When to Use MLA Format: Disciplines and Writing Assignments

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The MLA format is most often found in writing that applies to the humanities or to the liberal arts. If you are a writer or student in these two concentrations, you are likely to write a variety of different types of writing assignments under MLA guidelines. The following disciplines from within the two fields use this format in any written content that requires research.

  • Comparative literary analysis
  • Cultural studies
  • English studies in language and literature
  • Foreign language and literature
  • Literary criticism

Disciplines and areas of writing outside of those listed above also sometimes use MLA guidelines. If your teacher, professor, boss or client specifies that this format is required for a written piece, you should follow all MLA guidelines. However, if you electively select to use the MLA format, there are certain types of papers that involve research that requires documentation for citing your sources.

Types of writing assignments that frequently use MLA format

Any essay, paper or written piece where evidence is collected through the process of research and requires the use of MLA format should follow all applicable guidelines. If you are given a particular assignment and are unsure of whether this format is the right one to use, check the list below for some of the most common writing assignments that involve research and often require the use of this format.

  • Argumentative—When you are given an argumentative piece that requires the MLA format, you must arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible through research. As a result, you document your sources and give credit to the original author for any information you use to support an argument.
  • Cause and effect—When you are tasked with a cause and effect essay in MLA format, your information must stay factual, reasonable and believable. This means you must do research. The information obtained, and ultimately your essay, is only valid if you properly document and cite your sources.
  • Expository—When you are working on an expository essay under the MLA format, your piece is likely to have a large amount of background information, which requires preparation to research. Your research should include well-documented facts and information that you can attribute and cite to each source as you present it to your readers.
  • Literary—When you are working on a literary essay in MLA format, you examine a piece of writing to determine the way it is constructed You establish your views and conclusions to reference the work you are writing about or reference outside sources that support your views and conclusions.
  • Persuasive—When you are working on a persuasive essay in MLA format, you make a case to support one side of an issue. You also present the opposing viewpoint. Both viewpoints require research that is documented and cited. Your research should find facts and information to support your views and supply facts disputing the opposing side, and these resources must be documented to give your viewpoint credibility.
  • Research—When working on a research writing assignment in MLA format, you research for facts and information that you correlate to your own thoughts and ideas. Whatever topic you are exploring is supported through the sources you find, and those sources are cited to give the proper credit to original authors.
  • These are just a few of the examples of types of writing assignments that require the use of MLA format. Any time research is involved with a specific piece, it requires documentation to ensure you are properly presenting facts from an outside source. The final determination on whether to use MLA format depends on if you are required to under a certain discipline or for a specific writing assignment.