Writing Well

Light at the End of the Tunnel

You're almost there, partner. Just a few more matters to attend to and you'll be ready to hand in your research paper. Now it's time to prepare the endmatter and frontmatter and keyboard your paper. Let's start with the Works Cited page or Bibliography. You get one or the other, never both.

Writer's Block

NEVER use both parenthetical documentation and footnotes/ endnotes to give credit for the same passage. You get one or the other.

Works Cited or Bibliography Page

A Works Cited page provides a complete citation for every work you cited in your research paper. A Bibliography (or Works Consulted list), in contrast, provides a full citation for every work you consulted as you wrote your paper. Bibliographies are therefore usually much longer than Works Cited pages.

In most cases, you'll just need a Works Cited page. However, you may be asked to prepare a Bibliography as well. Be sure to check with the Powers That Be so you know which format to follow.

Write Angles

Electronic sources are often missing key information such as the author and date. Use whatever information you can find for your citation.

Entries are arranged in alphabetical order according to the author's last name. If the entry doesn't have an author (such as a Web page, encyclopedia entry, or editorial), alphabetize it according to the first word of the title. Here's an overview of the specific MLA formats. Notice that the indentation is the reverse of footnote/endnote form.

Writer's Block

Visuals you took from an outside source must be documented the same way you would credit any other source.

Let's talk formatting. Here's how your Works Cited page or Bibliography should look:


You may have some endmatter after your Works Cited or Bibliography. Endmatter includes:


Depending on the subject of your research paper and the course requirements, you may need to include specific materials before the body of your paper, such as a title page, table of contents, foreword, preface, and abstract. They are arranged in this order. Here's how to prepare each one.


Write Angles

Keyboard your table of contents last so you will know the page numbers.

Use standard 10- or 12-point fonts such as Times Roman, Courier, or Helvetica. Avoid fancy, elaborate fonts, since they're a pain in the neck to read. Also avoid stylistic elements that might distract readers, such as excessive highlighting, boldfacing, or boxes.

Double-space the text and unless specifically requested to do so, don't right-justify (align) your paper. The right margins should be ragged.

The Final Shine: Proofreading

It goes without saying (but I'm saying it anyway) that you'll very carefully proofread your final document. Of course, you've already revised and edited the paper at each stage. I knew I could trust you.

book cover

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Well © 2000 by Laurie Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book direct from the publisher, visit the Penguin USA website or call 1-800-253-6476. You can also purchase this book at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.


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