A Guide for
Writing Research Papers Based on
Prepared by the Humanities Department
and the Arthur C. Banks Jr.
An Introduction to Research Techniques
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 — an essential part of every business and profession — and many ways to document findings. 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.
The formatting of citations recommended in this guide is based on Modern Language Association recommendations. If your instructor requires another format, you can ask that instructor how such a format will be different from the recommendations we have made and make the appropriate adjustments. (Pay special attention to the material on "Footnotes and Endnotes" appearing in the section called "Parenthetical Documentation.")
This guide may suffice for most students' needs for most academic purposes, but for advanced research projects it is by no means a substitute for the Modern Language Association Handbook for Writers of Research Papers Fifth Edition (1999). That handbook can be purchased in most bookstores and copies should be available in every college and municipal library. A Guide similar to this one, but based on the APA style, is also available online (see link on the navigation bar). Your best source of advice on all these matters is, of course, your instructor and library professionals.
This resource was originally based on recommendations in the MLA Handbook's fourth edition and is currently being updated to conform to the fifth edition of the MLA Handbook (1999). We will remove this notice when revisions are complete.
This page is maintained by Professor of English and College Webmaster Charles Darling. Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. We regret, however, that we cannot answer questions about documentation issues not addressed in the Guide to Writing Research Papers.
This Guide to Writing Research Papers has no official
relationship with the Modern Language Association and is not endorsed by the
Most recent modification: 12 June 2002