MLA Formatting Guide

This MLA guide comes from Senior School teacher Mr Cheney. It was adapted from the Purdue Online Writing Lab MLA Guide.

Reading the World
MLA: Paper Format and Citation

Paper Format

Your research papers should be formatted using the Modern Language Association (MLA) style. There are several styles used in academia in the U.K. and the U.S., and the MLA is one of the most common (particularly in Liberal Arts and Humanities). Correctly formatting a document in accordance with these guidelines demonstrates to your teacher that you care about your work and how you present yourself. Failure to follow these guidelines tells the teacher that you aren’t attentive to detail and ignore standards: neither of these gives a teacher a good impression of you.

Below you’ll find a sample page formatted in MLA standard. Study it to understand the basic principles (name, class, page #s, date, title, spacing, etc). Then, for complete details of how to format your paper, please see Purdue University’s website, from which these materials are adapted: .


A good student will always cite (reference) the sources she is working with in a research paper. Whether this source is a journal article, a website, a book, or a film, the student must clearly acknowledge the debt they have to the ideas, facts, or quotations she has taken from this source. There are several different ways of citing, or acknowledging sources. These guidelines apply to the MLA (when you go to university you may be asked to use MLA or another set of guidelines).

The MLA format calls for parenthetical citation. This means that you include information about the source inside a set of parenthesis. What information is included within these parentheses varies depending on the type of source. Here, we’ll review some of the basics, but for complete details on how to reference different kinds of sources (web, books, DVDs, etc) see the following link: .

The point of an in-text citation is to make clear to the reader what you are borrowing from each source. If you were writing about Wordsworth for example, and wanted to use a quote from him you’d write the following:

Wordsworth stated that Romantic poetry was marked by a “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” (263).

Here, we know who the author is (Wordsworth), and we know exactly which words are his (those contained within quotations marks) and we know the page number for where this quote can be found in the original book (p. 263). The reason for giving this kind of detail is simple. Let’s say you are reading this student’s essay and say “wow – that’s an interesting way of describing poetry: I want to know more!” You can go to the Works Cited (more on this in a moment), find the book by Wordsworth, and then go straight to the page where he wrote these words.

But there are other ways of citing the same information:

Romantic poetry is characterized by the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” (Wordsworth 263).

Here, you use a quotation in the sentence and only tell us the author (Wordsworth) in the parenthetical citation. Both are perfectly fine—but do notice that we encounter the information slightly differently in each case (the first seems interested in the fact that Wordsworth said this, the second wants to establish a more broad definition where discussing Wordsworth himself isn’t as important). But, either way, the source of information is clear.

Works Cited

At the end of a research paper, you must list all of the sources you referenced in your paper. This is called a “Works Cited” (it is also known as a Bibliography; but in MLA format we say “Works Cited”). You must list every source that you use in your paper—all of your in-text citations should correspond to a source in your Works Cited.

Basic Rules:

  • Your Works Cited must begin on its own page at the end of your essay. Label the page Works Cited (no italics, bold, or quotations marks), centred.
  • Double space the list, but do not include extra spaces between sources.
  • List works by author’s last name, in alphabetical order, like this:

Asimov, Isaac
Clement, Hal
Rowling, J.K.


For each different kind of source (book, journal, website, DVD, interview, etc) you will use a slightly different format. Here, we’ll review the proper formatting of the two major sources you’ll use: journal articles and books.

For a journal (periodical), list the article’s author,  putting the title of the article in quotations marks, and italicizing the periodical title. Follow with the date of publication. Remember to abbreviate the month. Here’s the format:

Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Periodical Day
Month Year: pages. Medium of publication.

Poniewozik, James. “TV Makes a Too-Close Call.” Time 20
Nov. 2000: 70-71. Print.

For a book, the basic form for the citation is:

Lastname, Firstname. Title of Book. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. Medium of Publication.

Gleick, James. Chaos: Making a New Science. New York: Penguin, 1987.Print.

For a complete list of the major types of sources you may encounter (books with multiple authors, films, etc), please see the links below:

Works Cited/ Books:

Works Cited/ Periodicals:

Works Cited/ Electronic Sources:

(This document adapted from Purdue University’s guidelines for student use of MLA format:

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