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Citation Guide- MLA: Essay formatting

Essential information to become a successful "citer"

Formatting your paper

Ensuring that your assignment is clear and easy to read helps readers understand your message.

See below for more information on how to correctly format an essay.

Overall look

Use the default setting- normally 1 inch on each side.

  • Font style and size: A common font (such as Times New Roman, nothing fancy) 12 point
  • Justify the text on the left side (all text is even on the left side of the page)
  • Double-space the entire paper
  • Use one space after a period or other concluding punctuation mark
  • Follow MLA capitalization rules for paper titles and headings
    • Do not:
      • italicize or underline your title/heading,
      • put it in quotes or boldface, or
      • type it in all capital letters
  • No periods after your title or any heading
  • Begin text (after title or heading) on a new, double-spaced line with indentation

  • Number ALL pages consecutively
  • Upper right corner ½ inch (1cm) space from the top and flush with right margin
  • Last name (space) number- do not use p. or any punctuation*
    • Example: Roelling 2

*For externally assessed papers use your candidate number instead of your name

Please note: Examiners are not required to read endnotes or footnotes

When to use endnotes/footnotes:

  • The source you are quoting is in a language other than the language of the essay (see the Citation Guide homepage for more details)
  • Brief explanatory or content notes are allowed if they are too long for the main text. (Remember these may not be read by the examiner!! So decide carefully)
    • Example: 4. In a 1998 interview, she reiterated this point even more strongly: "I am an artist, not a politician!" (Weller 124). (Russell).

Endnotes format

  • On a new page, center the word “Notes” for the title. If there is one note, write “Note”.
  • Place this page before the Works Cited
  • List notes in consecutive number order corresponding to the numbers in the text
  • After each endnote number place a period and a space
  • Double space
  • The first line of each note is indented, subsequent lines are flush left (Russell).


What Should Be on the Title Page?

What should be on the  first page/title page of your EE?

The title page should include only the following information:

  • the title of the essay 
  • the research question 
  • the word count 
  • the subject for which the essay is registered 
    • if it is a language essay it should also state which category it falls into
    • if it is a world studies essay it should also state the theme and the two subjects utilized

Distinguishing Between the Title and the Research Question

  • The title is a clear, focused summative statement of the research which gives the reader an indication of the research topic. It should not be phrased as a research question.
  • The research question indicates the specific topic of research and must be phrased as a question.


What should NOT be on the  first page/title page of your EE?

The title page should NOT include only the following information:

  • your name
  • the school's name
  • any identifying pieces of information (on the title page, or any other section of the essay, such as headers or footers)


When work is uploaded, the IB tags each document with the student's digital profiles so personal details like your name, your school, are not required.  Very important:  to make sure that IB assessment is unbiased and fair, IB does not give your name to examiners, so there should be nothing that could identify you in the essay itself


Adapted from:

Specific details

Create your works cited references as you research. Do not wait until the last minute!

  • Use a recommended citation generator- Zotero or Cite my Sources Generator
  • If a required element does not apply to your resource (e.g. page numbers for a website), leave it out. 
  • References are listed in alphabet order based on the first word in each entry.
  • References longer than one line should have a hanging indent.


  • If the abbreviation is all capital letters: do not use spaces or periods
    • Except with proper names
  • If the abbreviation ends in a lowercase letter: put a period at the end
  • If each letter represents a common lowercase abbreviation: put a period between letters without spaces

See Purdue OWL for more information. 

Short quotations (four lines or fewer):

  • Double quotation marks are placed at the start and end of the quotation
  • Punctuation marks such as periods and commas go after the in-text citation
  • Question marks and exclamation marks that are part of the quote go inside the quotation marks

Long quotations (five lines or more):

  • Do not use quotation marks
  • Place the text in a free-standing block (see example here)
  • In-text citation goes at the end

See Purdue OWL for more information.

  • Use one space after the final punctuation mark of each sentence.
  • Double space each line of text throughout the whole paper. 
  • Follow MLA capitalization rules for paper titles and headings
    • Do not italicize or underline title/headings of unpublished papers
    • Do not put any titles/headings in quotes or boldface, or type them in all capital letters
  • No periods after titles or headings
  • Begin text (after title or heading) on a new, double-spaced line with indentation