Dear Students,

This letter contains information concerning MLA formats for your thesis. There has been some confusion about how to format book titles, quotes, citations, margins, spacing, etc. In fact, the MLA has changed slightly between the 5th and the 6th edition—this has been once source of confusion. Your book is the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 6th ed. (2003); in general we will follow this edition, but in some respects we shall alter the MLA specification. The MLA is not definitive on every matter. Below, we will clarify some format questions and provide links to illustrate how to set up your word processor formats. The parenthetical information seen below (section; page number) refers to sections and page numbers in your MLA Handbook.

There may be future updates posted to this site. Updates will be announced via e-mail.

♣    Thesis Length

    1. The minimum (and maximum) length of your thesis is determined by the word count of the thesis body, plus your "Notes" section. The thesis body begins with the first word of your introduction and ends with the last word of your Conclusion. The Notes (Endnotes) section is also included in your word count. When you count the words in your thesis, do not count "Works Cited" or "Appendices" sections:

      1. UNDERGRADUATE Thesis:
        7,000 words minimum and approximately 10,000 words maximum.

      2. GRADUATE Thesis
        17,000 words minimum and approximately 21,000 words maximum.

♣    How to Count Words (See "COMPLETE FORMAT INSTRUCTIONS" links at the bottom of this page)

    1. Microsoft Word: To count part of a document, with the mouse, highlight the area you wish to count. Select: TOOLS > "Word Count". To count the entire document, press CTRL+A on the keyboard, Select TOOLS > "Word Count", as before (if you use this method, be certain that the "Works Cited" or "Appendices" sections, if they exist, are either absent from the document, or their count subtracted, when doing word counting).

    2. StarSuite 6/7: To count Select: FILE > Properties > Statistics. Because StarSuite can only count words in the whole document, and not a part of the document, be certain that the "Works Cited" or "Appendices" sections, if they exist, are either absent from the document, or their count subtracted, when doing word counting.

♣    Page format (See "COMPLETE FORMAT INSTRUCTIONS" links at the bottom of this page)

      1. Margins: Top = 2.5cm. Bottom = 2.5cm. Left = 4.0cm. Right = 2.0cm. This varies from the MLA instruction
      2. Page setup: No Document Grid
      3. Lines: Double-spaced
      4. Full justification: the lines of body text extend all the way to the left and right margins. This varies from the MLA instruction. (4.3; p.132)
      5. Page numbers: Number pages at the top right of each page. Do not include your last name with the page number. This varies from the MLA instruction (4.6; p.134). 
      6. Automatic hyphenation: on
      7. Typeface: English serif typeface
      8. Font point-size: 12
The English "serif" typeface—Additional information:
Serif typefaces are commonly used in printed documents, for their beauty and readability.
i.  Research has unveiled that we grasp words as a whole by comparing with the acquired samples in our brain. Serifs help us to recognize these samples. Serifs improve readability by leading the eye along the line of type. Therefore, serifs are the best suited for body text. [http://www.redsun.com/type/classification/]

ii.  Recommended common serif typefaces: Times New Roman (the typeface of this document), Palatino, Garamond, Century Schoolbook, Book Antiqua.

iii.  Not recommended: The other main typeface, "sans serif" is often used for small-size text, and on the Internet, as it is easier to read in small point sizes. Sans-serif fonts include Helvetica, Verdana, Courier, Tahoma, and Arial; these are not recommended for use in your thesis.

♣    Page Format and Thesis Length: The Relationship

    1. Page length and overall thesis length are determined by the font type (typeface), font size, margins, and total word count of the thesis body, plus the endnotes section, if present. The total number of pages in a thesis is variable. Acceptable length is determined by the word count, rather than the number of pages.

♣   Spacing

    1. A single space between sentences is preferred. If your word processor automatically places two spaces between sentences, this style is acceptable.

    2. Double-space lines in your thesis (4.4; p. 133).

♣   Book Titles, and other titles—underline, italicize, or quotation marks?

    1. The MLA leaves it to the professor, whether to underline or italicize book titles and other complete works. We prefer italics for book titles. (3.3; pp.94-95). In general, wherever you see underlining in your MLA guide, italics are preferred.
      b)  Quotation marks are for: journal, magazine, newspaper, etc., articles; chapter headings in a book; short stories; poems; music titles; lectures; speeches; etc., that is, "titles of works published within larger works" (3.7; pp.109-122).

♣   Quotations and Ellipses

    1. Please read the section on ellipsis very carefully. The MLA 6th edition has changed (and simplified) the method of ellipsis. By the way, ellipsis is used to indicate missing information in sections of quoted material (3.7.5; pp.114--118).

        1. To illustrate how text information can be quoted with ellipsis, two of the above sentences are used below, as an example:

          "The MLA 6th edition has changed . . . the method of ellipsis. . . ellipsis is used to indicate missing information. . . ."

        2. Including a citation, our example quotation with elipsis would be:
          "The MLA 6th edition has changed . . . the method of ellipsis. . . ellipsis is used to indicate missing information . . . " (Gilbert and Ohno 1).

              Please examine carefully the difference between the two examples above, particularly the periods at the end of each quotation, and the period at the end of the citation (in ii.). Notice that one period has moved to the end of the citation, and there is now a space before the group of three periods.  

        3. The usual style of ellipsis is:
          that is:    Abede . . . hijklmn . . . tuww . . . (etc.) Note that if there is a final ellipsis at the end of a quotation, as in the example ii, the end-quotation (") and a space always occurs before the citation, and a period always follows the right parenthesis of the citation. Generally, you will need to have a citation following every quotation, in your thesis (as in the second example above), unless you have completely introduced your reference souce prior to the quotation.

♣   Citations

    1. Generally, follow the examples given in section 5.2, from page 142.

    2. Electronic (Internet or online) citations. Please look carefully at the many examples given in section 5.9 (pages 207-235).

    3. To get an idea of how citations in the body text of your thesis should match the sources in the "Works Cited" section at the end of your paper, please look at the "Research Paper" example given on pages 320-21.

♣   Tables

    1. If you need to make tables, using the "Table" function of your word-processor is best.

We hope that the above information helps clear up any confusion regarding the usage of MLA format styles in your thesis.
Best Regards,
Tat Ohno
Richard Gilbert

ONLINE: Complete Illustrated MLA Format Setups:


  STARSUITE 6: CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE FORMAT INSTRUCTIONS (Starsuite 7 varies slightly from these instructions)

The above setups include all page, standard text and normal-paragraph formatting, but do not include quotation-indentation, footnote, endnote, and other formats. Please consult your word processor "help" section and the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, to design additionally required formats or styles.