General Question

JessK's avatar

Am I allowed to use a question mark in the title of an MLA format research paper?

Asked by JessK (599points) May 16th, 2012

I can’t seem to find any references on the subject. Help would be much appreciated!

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

6 Answers

TexasDude's avatar

Are you in college, or highschool?

bongo's avatar

I can’t say if this is allowed or not as I am from the UK and not heard of MLA format (I usually base my referencing etc on Biological Sciences) but is bad practice to use a question mark in a title (in science anyway I don’t do any other type of writing now). If I was you I would change the question around to become a statement of what the paper tries to achieve. i.e. instead of “Does environmental enrichment effect behaviour in fish?” I would write “The effect of environmental enrichment on the behaviour of fish”, What is your title?

SavoirFaire's avatar

Yes, you are allowed. Several famous papers in my field (philosophy) have questions as their titles. It is a way of emphasizing the area of inquiry over any particular thesis.

the100thmonkey's avatar

For example.

But yeah, what do the MLA guidelines say?

SavoirFaire's avatar

@the100thmonkey An excellent example. The one I was thinking of is Prichard’s famous paper “Does Moral Philosophy Rest on a Mistake?”, the title of which has been copied over and over and over again (substituting other subjects for moral philosophy).

As for the MLA guidelines, the only rules I can find about question marks in titles are in regard to how to cite such titles. The possible existence of question marks in titles is simply passed over as an unexceptional fact, and there are no remarks forbidding or discouraging them. It seems, then, that they are no big deal one way or the other as far as MLA is concerned.

bolwerk's avatar

Most researchers avoid the MLA like the plague unless obligated to use it. It’s obnoxious. And profs who are strict about compliance with it are doubly obnoxious. I wouldn’t worry about it.

Does the MLA say anything about how you title your paper? @bongo may have a point about best practice for experimental research, but it’s so far as I know it’s not really illegal and I doubt it matters at all outside the hard sciences.

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