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Useful formatting hints – How to write a research paper in MLA


An MLA paper isn’t one of those you can just write and format later. It’s a process of writing that you will need to bear in mind from start to finish and for this reason will take a lot longer than other forms of writing. Planning of course plays a huge role in writing an effective MLA paper because of the parenthetical citations that are used throughout the assignment. This is a meticulous style, but one that can be eventually perfected if you practice it over and over.

Formulate a solid writing plan before you start

Knowing where your references will appear will make the writing so much easier when you finally begin. Trying to fill these references in later will be an absolute nightmare. It helps to keep a notepad with you when doing this so that you can associate key research sources with paragraphs. That way, when you write the paragraph, you will know where to place the references for the sources you’ve used.

Parenthetical citations

The feature that defines an MLA paper is parenthetical citations which are in-text references. The sources of these references can be found at the bottom of the page the reader is on. This again shows how important it is for a student to plan the citations associated with the paragraph so that touching up the paper is easier later on.

Read it yourself and over check your referencing

A great way to check yourself is to read the paper as if you were your professor. Go through lots of the references and ask yourself if you are able to find source information easily. If you can, your professor can too and your MLA paper is formatted correctly.

Keep a file of your sources

Consider keeping an electronic or physical (printed out) file of all your sources. Keep them in order and tag them with a paragraph number. This makes for quick referencing if you want to check yourself later or if you are not sure where a reference should go.


This process may sound complicated, but once you’ve completed a few like assignments, it becomes sort of second nature. The planning, writing and checking will go quicker once you grow accustomed to this style; a style that has become very popular in nonfiction books across the western world.

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