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Term paper formatting guide: MLA style

The Modern Language Association Handbook, or MLA Handbook, is widely adopted by universities and colleges as a style guide to all term papers. The book numbers at around 150 pages but maintains simple, consistent requirements and recommendations.

In addition to serving as a regulator in academic consistency, the MLA Style book also assists students with protecting themselves against plagiarism.

The book itself states that plagiarism is the “purposeful or accident uncredited use of source material by other writers.”

In the information age, many students take to use of the internet for research, and often subscribe to a philosophy that is in stark contrast to the MLA style. As any use of source material that is uncredited by the student is considered plagiarism, many students fall into it by accident as they take to copying a portion of a web-page or document online.

The MLA style is also considered the standard for academic papers, and students are often graded against their adherence to the book’s rules.

Style Examples

Much of the MLA Style remains consistent across papers, particularly in the citation style. When quoting a reference in a work, the guide outlines a simple process for doing so properly.

For example, when presenting a book written by John Doe one might write:

“...as this argument was developed by him. (Doe 1984)”

The citation is in parenthesis with the author’s name and page number of the book included.

When citing at the end, in a complete bibliography, it may be more detailed.

For example:

Doe, John. Writing for Mammals. New York: Putnam, 1870. Print.

Wherein, the author’s name is written first, the title of the book is in italics second, followed by publishing information.

Page Formatting

In addition to serving as a style guide for citations, the book represents rules for laying out a term paper. This includes, but is not limited to, the use of a header, page numbering, margin width, paper size, text spacing, author’s name and the accepted use of illustrations or quotes.

Acceptance in Schools

Altogether, the style guide is the standard by which the large majority of United States schools accept term papers.

The style guide has also grown in recent years to include not just rules for citation of printed media, such as books, magazines and newspapers. It now includes rules for citing websites, emails and other modern digital media.

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