undergraduate college and university students and teachers in those disciplines. It is one of two publications of the Modern Language Association of America presenting MLA style written by Joseph Gibaldi, MLA Director of Book Acquisitions and Development ("Book Publications Program: General Information"). The other publication, "The MLA Style Manual", 2nd ed (1998), on which it is based, is addressed primarily to graduate students, academic scholars, professors, professional writers, and editors. The most recent editions of both "The MLA Style Manual" and "The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers" have been updated and adapted to accommodate advancements in computer-generated word processing, electronic publishing, and related digital-publishing practices. The sixth edition of the "MLA Handbook" (2003) does not include changes to MLA style noted in the more-recently published 3rd ed. of the "MLA Style Manual" (2008). The seventh edition of the "MLA Handbook" is expected in Spring 2009.See [ "FAQ: When will the MLA make its documentation guidelines available on the Web?"] Accessed 5 July 2008.]


The "MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers", 6th ed. (2003) (ISBN 0-87352-986-0), by Joseph Gibaldi, is addressed primarily to secondary-school and undergraduate college and university students and teachers. The documentation style conventions that it defines pertain to students' writing of reports, term papers, and research essays assigned by teachers in the humanities. It also offers basic comparisons to style manuals for other disciplines, such as AP Style, ACS style, and "The Chicago Manual of Style". "The MLA Handbook" is frequently assigned as a required text in research and writing courses in American educational institutions.

On its Web site, the MLA provides the following guidance to students and their teachers:

According to the MLA, purchasers of the forthcoming 7th edition of the "MLA Handbook" will have "access to a Web site containing the complete documentation guidelines and additional materials."

Document format

The MLA suggests that, when creating a document on a computer, the writer try to maintain a series of guidelines that make it easier for people to read a composition without causing the style to distract from the content.
# Choose Courier New or Times New Roman, 12-point font.
# All margins should be set to 1 inch.
# Create a running header 1/2" from the top margin beginning on the right-hand side of page 1 containing your last name and page number with no punctuation between.*
# Align text to the left and do not justify. Center titles.
# Double space throughout.
# Put one space after non-period punctuation marks.
# Turn off your word processor's automatic hyphenation feature.
# Turn off your word processor's automatic hyperlink feature (URLs on your works cited page should neither be underlined nor hyperlinked).
# Website addresses should be placed between angle brackets to set them apart from the rest of the text.
# Print on only one side of each piece of paper.
# Although underlining is rendered in print through italicization, MLA style recommends that writers of research papers and scholars preparing manuscripts for publication by presses use underlining, unless directed that italicization is permissible or preferred. [quote| [Section] 3.3. ITALICS (UNDERLINING) Italic is a style of type in which the characters slant to the right ("Casablanca"). In research papers and manuscripts submitted for publication, words that would be italicized in print are best underlined.
Most word-processing programs and computer printers permit the reproduction of italic type. In material that will be graded, edited, or typeset, however, the type style of every letter and punctuation mark must be easily recognizable. Italic type is sometimes not distinctive enough for this purpose, and you can avoid ambiguity by using underlining when you intend italics. If you wish to use italics rather than underlining, check your instructor's preferences. When preparing a manuscript for electronic publication, consult your editor or instructor on how to represent italicization.
In electronic environments that do not permit underlining, it is common to place one underline before and after each word or group of words that would be italicized in print.
_Life Is a Dream_
. . . .
(Gibaldi, 6th ed., 94 [Sec. 3.3] )

In addition to these general format guidelines, MLA has a specific format for labeling papers for a class. It dictates that one must put the following items left justified above the first paragraph in the following order:
# Student's whole name - Ex. Jane/John Doe
# Professor's name - Ex. Mr./Ms./Mrs./Professor Jones
# Class/section - Ex. English 101-05
# Date (day, month, year) - Ex. 6 May 2007

"A research paper does not need a title page" (Gibaldi, 6th ed., 134 [Sec. 5.6.8] ).

Citation and bibliography format

;Works citedMLA style provides a bibliography of "Works Cited" listing works cited in one's text and notes (either footnotes and/or endnotes), which is placed after the main body of a term paper, article, or book. Brief parenthetical citations, including the name or names of author(s) and/or short titles (as needed) and numbers of pages (as applicable), are used within the text. These are keyed to and direct readers to a work or works by author(s) or editor(s) and sometimes titles, as they are presented on the list of works cited (in alphabetical order), and the page(s) of the item where the information is located (e.g. (Smith 107) refers the reader to page 107 of the cited work by an author whose surname is Smith). If there are more than one author of the same name and/or more than one title of works by that author or authors being cited, then a first name or initial and/or titles or short titles are also used within the text's parenthetical references.;Selected bibliography or Works consultedIn addition to "Works Cited", MLA style also provides other possible options for bibliographies such as more-selective lists headed "Selected Bibliography" or "Works Consulted".

In-text citations

When citing a work within the text of a paper, try to mention the material being cited in a "signal phrase" that includes the author's name. After that phrase, insert in brackets, the page number in the work referred to from which the information is drawn. For example:The reader can then look up Lopez in the works cited list for complete information about the publication for which page 253 is being cited.

If the author is not mentioned in a "signal phrase" the author's name, followed by the page number, must appear in parentheses. Example:

If you are citing an entire work, or one without page numbers (or only one page), write just the author's name in parentheses.

Your bibliography may, of course, contain more than one work by an author. If the text preceding your citation does not specify which work you are referencing, place a comma after the author's name, followed by a shortened version of the title in question (or the entire title if it is short) and the page number. This is typically the first word or two of the title:with the title italicized for a book or within quotation marks for an essay, a poem, or a speech, as appropriate. (In the "Works Cited" or bibliography, three short dashes [––– if word processed; hyphens (---) when typed] are used when the author or authors' name is the same in subsequent works being listed. These in-text parenthetical citations guide the reader to the pertinent entries in the attached list of "Works Cited":

List of works cited

The first page of a "List of Works Cited" is headed "Works Cited", centered in Times New Roman, 12-point font. Entries should be double-spaced, alphabetized, and use a hanging indent of 0.5 inches (beginnings of entries are not indented, but wrapped text is). Dates should be written with the day of the month first, the three letter abbreviation of the month and the year (example: 1 Jan. 2000). The title can either be underlined or italicized. It does not matter which style is chosen, but it should be consistent throughout the page.


Author last name, first name. "Book title". Original publication information (optional). Place of publication: Publisher, Year of publication.

Note that MLA heavily abbreviates publication information. Only the city of publication is typically given, though "The MLA Handbook" advises writers to add abbreviations for foreign cities that may be unfamiliar to the reader. [If the writer wants to include this information, American states are given their postal abbreviations and Canadian provinces are given their two-letter abbreviations; other geographic names are abbreviated according to the list in "Abbreviations" (Gibaldi, 6th ed., Section 7.3).]

If the book had been previously published before the cited version was, you may include that information—either the location, publisher, and year, or just the year. For example, both of the following citations are correct:or

Entry in an encyclopedia or dictionary

Author of entry. "Title of entry." "Title of Reference Book". Edition number (if applicable). Year of publication.If the work is not particularly well-known, ["The MLA Handbook" gives as examples of "familiar reference books" for which the writer should "not give full publication information": "Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary", "Who's Who in America", "The Encyclopedia Americana", "Encyclopædia Britannica", and "The Oxford English Dictionary" (Gibaldi, 6th ed., 161 [Sec. 5.6.8] ). One must, however, still specify which edition one is using.] the writer is advised to add the publication details required in a normal book entry. If it is arranged alphabetically, references to page numbers are not necessary.

Article in a periodical (magazine or journal)

Author last name, first name. "Article title." "Title of periodical" Date of periodical (or, if a consecutively paginated journal, volume number, followed by year in parentheses): Pages.If citing a journal that continues its page numbering from issue to issue within one volume, the issue number is not needed. If the pages start at 1 every issue, or if the writer is not sure, include it.

ound recording

Composer/conductor/performer. "Title of recording". More personnel (optional). Date recorded. Medium (if not CD). Manufacturer, year of issue.The writer may put either the composer, conductor, or performer(s) first, depending on the desired emphasis. The remaining personnel can be added after the recording's title.If citing a specific song, place its name in quotation marks after the performer's name. If the performers vary from song to song on the recording, place that information (if necessary) after the song title. Each individual's role is indicated after his/her name, except for orchestras, which are listed as their own sentence, and composers, who are listed as authors if at the beginning of the citation or "By ___" if after the title.


Author of webpage. "Article Title." "Title of webpage". Date of publication (or date page was last modified). Institution associated with (if not cited earlier). Date of retrieval .


Author's last name, first name. "Article title of printed source." "Periodical title of printed source, or title of printed analogue" Date: inclusive pages. "Title of database". CD-ROM. Name of vendor or computer service. Electronic-publication data or data for access.

Personal interview

Person interviewed last name, first name. Personal interview. Date interviewed.


quotation|Two kinds of notes may be used with parenthetical documentation:
*Content notes offering the reader comment, explanation, or information that the text cannot accommodate
*Bibliographic notes containing either several sources or evaluative comments on sources

In providing this sort of supplementary information, place a superscript arabic numeral at the appropriate place in the text and write the note after a matching numeral either at the end of the text (as an endnote) or at the bottom of the page (as a footnote). See the examples in 6.5.1-2. For more information on using notes for documentation, see appendix B. (Gibaldi, 6th ed., 258)

ee also

* Modern Language Association, publisher of the "MLA Handbook"
* APA style, style format of the American Psychological Association.
* The Chicago Manual of Style, style format required by some book publishers and some disciplines in the Social sciences.
* Harvard referencing
* Comparison of reference management software
* Turabian


Works Cited

*Achtert, Walter S., and Joseph Gibaldi. "The MLA Style Manual". New York: MLA, 1985.
* [ "Book Publications Program: General Information"] . "Modern Language Association". 7 Oct. 2007 .
*Gibaldi, Joseph. "The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers". New York: MLA, 1977. 6th ed. New York: MLA, 2003.
*–––. "The MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing". 2nd ed. New York: MLA, 1998.
* [ "What Is MLA Style?"] "". 29 Apr. 2008. "Modern Language Association". 5 July 2008 . [Includes hyperlinked [ "FAQ"] ("Frequently Asked Questions about the MLA Handbook").]

External links

* [ MLA: Modern Language Association] – Official site of publisher. Menu on home page link ("MLA Style") resolves to "What Is MLA Style?", with hyperlinked synopses and tables of contents for "The MLA Handbook" and "The MLA Style Manual"; includes a link to information "about the differences between the MLA Style Manual and the MLA Handbook". Accessed July 5, 2008.
* [ MLA Formatting and Style Guide] – Unofficial MLA style guide for students from the "OWL" (Online Writing Lab) at Purdue University. Accessed July 5, 2008.
*DOClink| [ "MLA Style (Modern Language Association)": "Citing References"] |95 KiB – Unofficial MLA style guide for students at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Accessed July 5, 2008.

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