MLA stands for the Modern Language Association, and is the style of research paper writing that is recommended by that same association. It tends to be used within the social sciences as well as religious papers and such. Writing an MLA research paper is no more difficult than writing most other types of research paper, they just have their way of doing things.
There are books out at the moment that tell you the rules about various ways of writing your essays and research papers, and if you look them up you will see there are often updated versions. In order to ensure you are doing it correctly, you should make sure you follow the resources given to you by your professor. They may have their own guide available online, or they may suggest which book you should use. This means that any guidelines you read on here are guidelines you should use unless otherwise instructed.
Put a one inch margin around the top, bottom and side edges of your MLA research paper. It is the standard technique and format for your MLA paper. You should also double space your text. This also includes double spacing your quotes, reference section and notes. This is probably because it is easier to read, and probably because back in the day when essays were submitted on paper they were easier for a professor to mark up to highlight changes needed on a first draft.
Use parenthetical citations and reference them in your “works cited” and/or reference section. When you use parenthetical citations you are doing so to acknowledge direct quotes, indirect quotes and things you may have lifted from other works via paraphrasing or just plain rewriting. There is nothing wrong with quoting/paraphrasing/rewriting so long as you show you have done it. Try to pass it off as your own and you are unlikely to score highly.
The upper right hand corner should show your page numbers. You should also underline the titles of books and other sources. However, it is more common these days to italicize such works, so check with the MLA guide you were given by your professor. Feel free to make comments on the works you cite and reference, and use present tense when you introduce cited material. It is only really if the quote itself it in a past tense that you should use past tense.
The academic definition says plagiarism is a deliberate attempt to pass the work of another person off as your own. You may argue that you could come up with the same ideas and conclusions as other people, but if that is a genuine case then it is not deliberate. If you find an idea in a book and add it into your work, then you need to reference where you found the idea. This is especially true if you have hard data that you are quoting or if you are citing anything at all. Rewriting the works of other people, even just a little, is also called plagiarism.
This happens and can have you removed from your college course or expelled completely. Make sure you acknowledge your citations and references and do not try to rewrite anything at all without citation. If you are worried that you have unintentionally plagiarized, then look through your research and see what bears a striking similarity to your work. If you are very worried then mention it in a note showing where you think you may have done, and when you submit your first draft your professor may come back with some helpful tips.
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