Guide on How to Cite a Research Paper Using MLA Format: Best Tips

cite research paper
Table of Contents

Understanding What is MLA Formatting

If you are a high school or college student, there will be a time when you find yourself in an ambiguous situation on how to cite a research paper in MLA. There are various formatting styles, but the most commonly used are the MLA, APA, and Chicago styles. In the article, our writers will teach you how to cite a research paper using MLA format correctly.

Created by college educators in the late 1800s, the MLA format was intended to encourage American students to study modern languages as classical languages were becoming less popular. Thus, they developed the format for MLA citing in research paper to determine if it would successfully promote learning modern languages.

In a nutshell, MLA is the formatting style of the Modern Language Association used in areas such as English studies, comparative literature, foreign language, and literature or cultural studies. This academic style guides extensively used in the United States, Canada, and other countries.

Research Paper in MLA Format

So, how to format a research paper in MLA style? There are four key components that a research paper in MLA format includes.


Except for the running head, page margins should be precisely 1 inch on both sides of the text as well as on top and bottom.

Text Formatting

When writing a research paper or another academic assignment, it is recommended to use Times New Roman typeface as it is easily readable. Set the standard size, which is usually 12 points.

Change the line spacing from single to double-spaced. That makes reading less crammed on the eye and allows the professor to make essential comments in a neat and organized manner. Also, make sure to indent the first line of a paragraph ½ inch from the left margin.


Enter the required course information on the top-left corner of the front page. The MLA format research paper title page should look like this:

Guide on How to Cite a Research Paper
  • Full Name
  • Name of Teacher/Professor
  • Name of Course
  • Due Date for Assignment

Type your title below the date after double spacing and align it centered with no period at the end. You shouldn't make your title bold, italicized, or underlined. There is only one exception from the rule: use italics if the title of another source is included in yours. Make sure you follow the capitalization rules. Check if it's correct in MLA Handbook (67–68).

The MLA title for an MLA format research paper looks like this:

Sarah E. Johnson

Professor Lumpur

Biology 201

2 Apr 2019

How Does Human Memory Work?

Page Numbers

If you wonder how do you cite a page number in research paper in MLA format, consider setting the automatic page numbering in the top right-hand corner. That is done to keep track of the page order, and it also looks pleasing to the eye. Leave a margin of ½ inch from the top and flush with the right margin.

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How to Cite a Research Paper with In-Text Citations

In-text citations are often subordinate, meaning that information is always added to the end of the sentence in parentheses. But if you include that necessary information in the language of the sentence itself, you should not include the parenthetical citation.

For example, if the author's name is found within the in-text citation, there is no need to add it at the end; insert the page number, and you are all done referencing.

Having two sources from the same author may confuse the reader. When they check the source, they will find two different articles. To avoid this confusion, you must include a short title of the research citation, so the readers know which citations to look for.

You should include all authors' last names when a source has two or three authors. Whereas, when you have four or more authors, then you have to write them all out following the last name of the first Author.

When citing a research paper in MLA style, include references within two sections:

  • The quotes used within the essay
  • The Works Cited page at the end

To further enhance your understanding of citation practices, consider exploring our detailed article on research paper citation.


The citation information in the body of the paper itself is called the 'in-text citation.' The most obvious time to use it in the text is when you use a quote from a source directly or refer to it by title or author.

Generally, you must list the writer's last name and page number enclosed within parentheses straight after the quote. If the author's name is included as a feature of your sentence, you only have to add the page number in the bracket.

Example: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference" (Frost 1).

Kenneth Burke has described human beings as "symbol-using animals" (3).

As you can see, Burke's name was included in the sentence, so there is no need for repetition in the citation.

The Works Cited page

References: When providing references in a research paper in MLA style, you must inform the readers about the sources you used to cite this information. The reference page is known as the 'Works Cited.' This page is where the author gives credit to the source. Things that are placed within a citation include alphabetical order of the author's last name, the title of the article, and the publication date.

  • Follow this format exactly: Author(s)-> 'Title of Article.' ->Title of Journal Volume.->Issue (Year): pages
  • Electronic Sources. For electronic sources, utilize the inventor's name, page number, or area number for in-substance references. This is only if the information does not have page or section numbers by any method. By then, you would include the author's name in the section after you have referred to the recorded information.

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mla example

Research Paper MLA Format Example

Effects of Climate Change
Effects of Climate Change
Impact of Social Media
Impact of Social Media

Also, for a better understanding of essay writing formats, we recommend that you read about the APA essay format and the difference between APA and MLA.

How to Format a Research Paper in MLA?

Formatting a research paper in MLA (Modern Language Association) style involves several key elements. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you:

MLA Formatting Table
Margins and Font
  • Use 1-inch margins on all sides.
  • Use a legible font like Times New Roman in size 12.
Title Page (if required)
  • MLA typically doesn't require a separate title page unless specified by your instructor.
  • If a title page is needed, include your name, instructor's name, course title, and date, centered on the page.
  • Include your last name and page number in the header, aligned to the right margin.
  • The page number should be preceded by your last name, separated by a space.
  • For example: "Smith 1".
  • Center the title of your paper.
  • It should be informative and concise, avoiding unnecessary words.
  • Do not italicize, underline, or put it in quotation marks unless it includes the title of another text.
Text Formatting
  • Double-space the entire paper, including the title and block quotations.
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph by half an inch.
  • Use one space after periods or other punctuation marks unless your instructor advises otherwise.
In-Text Citations
  • Use parenthetical citations within the text whenever you quote, paraphrase, or refer to information from a source.
  • Include the author's last name and the page number(s) from which the information is taken. If the author's name is mentioned in the sentence, only include the page number(s) in parentheses.
  • If there is no known author, use a shortened version of the title instead.
  • For online sources, include the author's name (if available) or the title of the source and the paragraph number (if applicable).
Works Cited Page
  • List all the sources you referenced in your paper on a separate page titled "Works Cited."
  • Arrange entries alphabetically by the author's last name (or title if there is no author).
  • Use a hanging indent for each entry: the first line is flush with the left margin, and subsequent lines are indented half an inch.
Annotations (if required)
  • Include all necessary information for each source type (book, article, website, etc.), following the MLA format guidelines.
  • If your instructor requires annotations, provide a brief summary and evaluation of each source listed in your Works Cited page.
Proofread and Review
  • Before submitting your paper, carefully proofread it for grammar, punctuation, and formatting errors.
  • Ensure that all in-text citations and the Works Cited page are correctly formatted according to MLA guidelines.

How to Set up MLA in Google Docs

Setting up MLA formatting in Google Docs involves adjusting the document settings to meet MLA style guidelines. Here's a step-by-step guide:

MLA Formatting Guide
Page Setup
  • Open your Google Docs document.
  • Click on "File" in the menu bar, then select "Page setup."
  • Set the margins to 1 inch on all sides.
Font and Spacing
  • MLA recommends using a legible font like Times New Roman in size 12.
  • Double-space the entire document.
  • You can do this by selecting all the text (Ctrl + A or Cmd + A) and clicking on the line spacing icon in the toolbar, then selecting "Double."
  • Click on "Insert" in the menu bar, then select "Header & page number" > "Header."
  • Type your last name followed by a space.
  • Click on the "Insert" tab again, then select "Page number" > "Current page" > "Plain number."
  • This will insert the page number aligned to the right margin.
  • Center-align your title at the top of the first page.
  • Simply select the text and click on the center alignment icon in the toolbar.
Paragraph Indentation
  • MLA style requires the first line of each paragraph to be indented by 0.5 inches.
  • You can set this indentation by clicking on "Format" in the menu bar, then selecting "Paragraph."
  • In the "Indentation" section, change the left indentation to 0.5 inches.
In-Text Citations
  • When adding in-text citations, follow MLA guidelines for formatting.
  • Include the author's last name and the page number(s) for direct quotes or paraphrased information within parentheses.
Works Cited Page
  • Create a separate page titled "Works Cited" for listing your sources.
  • Use hanging indentation for each entry, where the first line is flush with the left margin and subsequent lines are indented 0.5 inches.
  • Alphabetize your sources based on the author's last name (or title if no author is available).
Annotations (if required)
  • Include them below each entry on the Works Cited page.

Crafting an MLA citation in a research paper is a time-consuming endeavor. Feel free to leave it to our essay writing company. Just send us your request, and we will solve your formatting problems swiftly and efficiently!


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Daniel Parker

Daniel Parker

is a seasoned educational writer focusing on scholarship guidance, research papers, and various forms of academic essays including reflective and narrative essays. His expertise also extends to detailed case studies. A scholar with a background in English Literature and Education, Daniel’s work on EssayPro blog aims to support students in achieving academic excellence and securing scholarships. His hobbies include reading classic literature and participating in academic forums.

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