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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 major—Inklings. 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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How to Cite a Journal in Print in MLA
Include the author's name, the title of the article, the name of the journal, the series number/type of the journal (if given), the volume number (if given), the issue number (if given), the year of publication, the page numbers of the article, format
Last, First M., and First M. Last. "Article Title." Journal Title Series Volume. Issue (Year Published): Page(s). Print.
Jacoby, William G. "Public Attitudes Toward Government Spending." American Journal of Political Science 38.2 (1994): 336-61. Print.
Fearon, James D., and David D. Laitin. "Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War." American Political Science Review 97.01 (2003): 75. Print.
How to Cite a Journal Online in MLA
Last, First M. "Article Title." Journal Title Series Volume. Issue (Year Published): Page(s). Website Title. Web. Date Month Year Accessed.
Poiger, Uta G. "Rock 'n' Roll, Female Sexuality, and the Cold War Battle over German Identities." The Journal of Modern History 68.3 (1996): 577. JSTOR. Web. 2 Jan. 2013.
How to Cite a Journal on a Database in MLA
Last, First M. "Article Title." Journal Title Series Volume. Issue (Year Published): Page(s). Database Name. Web. Date Month Year Accessed.
Jacoby, William G. "Public Attitudes Toward Government Spending." American Journal of Political Science 38.2 (1994): 336-61. JSTOR. Web. 23 Apr. 2010.
Poiger, Uta G. "Rock 'n' Roll, Female Sexuality, and the Cold War Battle over German Identities." The Journal of Modern History 3rd ser. 68 (1996): 577-616. JSTOR. Web. 4 Jan. 2013.
Make sure to:
- Provide advanced information for the book if it is available.
- Only include the URL if the source cannot be found easily.
View our visual citation guide on how to cite a Journal in MLA format.