Chapter 36: Using Modern Language Association (MLA) Style

Part 6, Chapter 36: Introduction to MLA

MLA style is often used in the liberal arts and humanities, and it provides a uniform framework for consistency across a document in several areas. The MLA style was created in the 1930’s to help standardize quotations, footnotes, and bibliographic references in articles appearing in their scholarly journal. Today, we use MLA for exactly the same reasons.  

 The MLA style provides guidelines and formats for these parts of the paper:  

  • The layout of the paper (headings, margins, etc.)  
  • In-text citations (also called parenthetical citations) 
  • The Works Cited page 

Other Styles 

There are a number of different style guides, each one particular to its field of study. Some of the most common that you will use, beyond the MLA, are the American Psychological Association (APA) and Chicago Style.  

You will usually use MLA in humanities classes, such as English. APA is used in Social Science classes, such as psychology and sociology. Finally, most publishers require manuscripts in Chicago Style.  

Keep in mind that there is no need to memorize a style. But, you do need to learn how to follow a style guide. 


Floor mosaic of a plant
Photo by Craig Moe, CC BY 2.0  Like a mosaic, your sources act as pieces that clarify what your paper has to offer.

Five Reasons to Use MLA Style

  1. To demonstrate your ability to present a professional, academic essay in the correct style
  2. To gain credibility and authenticity for your work
  3. To enhance the ability of the reader to locate information discussed in your essay
  4. To give credit where credit is due and prevent plagiarism
  5. To earn a good grade or demonstrate excellence in your writing
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