Research paper MLA editing


When you finish a research paper, what do you do? If you say, “Turn it in,” and have not edited and proofread it first, you are flirting with a bad grade. There’s a lot involved in editing:
- Does your introduction contain a solid thesis statement?
- Do your paragraphs have topic sentences
- Does the piece flow logically?
- Is your sentence structure good?
- Is your punctuation correct?
- Have you checked that your paper has followed the format style that your instructor requires and that all of your citations are done correctly?

How to Edit Your MLA Research Paper
  • 1

    The Physical Appearance. There are very specific MLA guidelines regarding how your paper must be laid out. Be certain that you have met all of these “rules.”

    The First Page

    • The first page of our paper is both your title page and the beginning of your content. There is no separate title page as with many other styles.

    • Upper left-hand corner of the first page must include your name, then double space, then your instructor’s name, then double space and then the date of submission

    • On the first page, your title is centered doubled-spaced below the submission date.

    • Still on the first page, your paper content begins, double-spaced after your title

    • Your first page is paginated #1. Pagination is in the upper right-hand corner for all pages.

    • Beginning with page 2, you have a running header in the upper right-hand corner – your last name followed by the page number.


    • Margins must be one-inch all around

    • Left margin is justified; right margin is not

    • The paper is double-spaced

    • Each paragraph is indented ½ inch

    • Quotations that are more than 40 words are indented one-inch from the margins and single-spaced.

  • 2

    In-Text Citations. There are two things to consider here – when do you need to cite an author and how do you do it.

    1. In general, when you take an idea, an opinion, or a concept from a resource, you must cite that author.

    2. Any time you quote a source, you must cite it.

    3. Note: Any source you cite within your text must be included in your end-of-text reference page (bibliography).

    Example of In-Text Citations

    1. Following the text you need to cite, you should have the source in parentheses. It should include the authors name and page number(s). Example: (Jones pp. 12-13). This is the same for books, journal articles and web resources.

    2. If there is more than one author, separate the last names by commas, but do not put a comma between the final name and the page number(s).

    3. The same citation format is used when you cite a direct quote.

    4. You may also cite a source within your text like this: “According to Jones (pp. 12-13), food insecurity among children is on the rise.”

  • 3

    End-of-Text Citations. This requires strong attention to detail. Do not fail to follow these general guidelines:

    1. Your title should be “Works Cited,” and it should be centered at the top of the page.

    2. The listing should be double-spaced throughout, both within entries and between them.

    3. You should only list the resources that you cited within your text.

    4. Alphabetize by the beginning word of each entry – this includes articles (A, An, The). Most resources will have authors, and they should be alphabetized by last name.

    5. Indent the 2nd line of each entry 5 spaces

    6. Underline complete titles

    7. Entries should not be numbered

    Common Examples of Entries


    Jones, E., Children of Poverty, New York: Random House, 2014.

    Journal Article

    Jones, E., “Children of Poverty,” ASCD Journal, May, 2014, pp. 8+.

    (Note: Volume numbers are not used, because dates are always included. The use of “8+” means that the article began on page 8 but the rest was continued on a later page in the journal.)

    Web Resource

    Jones, E., “Children of Poverty,” ASCD Journal, May, 2014 (accessed Sept., 2014),

    Obviously, there are a myriad of other types of resources that you might use. There are a number of citation tools that you can use to craft these citations. Use one of them if you have any questions about how an entry should be formatted.

Important Considerations
  • 1

    Research paper MLA editing is tedious work, but it must be done right. Remember, your instructor is fully familiar with this style and will catch errors.

  • 2

    Use the style guide provided by your instructor. There may be little tweaks that s/he wants.

  • 3

    As you become more familiar with MLA style, editing it will get easier too.

Do and Don`t
  • Use your style guide if you are unsure about any format requirement. If your instructor has not provided one, MLA has one online.
  • Do use a checklist, like the one provided above, to make sure that you have covered all of the editing/proofing you need to do.
  • Do ask your instructor if you do not understand a specification
  • Do take breaks, especially as you review the “Works Cited” page – you will get tired and perhaps sloppy.
  • Do put in the time necessary to ensure that your format is right.
  • Do not speed through this process. Attention to detail is necessary, especially where punctuation is concerned.
  • Do not think that formatting is not important to your instructor – you don’t know how much weight s/he places on it.
  • Do not guess. Get out that style guide and double-check.
  • Do not get sloppy with the physical layout specifications. A one-inch margin means a one-inch margin.
  • Do not ignore or guess on punctuation. Check and re-check.
Mistakes to Avoid
  • Not setting margins correctly is a common mistake. If you do not know how to set that up in your word processing program, get someone to help you do it.
  • Punctuation consists of periods, commas, and colons. These are tiny details but important ones. You need to “bite the bullet” and check every piece of punctuation.
  • The most common errors occur in the “Works Cited” page. Be sure that you check the guide or ask your instructor.
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