Writing Well: Light at the End of the Tunnel

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.

  • Book citation
    Author's last name, first name. Book Title. Place of publication: publisher, date of publication.
  • Article citation
    Author's last name, first name. “Title of the Article.” Magazine. Month and year of publication: page numbers.
  • Electronic citations
    Author's name (if available), Title, publication date, database, publication medium (Online), the name of the computer service, and the date of your access.
    Electronic newsgroups and bulletin boards:
    Author's name (if available), Title, date the source was posted, the medium (Online posting), the location online, the name of the network, and the date of access.
    E-mail: Sender's name, description of the document, date of the document.

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

  • Title. Center the title (Works Cited or Bibliography) at the top of the page, about an inch from the top. Don't underline, bold, or italicize it.
  • Numbering. Don't. The entries on a Works Cited page aren't numbered.
  • Spacing. Start each entry flush left. Indent all subsequent lines of an entry. As with the rest of your paper, double-space each entry on your Works Cited page.


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

  • Graphs, charts, maps, figures, and photographs. Place each graphic at the appropriate place in the text or group them at the end.
  • Glossary. A glossary lists and defines technical terms or presents additional information on the subject.


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.

  • Title page. At the minimum, include the title, your name, and the date. Depending on your audience, you may also need to include the person for whom the paper was prepared (such as a client or instructor) and a reason the paper was written.
  • Table of contents. Lists the paper's main divisions. Be sure to label each section of the paper to match the headings on your table of contents.
  • Foreword. In most cases, the foreword is written by an expert in the field and serves as an endorsement of the contents.
  • Preface. The writer's acknowledgment and thank-you page.
  • Abstract. A one-paragraph summary of the contents of your paper, most often required in technical or scholarly papers.


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.

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