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MLA Research Paper Formatting

What is MLA?

Modern Language Association, or MLA, is a format style to credit sources you use to write your paper. In your research paper you will use two different citations for each source:

In-text citations: In-text citations are brief and will appear among the sentences you write in your paper, so your reader knows which paraphrased sentences came from which source. In-text citations are typically written with the author's last name and the page number from where the information was paraphrased. For example: (Brinkley 525). 

Reference citations: Reference citations go in your Works Cited page at the end of your paper. This is the full information, so anyone reading your paper can find the sources that you used. For example: 

Brinkley, Alan. The Unfinished Nation: A Concise History of the American People. 7th ed., McGraw Hill, 2014, p. 525.

Terminology When Searching the Databases

Assignment Guidelines and/or Rubric: What is required in the assignment or how the assignment will be graded. Read these before searching. The assignment guidelines/rubric will tell you what limits to apply and what type of research material you need to use in the assignment. Refer back to the assignment guidelines/rubric frequently. 

Full Text: Allows you to read the complete article 

Peer Reviewed: Finds articles that have gone through a peer review process prior to publication, which indicates quality research. May also be called scholarly articles or refereed articles. 

Publication Date: Allows you to limit a search by date range. Read your assignment guidelines to determine if you need to use this limit. May need to go to the Advanced Search in a database to find this limit. 

Advanced Search: Allows you to add additional limits not found on the Basic Search page

Permalink: A stable link that lets you return to that page. When searching in the databases, look for a permalink to save the page. Saving the link at the top of the page or bookmarking the page will not work, and you could lose your resource(s). 


Cite/Citation: This symbol varies depending on what database you are using. Make sure to choose the correct citation style (e.g. MLA Style, APA Style, Chicago Style) for your assignment. Also, these automatically-generated citations are not necessarily correct. Check it using Polk State Libraries' Citing Sources guide. 

Email: This symbol lets you email the article (does not need to be your school email). Also, depending on the database, sometimes you can specify if you want the automatically-generated citation included with the article. It is a good idea to check your email to make sure you received the article before closing out of the browser. 


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