Getting acquainted with writing styles: how to write a research paper in MLA format


When you’re writing essays and dissertations at University, it is necessary to follow a set writing style and reference texts according to this format. It is important to get it right, because otherwise you could lose valuable marks – referencing and general formatting will be marked. Accurate referencing ensures that other people’s work is acknowledged correctly in a standard, uniform, and consistent way. Any time you quote or refer to work from a book, journal article, website, film (and other sources) you need to reference this in a certain manner.

One of the first things I’d recommend you do is either borrow from a library, or buy (if you’re going to use this writing style a lot) the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (currently at the time of writing this, it is the seventh edition). This tells you everything you need to know; in easy to follow clearly labelled segments that you can quickly refer to for reference. The handbook is worth looking at for many reasons, as not only does it give you guidance on how to specifically reference, there’s a whole host of advice on writing research papers, compiling your bibliography, conducting research, plagiarism, evaluating sources, formatting and writing drafts. Your academic institution may also have a brief guide in a handbook, or online to follow. Here are some general pointers though related to referencing and works cited:

There are many different types of source that you could have to reference, and it’s impossible to cover them all here. The best thing is to have an MLA handbook by your side as you work, so you can make easy reference to it. There’s guidance in the handbook as to how big your margins should be, the font to use, where to place your page numbers etc.

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