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The Basics of MLA Research Paper Format: What You Should Know

If you’ve written a research paper before, you must have come across the MLA research format at least once. Students who intend to create a career in academia must know what MLA research format is and also how to use it.

The Modern Language Association, known as MLA, is based in the United States. The MLA guideline is used mainly by those in the arts and humanities. The guidelines provided for writers by the association are popularly known as the MLA research paper format. This article guides you on how to format an MLA research paper.

How to format MLA paper like a distinction student

Like every other writing style, MLA has its way of formatting research papers. Here are some things to pay attention to when writing a paper in the MLA Style:

  1. Heading

Knowing how to head a MLA paper is essential because the heading is the first thing seen in the work. The heading of an MLA paper must include the writer’s name and the lecturer or supervisor’s name. The course title and course number, then follow these.

The last thing is the due date of submission. After these things have been written, add the paper’s title. The title must be centralized, and the title case must also be used.

  1. Work cited

The work cited section of an MLA paper includes all the referenced works in the paper. MLA citing in paper should only involve works that have been referenced. MLA citation in paper writing must also be done alphabetically.

The title “works cited” should be centralized, and a single enter space should be left before the MLA referencing. For references that go beyond one line, a hanging indentation should be used for the other lines apart from the first. Some online software can help you sort your works cited accurately.

  1. Headings and subheads

Headings and subheadings are not compulsory in an MLA paper. However, having one can help you structure your MLA paper outline well. MLA heading should be done in the title case and aligned to the left. Ensure that you use standard font size and style for your headings and subheadings is advisable and ensure that the MLA paper headings don’t end with a full stop.

  1. Tables and figures

Tables and other materials generally referred to as figures, should be as close to the relevant and associated texts as possible. Tables are usually numbered, labeled, and followed by a descriptive caption that states the source of the table. The table’s title and label should appear above the table on different lines.

The title and number must appear in bold. Any information or explanation about the table comes after the table. The text in the table should be double-line-spaced and follow the usual format. Usually, ‘figure’ is abbreviated to “fig.”

  1. Referencing

For in-text citations, the writer’s last name should be followed by the page number. These are usually enclosed in brackets except when the author’s name begins the quotation. The author’s surname also comes before the writer’s name when citing in an MLA paper. Every in-text citation has to appear on the work cited page.

This is followed by the book’s title or article (which should be enclosed in quotation marks) in the journal. The publisher or title of the journal is then stated. The place of publication − if applicable − the year of publication, and the page numbers are also included. If it is the title of a book, it should be written in italics.

The title of the journal should be italicized. After the publisher’s name, the next thing that should follow is the name of the place where the book was written. The last thing to include is the year. For a journal, the title of the journal should be followed by the volume number and pages.

  1. Font

The acceptable font for an MLA paper is Times New Roman, size 12. The paper is expected to be double-spaced to make it legible for reading.

How to write MLA paper

In writing an MLA paper, Times New Roman is the only acceptable font. The font size should be 12 inches, and the margin should be one inch on each border. The text should be double-line spaced, and all paragraphs should be indented by 1 and 1/2 inches.

Using the tab key rather than the spacebar to indent paragraphs is advisable. The MLA guideline can be downloaded online.


Everything in an MLA paper, from the heading to the conclusion, is essential. It is important to understand and follow the guidelines strictly when writing the paper. An MLA research paper outline can help you eliminate errors in time. Not adhering to the instructions in the guidelines could cost you marks; therefore, accuracy is needed.

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