An Example Of An Essay In Mla Format

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If you’ve been wondering how to produce a research paper that is strong in both formatting and writing, you’ve come to the right place. The example research paper below is one that I wrote in college in one of the most inspiring courses I ever took as a literature majorInklings. The Inklings were a group of writers in England before WWII, including C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

The abbreviated MLA paper below (linked here without annotations) is about J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and how the author used myth, story, and song to link all of his works together. Tolkien is famous for creating a fantasy universe called Middle-earth, which readers can’t truly understand until they read all of the books about Middle-earth (The Silmarillian, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings).

Since we’re here to learn how to format an essay, I’ve pointed out some important things about the paper to help you write a correctly formatted essay.

For starters, the essay is in MLA format. That means it follows the style manual of the Modern Language Association, which tells you how to format the paper itself and every source you cite. You’ll also see notes like how long a paragraph should be, how to use commas properly, and how to correctly punctuate a title.

Pay special attention to the works cited page. I only used one type of source (books), but both citations are correct according to the 8th edition of MLA, published in 2016. When you’re writing your own paper, you need to make sure you always use the most recent edition of the style manual. Whether you need MLA, APA, or Chicago style, look up the latest edition before turning in a paper.

In the end, I hope this essay and my notes help you write stronger papers. Although I’ve cut out some of my analysis to make it fit into a smaller space, the main idea of the essay is intact. Follow my notes closely to produce polished and high-scoring papers. You can use this model to write essays for any class using MLA format.


Get a copy for yourself! Download the PDF version here.

Starting to cite your sources? Try our citation tools in MLA 7 & 8 linked here. Need more information on MLA 8? Find more citation guides linked here.


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Regardless of the arena you are writing for, it is generally agreed upon in all academic and sciencific fields that when you borrow someone’s work in your own paper, you should credit the work properly to the original author.

MLA Format: Popular and Simple

The MLA format is one of the most popular and simplest forms used to attribute information. This particular style is the one most schools have adopted and accepted. It is also the acceptable format for writing research papers on literature. This format is used by nearly 1,100 scholarly journals, newsletters, and magazines as well.

General MLA Formatting: Page Setup

In order to adhere to MLA requirements, you will need to make several tweaks to your initial page setup.

Set the Margins

Set the top and bottom margins at one inch and the left and right margins at one inch.

Insert a Header

The MLA-formatted paper requires a header. Here's the format:

                                                                                LastName

                                                                               Blank Line

                                                                               Blank Line

                                                                           Page Number

Make sure that you know the specific requirements of your paper when setting page numbers because sometime a number is not required on the first page.

Line Spacing

Set line spacing to double space.

Other General Formatting Requirements

  • While MLA formatting is not as strict as some other citation styles, MLA does require that you use a legible font and keep the font a certain size.
  • Before you begin to write your paper, make sure you intend to use a uniform heading plan throughout the whole of your document.

Example:

If you decide to label the first part of your paper “Heading 1” each subsequent heading must be labeled accordingly in sequential order.

All subheadings must also adhere to the same rule. In other words if you want to sub-head heading one like 1.1 and 1.2 and so on, each subsequent heading and subheading must follow the same format.

In-Text Citations in MLA Format

Like all other style formatting guidelines, MLA requires the use of in text citations for work that is paraphrased or quoted within a paper in order to attribute the work.

Text citations, or paranthetical citations as they are better known, must be presented in a certain format depending on how the information is used.

To directly quote another author in your paper your parenthetical citation would appear in one of the following ways:

AuthorName stated the fact that "insert very interesting fact" (202).

My paper includes "this very interesting quote" (Author 202).

AuthorName extensively explored the concept of this very interesting idea (202).

As shown above, each in-text citation must include both the author's name as well as the page number where the information in the sentence can be located.

MLA Format Examples

Different rules apply for citing different resources under the MLA.

For example, look at some of these examples below to see how the citation and the Works Cited reference should change based on each unique situation.

Author Is Known

My paper is improved by Johnson's Name's description of the idea as "very interesting" (202)

My paper has been described as "very interesting" (Johnson 202)

My paper has been described by Johnson as "very interesting" (202)

Human beings have been described as "symbol-using animals" (Johnson 3)

The information in these examples will correspond to an entry in the Works Cited section at the end of the paper formatted as follows:

Johnson, FirstName. Name of Book. City: Publisher, Year. Print.

No Known Author (Cite the article name and page number)

I am making my paper more interesting by including this referenced idea that "the sky is blue..." ("Article on Blue Skys" 8)

The information in this example will correspond to an entry in the Works Cited section at the end of the paper formatted as follows:

"Article on Blue Skys." Name of Magazine. Month, Year. Print.

Authors with the Same Last Name (Use the first name initial)

Although some believe this interesting fact (A. Author 202), others note that something else may be true (B. Author, 203)

The information in this example will correspond to an entry in the Works Cited section at the end of the paper formatted as follows:

Author, A. Name of Book. City: Publisher, Year. Print.

Author, B. Name of Book. City: Publisher, Year. Print.

Works by Multiple Authors

If three or less authors, mention all three in the parenthetical citation.

If more that three authors, mention all the first time and for each subsequent appearance use the last name of the first listed author followed by the abbreviation et al.

For example:

Author, Writer, and Doe argue that this concept is quite interesting (202).

The authors state "this concept is quite interesting" (Author, writer, and Doe 76).

The information in these examples will correspond to an entry in the Works Cited section at the end of the paper formatted as follows:

Author Last Name, Author First Name. Name of Book. City: Publisher, Year. Print.

Writer Last Name, Writer First Name. Name of Book. City: Publisher, Year. Print.

Doe, Doe's First Name. Name of Book. City: Publisher, Year. Print.

Electronic Sources

The name of the author should be cited in-text if known. If not known, the name of the article can be cited.

For example:

The easiest way to prepare the ground for planting is to add a rich soil conditioner (AuthorLastName, "Name of Article").

The information in this example will correspond to an entry in the Works Cited section at the end of the paper formatted as follows:

AuthorLastName, AuthorFirstName. "Name of Article," Name of Website. URL. Website.

Works Cited

As the final page for your research paper, you will need to create a works cited page. This page should contain all the specific information regarding the whereabouts of the specific information that was cited in parenthetical citations throughout your paper. All citations should be left justified.

For instance, for the quote for Johnson in the "Author Is Known" section above, the entry on your Works Cited page would look like this:

Johnson, First name. Title. Country: Name of publisher, Date. Print

The Works Cited page must be listed in alphabetical order and double spaced just the same as the rest of the paper. 

Do you have a good example to share? Add your example here.

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MLA Format Examples

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Regardless of the arena you are writing for, it is generally agreed upon in all academic and sciencific fields that when you borrow someone’s work in your own paper, you should credit the work properly to the original author.

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