This handout provides examples and description about writing papers in literature. It discusses research topics, how to begin to research, how to use information, and formatting.
Contributors:Mark Dollar, Purdue OWL
Last Edited: 2017-10-25 10:18:45
What about MLA format?
All research papers on literature use MLA format, as it is the universal citation method for the field of literary studies. Whenever you use a primary or secondary source, whether you are quoting or paraphrasing, you will make parenthetical citations in the MLA format [Ex. (Smith 67).] Your Works Cited list will be the last page of your essay. Consult the OWL handout on MLA for further instructions.
Note, however, the following minor things about MLA format:
- Titles of books, plays, or works published singularly (not anthologized) should be italicised unless it is a handwritten document, in which case underlining is acceptable. (Ex. Hamlet, Great Expectations)
- Titles of poems, short stories, or works published in an anthology will have quotation marks around them. (Ex. "Ode to a Nightingale," "The Cask of Amontillado")
- All pages in your essay should have your last name the page number in the top right hand corner. (Ex. Jones 12)
If you're using Microsoft Word, you can easily include your name and page number on each page by following the these steps:
- Open "View" (on the top menu).
- Open "Header and Footer." (A box will appear at the top of the page you're on. And a "Header and Footer" menu box will also appear).
- Click on the "align right" button at the top of the screen. (If you're not sure which button it is, hold the mouse over the buttons and a small window should pop up telling you which button you're on.)
- Type in your last name and a space.
- Click on the "#" button which is located on the "Header and Footer" menu box. It will insert the appropriate page number.
- Click "Close" on the "Header and Footer" window.
That's all you need to do. Word will automatically insert your name and the page number on every page of your document.
What else should I remember?
- Don't leave a quote or paraphrase by itself-you must introduce it, explain it, and show how it relates to your thesis.
- Block format all quotations of more than four lines.
- When you quote brief passages of poetry, line and stanza divisions are shown as a slash (Ex. "Roses are red, / Violets are blue / You love me / And I like you").
- For more help, see the OWL handout on using quotes.
MLA Paper Formatting & Style Guidelines
Your teacher may want you to format your paper using MLA guidelines. If you were told to create your citations in MLA format, your paper should be formatted using the MLA guidelines as well. The following guidelines are from the MLA Handbook, 7th edition.
Looking for a MLA 8 guide on formatting a paper? Click Here.
- Use white 8 ½ x 11” paper.
- Make 1 inch margins on the top, bottom, and sides
- The first word in every paragraph should be indented one half inch.
- Indent set-off quotations one inch from the left margin
- Use any type of font that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman. Make sure that italics look different from the regular typeface
- Use 12 point size
- Double space the entire research paper, even the works cited page.
- Leave one space after periods and other punctuation marks, unless your instructor tells you to make two spaces.
- You can either create a title page using EasyBib’s Title Page creator or omit the title page completely and use a header.
To create a header, follow these steps:
- Begin one inch from the top of the first page and flush with the left margin.
- Type your name, your instructor’s name, the course number, and the date on separate lines, using double spaces between each.
- Double space once more and center the title. Do NOT underline, bold, or type the title in all capital letters. Only italicize words that would normally be italicized in the text. Example: Character Development in The Great Gatsby
- Do not place a period after the title or after any headings
- Double space between the title and first lines of the text.
- Page numbers
- Placed in the upper right-hand corner, one half inch from the top, flush with the right margin.
- Type your last name before the page number. (To make this process easier, set your word processor to automatically add the last name and page number to each page).
- Do not place p. before the page number.
- Many instructors do not want a page number on the first page. Ask your instructor for their specific preferences.
- Tables and illustrations
- should be placed as close as possible to the text that they most closely refer to.
- Label tables with: Table, give it an arabic numeral, and title it.
- This information should be located above the table, flush left, on separate lines.
- Format the title the same way as the title of the paper.
- Underneath the table, provide the source and any notes. Notes should be labeled with a letter, rather than a numeral, so the reader is able to differentiate between the notes of the text and the notes of the table.
- Use double spacing throughout.
- Label illustrations with: Fig. (short for figure), assign an arabic number, and provide a caption.
- The label and caption should appear underneath the illustration.
**If the table or illustration’s caption gives complete information about the source and the source isn’t cited in the text, there is no need to include the citation in the works cited page.
- Label musical scores with: Ex. (short for Example), assign it an Arabic numeral, and provide a caption.
- The label and caption should appear below the musical illustration.
Use of Numerals
MLA 7th edition recommends that numbers are spelled out if the number can be written with one or two words. For larger numbers, write the number itself.
If the project calls for frequent use of numbers (such as a scientific study or statistics), use numerals that precede measurements.
Other items to keep in mind:
- Do not start sentences with a numeral, spell out the number.
- Always use numerals before abbreviations or symbols, ex. 6 lbs.
- In divisions, use numbers, ex: In page 5 of the study