The term ‘research’ itself denotes the idea of new and fresh ideas and innovative insights into already known or familiar facts. However, putting these unique findings into appropriate words through correct expressions is not an easy task.
Apart from that, in order to present a neatly structured paper on a specific topic, the researcher has to maintain certain formats and rules. The MLA format (MLA stands for Modern Language Association) is such a formatting accepted in the field of research papers and scholarly articles.
If you are currently pursuing an academic program that requires the presentation of a research article, then it is high time that you get acquainted with the MLA research paper outline in detail. The basic guidelines about this format are available online in more than a few websites. But, understanding the major features of this format is essential so that you do not face any problem at the time of composing your paper.
Knowing the basics of the MLA research paper outline now will make it easier for you to frame the paper effortlessly and you will not need to refer back to the format outlines time and again while writing.
MLA format: basic ideas and purpose
As according to the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th edition), this format “specifies guidelines for formatting manuscripts and using the English language in writing.” In addition to that, the MLA research paper outline provides information for the writers on how to mention the names of the books, articles etc used as the source for composing the paper. Apart from maintaining a legible and well-structured format for writing, this style provides the writers with the opportunity of freeing themselves from the accusations of plagiarism.
The MLA format is specifically used in order to verify the authenticity of the piece of writing and most of the researchers choose it to prove the originality of their articles and to show clearly the source of their ideas and concepts.
Formatting the paper: the initial step
The fourth chapter of the Handbook discusses at length about the basic rules and regulations of formatting a paper according to the MLA style. If you are going to follow the MLA research paper outline, you are required to maintain the things mentioned below in your paper:
- In Microsoft Office Word, select a paper of the size of 8.5”´11” (the LETTER category)
- Make sure the paper has a margin of 1 inch on all the four sides
- The MLA research paper outline does not specify the font name; however, it is advised to use a font in which the normal letters and the italicized letters can be clearly differentiated (such as Times New Roman)
- The font size should be 12 pt
- There should be double space between each word; before the punctuation marks, however, there should be only one space
- The first line of each paragraph should be indented one and a half inches from the margin; in order to do that, the writers are advised to make use of the tab key instead of the spacebar key
- All the pages should be given headers as the page numbers; however, the writers may follow the instructions provided by the professors or the research guides
- Names of the books should be always written in italicized form; in cases where some special emphasis is required for some words which are not the names of books, italics can be used
- For the endnotes, the writers are advised to frame a separate page titled “Notes” and this page needs to come before the “Works Cited” page
The title page of your paper
The MLA research paper outline does not require the writer to compose a separate title page unless it is the instructor of the research guide. Details like the title of the paper, the name of the researcher, his/her designation, the name of the guide, the name of the institute where the research is taking place etc are written on the very first paper of the article itself. While writing them, you need to maintain the following rules:
- Details like the name of the researcher, the guide, the course, and the date should be typed in the upper left corner of the paper with maintaining the double-spacing rule mentioned earlier
- The title should be centralized and should be written in regular fonts without adding any specification like italics, underline, enlarged font size, bold, changed font style, capital letters, or quotation marks
- In case the writer is mentioning the name of any particular book or work, then only italics or quotation marks can be used, such asA Postcolonial Critique of The Tempest or Analyzing Ted Hugh’s “Hawk Roosting”
- There should be double space between the first line of the article and the title
- While giving the header, the surname of the writer should be followed by Arabic numeric values representing the page numbers
The citation rules
As said earlier, the MLA research paper outline is unique for the fact that it provides specific guidelines on the topic of how to state the names of the sources. The citation process in the MLA style is known to be the parenthetical citation in which the details related to the sources are presented in parentheses following a quote or a paraphrase. The particulars on the source are dependent on the following things:
- The medium through which the information has been taken or retrieved (e.g. book, journal, web page etc)
- The entry of the source in the Works Cited or the Bibliography page
While making any in-text citation and mentioning them in the Works Cited page, it should be carefully remembered that a correspondence is required to be maintained between the two so that the reader would not get confused. The guidelines to be followed at the time of citation according to the MLA format are discussed below:
- At the time of in-text citation, the last name of the author and the page number from where the quotation has been taken come immediately after the quotation within first brackets () and the details of the source should be mentioned in the Works Cited Page
- In case of long quotations, start a new line and indent the line 1 inch from the already set margin of your page
- The word “Print” should appear following the publication date of the work in the Works Cited page
- In case you have already given the name of the author in your text then you are not required to use the last name of the author in the parenthetical citation and mentioning only the page number will be sufficient
- The abbreviations to be followed for specifying the sources will be:
- Volume- vol.
- Book- bk.
- Part- pt.
- Chapter- ch.
- Section- sec.
- Paragraph- par.
- If you are simultaneously citing the works of two author having the same surnames, you need to use their first initials while citing.
- If you are citing from different volumes of the same work, make sure you are including the volume number before the page number in the parenthetical citation.
- If you are citing from the Bible, make sure you are specifying from which version you are quoting as in each version the translation differs from the other; mention the name of the version in italics and then write the book name, chapter and verse number subsequently.
- If you are quoting a quotation from your source and the source of that quotation is not declared clearly, write “qtd. in” before your regular parenthetical citation
- In case you are using sources retrieved from the internet, the following rules are required to be followed:
- Page number or paragraph number are not needed to be provided
- Only the domain names and not the complete URLs are to be used in the in-text citation; the complete URLs are to be used in the Works Cited page
- In the Works Cited page, while mentioning the online sources, the date of retrieving the information should be mentioned following the word “Web”.
- The order of mentioning the names of the author(s), articles, books/journals/web pages etc is as follows:
- The name of the author(s) comes first, beginning with the last names.
- The name of the work comes next in italics, separated from the author’s name by a full stop (.)
- In case citing an anthology or collection, mention the name of the editor(s) after that, beginning with “Ed.”
- While naming the editors, the general rule of writing names, i.e. name first and then surname, should be followed.
- In case you are citing an article from a journal or newspaper, write the name of the article within quotation marks after the name of the author and then write the name of the journal or paper in italics, followed by the date of its publication.
- Mention the name of the publisher next.
- Mention the publishing year; in case of a web article, mention the retrieving date.
- Write “Print” for a source available in paper format and “Web” for a source available online.
- Auden, W.H. Collected Poems. Faber & Faber. 1971. Print
- Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. The Arden Shakespeare. Second edition. Ed. Frank Kermode. Methuen Drama. 1961. Print
- ‘Postcolonialism’. Wikipedia. Web. 2nd May 2015
In addition to the formatting of the paper, the MLA research paper outline also provides some advice on how to frame your article. Here are those guidelines:
- The thesis statement, i.e. what the paper wishes to prove/address/define etc, should be mentioned in the last line of the introductory paragraph
- In case of a lengthy paper, the second paragraph should be attributed to the details of how the paper is organized thematically
- Four types of headings are followed in the MLA style, namely A,B, C, and D; the details should be checked before writing
- In case there is an error in the grammar or the sentence construction in the lines you are quoting, use the word “sic.” within third brackets  following the quotation instead of correcting it
- Each paragraph in the body of your paper should include these elements:
- Topic sentence
- A brief wrap-up sentence
- Sum up the things you have been discussing in the conclusion section.
These are all you need to follow while typing a research paper in the MLA research paper outline. To ensure that you are following the appropriate format, get a copy of the MLA Handbook now and start typing with assurance.