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How should I format captions for figures that I include in my paper?

Illustrative visual material other than a table—for example, a photograph, map, drawing, graph, or chart—should be labeled Figure (usually abbreviated Fig.), assigned an arabic numeral, and given a caption:

Fig. 1. Mary Cassatt, Mother and Child, Wichita Art Museum.

The label and caption ordinarily appear directly below an illustration and have the same one-inch margins as the text of the paper. Visit our Formatting a Research Paper page to learn more about including tables, figures, and musical illustrations in papers.

Published 28 June 2017

Should URLs be linked in works-cited-list entries?

Whether to link a URL, DOI, or permalink in a works-cited-list entry for a work published or submitted in digital format is optional. The MLA Handbook notes that one benefit of URLs is that they “may be clickable” in digital formats (48). The URLs in the e-book version of the handbook, for example, are linked.

Work Cited

MLA Handbook. 8th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2016.

Published 10 November 2016

What guidance should I give my students for preparing an annotated bibliography?

Students should style a source in an annotated bibliography just as they would in a list of works cited and then append an annotation to the end of the entry. Annotations describe or evaluate sources. As James Harner writes, “[G]ood annotations accurately and incisively—but not cryptically—distill the essence of works” and “focus the reader’s attention on major points” (28). Annotations should not rehash minor details, cite evidence, quote the author, or recount steps in an argument. Writing an effective annotation requires reading the work, understanding its aims, and clearly summarizing them. For this reason, annotations may aid students in conducting research.

Annotations are generally written as succinct phrases:

Harbord, Janet. The Evolution of Film: Rethinking Film Studies. Polity, 2007. A synthesis of classic film theory and an examination of the state of film studies as of 2007 that draws on contemporary scholarship in philosophy, anthropology, and media studies.

But if you prefer to have your students use complete sentences, the students should add a line space after the entry and then begin the annotation with a paragraph indent:

Harbord, Janet. The Evolution of Film: Rethinking Film Studies. Polity, 2007.

  This synthesis of classic film theory examines the state of film studies as of 2007. It draws on contemporary scholarship in philosophy, anthropology, and media studies.

The list should be titled Annotated Bibliography or Annotated List of Works Cited. Students may organize the bibliography alphabetically by author or title (as for a normal list of works cited), by the date of publication, or by subject.

Work Cited

Harner, James. On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography. Modern Language Association of America, 2000.

Published 4 November 2016

Why does the MLA require the use of Times New Roman? It’s a boring font.

We don’t require the use of Times New Roman or any other font. Our guidelines on formatting papers give this recommendation: “choose an easily readable typeface (e.g., Times New Roman) in which the regular type style contrasts clearly with the italic.” The abbreviation e.g. means “for example,” and so Times New Roman is just one example. Any other typeface that fits the description would be acceptable in a research paper.

Published 24 February 2016

If my paper has only one source or only one endnote, should the heading still be plural—Works Cited or Notes?

No. The heading should be changed to the singular so that it matches the relevant material: Work Cited or Note.


The eighth edition of the MLA Handbook doesn’t explain how to format the research paper itself. Is this topic covered anywhere?

The topic is covered here at The MLA Style Center. The guidelines are the same as they were in the seventh edition.


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