So why do we use citation styles?
Citation styles are essential in helping your readers approach your paper and understand your argument.
They also give your readers all the information they need to find and verify your sources.
Finally, citation styles indicate that you are a scholar in your field, and they emphasize the questions and concerns that are most important for your field.
In short, citation styles let your readers know what to expect before they even start reading your paper, and then help your readers to follow your argument.
Let’s begin with general format.
This is a sample first page of an MLA style paper written by a student.
You will notice that it is double spaced and written in Times News Roman font, size 12.
The entire paper also has 1 inch margins.
On the first page, you will see a header, the start of numbered pages, and a title.
Also notice that each paragraph is indented.
The Works Cited page is the last page of your MLA style paper.
It should start on a separate page (still numbered).
Notice that each source you cite is indicated on a separate line and reverse indented.
Sources are ordered alphabetically according to the author’s last name.
Now that you understand the General Format of an MLA style paper, let’s talk about how to format individual citations.
Whenever you refer to a source, MLA requires two things.
First, you need an in-text citation directly after where you refer to the source in your paper.
And second, you need a full citation for the source in the Works Cited page.
Remember that every in-text citation must have a full citation, and vice versa – it is a big error and a sign of sloppy writing when you cite things in the text without including them in your Works Cited page.
Here are three sample sentences from a student’s paper about William Wordsworth and Romantic poetry.
Each of these sentences refers to a source written by Wordsworth, and each needs an in-text citation with his last name and the page number from the source.
The first sentence is a direct quote from Wordsworth and obviously needs to be cited. Since Wordsworth’s name is already in the sentence, you simply need to add the page number with parentheses at the end.
In a sentence that does not include his last name, you must add it before the page number.
The last sentence is not a direct quote, but rather a paraphrase – putting a quote in your own words. Remember that these need to be cited as well.
Let’s move on to full citations.
Here is what the full citation in your Works Cited page should look like for the Wordsworth source.
In this case, the source is a printed book.
The citation starts with Wordsworth’s last name and first name.
Then you include the title of the book, capitalized and in italics.
Next comes the city of publication, the publisher, and the year of publication.
Finally, you need to indicate the medium of the source – in this case, print.
Also pay close attention to all the punctuation in this citation – you will need to recreate this exactly in your own Works Cited page.