This handout provides examples and description about writing papers in literature. It discusses research topics, how to begin to research, how to use information, and formatting.
Contributors:Mark Dollar, Purdue OWL
Last Edited: 2017-10-25 10:18:45
What about MLA format?
All research papers on literature use MLA format, as it is the universal citation method for the field of literary studies. Whenever you use a primary or secondary source, whether you are quoting or paraphrasing, you will make parenthetical citations in the MLA format [Ex. (Smith 67).] Your Works Cited list will be the last page of your essay. Consult the OWL handout on MLA for further instructions.
Note, however, the following minor things about MLA format:
- Titles of books, plays, or works published singularly (not anthologized) should be italicised unless it is a handwritten document, in which case underlining is acceptable. (Ex. Hamlet, Great Expectations)
- Titles of poems, short stories, or works published in an anthology will have quotation marks around them. (Ex. "Ode to a Nightingale," "The Cask of Amontillado")
- All pages in your essay should have your last name the page number in the top right hand corner. (Ex. Jones 12)
If you're using Microsoft Word, you can easily include your name and page number on each page by following the these steps:
- Open "View" (on the top menu).
- Open "Header and Footer." (A box will appear at the top of the page you're on. And a "Header and Footer" menu box will also appear).
- Click on the "align right" button at the top of the screen. (If you're not sure which button it is, hold the mouse over the buttons and a small window should pop up telling you which button you're on.)
- Type in your last name and a space.
- Click on the "#" button which is located on the "Header and Footer" menu box. It will insert the appropriate page number.
- Click "Close" on the "Header and Footer" window.
That's all you need to do. Word will automatically insert your name and the page number on every page of your document.
What else should I remember?
- Don't leave a quote or paraphrase by itself-you must introduce it, explain it, and show how it relates to your thesis.
- Block format all quotations of more than four lines.
- When you quote brief passages of poetry, line and stanza divisions are shown as a slash (Ex. "Roses are red, / Violets are blue / You love me / And I like you").
- For more help, see the OWL handout on using quotes.
The author or authors' name or names are never italicized. Adhering to the rules of capitalization, authors' names are written in the normal way. There are several academic writing styles--and one, Associated Press (AP), specialized for journalism--and though they differ on some points of writing style, they consistently agree that authors' names are not italicized. The one exception to this is when an author's name forms part of a book or play title, such as in this made-up example, After Jane Austen Wrote and Came to Dinner.
The various writing style guides used for academic writing are put out by these organizations: Modern Language Association (MLA), used in literature and other language-centered academic writing; Associated Psychology Association (APA), used for academic writing in social sciences; University of Chicago, Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), used by various academic institutions and by some journalistic institutions; Turabian, based upon CMS but simplified for unpublished academic works; Harvard University, Harvard Author-Datestyle, used widely for general academic writing.
None of these style guides allow for putting author names in italics. For the short story "Boys and Girls," your reference in MLA style would specify Alice Munro, "Boys and Girls," Dance of the Happy Shades.