This handout provides examples and description about writing papers in literature. It discusses research topics, how to begin to research, how to use information, and formatting.
Contributors:Mark Dollar, Purdue OWL
Last Edited: 2017-10-25 10:18:45
What about MLA format?
All research papers on literature use MLA format, as it is the universal citation method for the field of literary studies. Whenever you use a primary or secondary source, whether you are quoting or paraphrasing, you will make parenthetical citations in the MLA format [Ex. (Smith 67).] Your Works Cited list will be the last page of your essay. Consult the OWL handout on MLA for further instructions.
Note, however, the following minor things about MLA format:
- Titles of books, plays, or works published singularly (not anthologized) should be italicised unless it is a handwritten document, in which case underlining is acceptable. (Ex. Hamlet, Great Expectations)
- Titles of poems, short stories, or works published in an anthology will have quotation marks around them. (Ex. "Ode to a Nightingale," "The Cask of Amontillado")
- All pages in your essay should have your last name the page number in the top right hand corner. (Ex. Jones 12)
If you're using Microsoft Word, you can easily include your name and page number on each page by following the these steps:
- Open "View" (on the top menu).
- Open "Header and Footer." (A box will appear at the top of the page you're on. And a "Header and Footer" menu box will also appear).
- Click on the "align right" button at the top of the screen. (If you're not sure which button it is, hold the mouse over the buttons and a small window should pop up telling you which button you're on.)
- Type in your last name and a space.
- Click on the "#" button which is located on the "Header and Footer" menu box. It will insert the appropriate page number.
- Click "Close" on the "Header and Footer" window.
That's all you need to do. Word will automatically insert your name and the page number on every page of your document.
What else should I remember?
- Don't leave a quote or paraphrase by itself-you must introduce it, explain it, and show how it relates to your thesis.
- Block format all quotations of more than four lines.
- When you quote brief passages of poetry, line and stanza divisions are shown as a slash (Ex. "Roses are red, / Violets are blue / You love me / And I like you").
- For more help, see the OWL handout on using quotes.
- Choose a punchy title that introduces your topic and sticks in your reader’s mind.
- Lesson plan
Your title is a key part of your paper–splashed across the top of your soon-to-be glorious piece of writing. It has to both introduce your topic and grip your reader.
Some people prefer to title their paper once they’ve finished writing the body of it. That’s OK. It doesn’t matter when you write it, as long as it’s punchy.
The title, “A Discussion of Symbolism in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream” gets the most basic job done–tells the reader about the purpose of the paper–but it’s pretty banal and doesn’t exactly put your reader on the edge of his seat.
Instead, try something like “Sensuality, Sensationalism, and Scenery in Shakespearean Comedy”. It’s much more interesting and will leave your reader wanting more. Additionally, this title uses alliteration (repetitive use of the same sound), which adds interest.
It is generally acceptable to use more colloquial language when you’re writing your title compared to the rest of your paper, which should be written in an academic voice (see next section, “Audience and Academic Tone”). Therefore, it’s usually OK to use a catchphrase in your title: “Boys Will Be Men: An Analysis of Greek Childrearing Depicted in The Aeneid“.
Note this title’s use of the colon. The first title is the catchy, interesting one. But alone, it doesn’t tell you what the paper is about. The subtitle is more academic and reveals the subject of the paper. The colon is useful if you’re concerned that the meaning of your first title may confuse your reader.