The Modern Language Association, founded in 1883, promotes the use of proper English in academic and other contexts. The organization has developed a standard set of guidelines for formatting research papers and scholarly presentations. MLA style guidelines keep papers clear, concise and easy to navigate. Students, professors, researchers and editors in universities, colleges and high schools around the world, as well as journals and other academic institutions, rely on MLA style.
A research paper’s header appears at the rightmost side of the first line of each page of the paper. It consists of your last name and the page number, with a space separating them. Use the right alignment tool in your word processing software to justify the text to the right margin. Most word processors allow you to select a page number option that automatically adjusts the number of each page. This feature saves you the trouble of retyping your name and the page number multiple times.
Return to the body of the text to add a heading. Unlike the header, the heading appears only on the first page of your research paper. The heading tells the reader who is writing the paper, along with information on the class for which it was assigned. Justify the heading to the left margin. In MLA format, the heading should begin with your name at the top, followed by your teacher or professor’s name, the class title and the date the paper was written. Each of these components should be on a new line, with double spaces between the lines.
Margins and Spacing
Set a standard width of 1/2 inch between your header and heading and another 1/2 inch between the header and the top of the text. Set 1-inch margins on both sides of the paper. Most word processors are set to these widths by default. Unless otherwise instructed, all papers written in MLA format are double-spaced throughout.
Use of the Header and Heading
The header appears on every page of the paper. Proper header formatting makes a paper clearer and easier for your reader to navigate. It also helps the instructor keep track of which paper is which. If a printed paper’s binding comes apart, the heading is a lifesaver. Having the last name and page number appear on every page makes it possible to put the paper back in the proper order so that you can get full credit for your work.
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: MLA Formatting and Style Guide
- MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Seventh Edition; Modern Language Association of America
- Modern Language Association: About the MLA
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