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A Guide for Writing Research Papers based on Modern Language Association (MLA) Documentation


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Title: A Guide for Writing Research Papers based on Modern Language Association (MLA) Documentation

A Guide for Writing Research Papersbased
onModern Language Association(MLA)
Research Paper
  • A Brief Introduction

A research paper presents the results of your
investigations on a selected topic. Based on your
own thoughts and the facts and ideas you have
gathered from a variety of sources, a research
paper is a creation that is uniquely yours. The
experience of gathering, interpreting, and
documenting information, developing and
organizing ideas and conclusions, and
communicating them clearly will prove to be an
important and satisfying part of your education.
There are many approaches to research. The
library has books which will help you, and most
English composition textbooks contain chapters on
research techniques and style. It is important to
follow consistently and accurately a recommended
format that is clear and concise and that has
been approved by your teacher.
Writing Research Papers A Step-by-Step Procedure
The Preliminaries
  • ___ 1. Choose a topic
  • ___ 2. Begin preliminary reading
  • ___ 3. Restrict the subject
  • ___ 4. Develop a preliminary thesis statement

Gathering Data
  • ___ 1. Compile the working bibliography
  • ___ 2. Prepare the bibliography on cards in
    correct form (3" x 5" cards)
  • ___ 3. Begin extensive work in the library
    reference room be sure to check
  • ___ a. general bibliographies ___ b. trade
  • ___ c. indexes (books and collections, literature
    in periodicals, newspaper indexes, pamphlet
  • ___ d. library electronic catalogue

Taking Notes
  • ___ 1. Develop a preliminary outline
  • ___ 2. Evaluate your source material which is
    primary material and which is secondary material?
  • ___ 3. Begin note-taking on cards (4" x 6" cards)
  • ___ 4. Avoid plagiarism

Writing the Paper
  • ___ 1. Develop the final outline test your
  • ___ 2. Prepare to write
  • ___ a. put your note cards in the order that your
    outline is in ___ b. consider your (real and
    imagined) readers and how their expectations may
    affect your tone and style
  • ___ 3. Write the rough draft
  • ___ 4. Check your documentation carefully
  • ___ 5. Revise and rewrite
  • ___ 6. Check the format of the text, citations,
    notes, and bibliography (most instructors
    recommend MLA or APA format)
  • ___ 7. Proofread

  • procedures
  • Statement onPlagiarism
  • Developing a Thesis Statement
  • GatheringMaterials
  • TakingNotes
  • UsingOutlines
  • Working withQuotations
  • Formattingthe Paper
  • Preparing aWorks-CitedPage
  • More Suggestions

A Statement on Plagiarism
  • Using someone else's ideas or phrasing and
    representing those ideas or phrasing as our own,
    either on purpose or through carelessness, is a
    serious offense known as plagiarism.

Penalty for Plagiarism
  • In many schools and colleges, it could involve
    failure for the paper and it could mean failure
    for the entire course and even expulsion from
  • At the very least, however, students who
    plagiarize have cheated themselves out of the
    experience of being responsible members of the
    academic community.

Thesis and Thesis Statements
  • Everything you write should develop around a
    clear central thesis. Your thesis is the backbone
    of your paper the main point, the central idea.
    In fact, if you ask yourself -- "What is the main
    point of this paper?" -- your answer should
    resemble your essay's thesis statement. The
    thesis statement focuses your central ideas into
    one or two sentences.

Gathering Materials
  • Books
  • Essay or Article in a Collection or Anthology
  • Encyclopedia
  • Pamphlets, brochures
  • Journals, Magazines, and Newspapers
  • Electronic, On-Line Resources,
  • CD-ROMArticle/Dissertation
  • Reference Books

Source AnalysisAnalysis of Simple Data
Developing Critical Thinking Critical Reading
Persuasion Analytical Reading Compare/Contrast
Tools for Reading Critically Electronic Note
Taking Content Grid Synthesis Workshop Source
Synthesis Exercise Summarizing Your Article
Article Analysis and Summary Comparing Sources
Analysis of Source Material Electronic Notes
Context Grid
1.      Two books written by Umberto Eco and two
book reviews on his novels.2.      Two books
about weapons and two related essays from
magazines. (Time, Economist, Newsweek, and the
like.)3.      Two books written by Harold Bloom
and two articles from Economist.
  • 4.      Two books about Islam and two related
    articles or essays from magazines. (Time,
    Economist, Newsweek, and the like.)5.      Two
    books about black hole and two related articles
    or essays from journals or periodicals. (Science,
    Nature, and the like)6.      Two books about
    earthquakes and two related articles or essays
    from journals or periodicals. (Science, Nature,
    and the like)

 7.Two books about virtual reality and two
related articles or essays from journals or
periodicals. (Science, Nature, and the
like)8.      Two books about African
over-population and two related articles or
essays from magazines. (Time, Economist,
Newsweek, and the like.)9.      Two books about
anti-matter and two related articles or essays
from journals or periodicals. (Science, Nature,
and the like)
10.  Two books about basketball or culture and
two related articles or essays from magazines.
(Time, Economist, Newsweek, and the like.)11. 
Two books about French history and two related
articles or essays from magazines. (Time,
Economist, Newsweek, and the like.)12.  Two
books about Nobel Prize and two related articles
or essays from magazines. (Time, Economist,
Newsweek, and the like.)13.  Two books written
by Mark Twain and two book reviews from
magazines. (Time, Economist, Newsweek, and the
List the bibliographic data according to MLA
Taking Notes
Preparing and Using Outlines

  • Modern Language Association (MLA) format provides
    writers with a system for cross-referencing their
    sources--from their parenthetical references to
    their works cited page. This cross-referencing
    system allows readers to locate the publication
    information of source material. This is of great
    value for researchers who may want to locate your
    sources for their own research projects.

The proper use of MLA style also shows the
credibility of writers such writers show
accountability to their source material. Most
importantly, the use of MLA style can protect
writers from accusations of plagiarism--the
purposeful or accidental use of source material
by other writers without giving appropriate
Working With Quotations
  • Quotations that constitute fewer than five lines
    in your paper should be set off with quotation
    marks and be incorporated within the
    normal flow of your text.
  • For material exceeding that length, omit the
    quotation marks and indent the quoted language
    one inch from your left-hand margin. If an
    indented quotation is taken entirely from one
    paragraph, the first line should be even with all
    the other lines in that quotation.

Your Research Paper's Format
  • Paper
  • Margins
  • Spacing
  • Heading and Title
  • Page Numbers

(No Transcript)
Preparing a "Works Cited" Section
  • the name of the author or authors
  • title
  • editor, translator, compiler, if any
  • edition, if it is not the first (i.e., 2nd ed.,
    rev. ed.)
  • place and date of the book's publication and
  • the name of the book's publisher.

  • Mumford, Lewis. The Highway and the City. New
    York Harcourt Brace and World, 1963.
  • Pikarsky, M. Urban Transportation Policy and
    Management. Boston D.C. Heath, 1976.

Write a separate listing for each article from a
magazine or journal. Includethe name(s) of the
author(s) the title of the article the title
of the periodical the date of the issue in
which the article appears and the pages on
which the article you are referring to appears.
  • Prin, Dinah. "Marriage in the '90s." New York 2
    June 1990 40-45.
  • Schell, Orville. China Syndrome Have Chinas
    Leaders Lost the Gift for Bold, Creative
    Thought? Time 25 November 2002 40.

Cross-referencingUsing MLA Format
  • Allows readers to cross-reference your sources
  • Provides consistent format within a discipline
  • Gives you credibility as a writer
  • Protects yourself from plagiarism

What are the differences among quoting,
paraphrasing, and summarizing?
  • These three ways of incorporating other writers'
    work into your own writing differ according to
    the closeness of your writing to the source

  • Paraphrasing involves putting a passage from
    source material into your own words. A paraphrase
    must also be attributed to the original source.
  • The major issue of drug abuse among the teenagers
    did not call a public attention until 1999
    (Pinker 200).

  • Summarizing involves putting the main idea(s)
    into your own words, including only the main
    point(s). Once again, it is necessary to
    attribute summarized ideas to the original
    source. Summaries are significantly shorter than
    the original and take a broad overview of the
    source material.
  • In How to Survive, Peter Wang aims to
    demonstrate the importance of humorous but
    positive attitudes towards the most dangerous
    situations in our life (13-55).

  • Quotations must be identical to the original,
    using a narrow segment of the source. They must
    match the source document word for word and must
    be attributed to the original author.
  • Shorter and longer citations

Authors last name and page number(s) of quote
must appear in the text
  • Romantic poetry is characterized by the
    spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings
    (Wordsworth 263).
  • Wordsworth stated that Romantic poetry was
    marked by a spontaneous overflow of powerful
    feelings (263).

If no known author. . .
  • If the source has no known author, then use an
    abbreviated version of the title
  • Full Title California Cigarette Tax Deters
  • This indicates the danger of smoking
    (California A14).

  • David becomes identified and defined by James
    Steerforth, a young man with whom David is
    acquainted from his days at Salem House. Before
    meeting Steerforth, David accepts Steerforths
    name as an authoritative power
  • There was an old door in this playground, on
    which the boys had a custom of carving their
    names. . . . In my dread of the end of the
    vacation and their coming back, I could not read
    a boys name, without inquiring in what tone and
    with what emphasis he would read, Take care of
    him. He bites. There was one boya certain J.
    Steerforthwho cut his name very deep and very
    often, who I conceived, would read it in a rather
    strong voice, and afterwards pull my hair.
    (Dickens 68)
  • For Steerforth, naming becomes an act of
    possession, as well as exploitation. Steerforth
    names David for his fresh look and innocence, but
    also uses the name Daisy to exploit David's
    romantic tendencies (Dyson 122).

  • There are many different combinations and
    variations within MLA citation format.
  • If you run into something unusual, look it up!

Where Do I Find MLA Format?
  • MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 5th
  • Composition textbooks
  • www.mla.org

Improving Your Writing  Some Practical Advice
  • 1) You can improve your writing--anyone can--but
    it will require work and time. Even a small
    effort toward improvement can have positive
    results. Its up to you
  • 2) Care about your writing. Take it seriously.
    Good writing is important. 
  • 3) Most writing can stand some improvement.

4) Read. Anything. Daily. The more familiar you
are with a language, the more comfortable you are
with it. Distinguishing between proper and
improper word choice, grammar, and so on will
become easier. 5) Improve your vocabulary. Learn
a few new words every week, month, or year. A
wide vocabulary gives you a better command of a
language bigger word menu provides you with more
selection, more possibilities of expression when
conveying ideas to others
  • 6) Practice writing. Write letters. Write in a
    journal. Write whenever you can. Write about
    anything. You'll become more comfortable with the
    act of writing.
  • 7) Buy books about writing style, and read them.
    Even a few pages every month can be helpful.

8) Revise your writing. Revise. Revise. Why
Revise?             A. Simplicity            B.
Clarity            C. Readability
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