In the course of your academic career, you will most likely be required to write a research paper to Modern Language Association (MLA) style specifications. Sometimes you will come across a list in your research that you want to quote directly, but standard MLA style generally considers using lists in academic papers to be unscholarly and advises against using them. There are ways around MLA's strict rules about using bulleted lists that will allow you to include them in your essay.
Refer to your teacher's preferences. While the official MLA style guide does not allow for bulleted lists, individual teachers may accept them if you use them sparingly. Try not to use more than one list in your essay; it should be your interpretation of your research, not quoting other people's work.
Summarize and paraphrase the list. For example, if you want to reference a list of countries that currently use capital punishment, rather than quoting the entire list, consider summarizing the list in the body of your essay: "Belarus, China, Israel, Japan, The United States and 15 other countries currently use capital punishment." Remember to use an in-text citation after all paraphrased points.
Use a block quote. Any time a quote in your paper runs four lines or more, you must use block quote formatting to include it. If your teacher will allow it, you can also use block quotes to quote lists. Block quotes must have an indentation of at least 10 spaces from the left-hand margin and must have a deeper indentation than normal paragraph indents. If your paragraphs start with a 10-space indentation, you should use an additional tab-indent before starting a block quote. Block quotes are not enclosed in quotation marks and you must use a colon at the end of the signaling phrase just before the quote begins.
Use numerals instead of bullets. When you do use a list in MLA, select "Numbered List" when you're formatting it in your word processor. When a list must be used in MLA format, the style guidelines call for enumeration rather than bullet points. The University of Chicago's MLA specifications state that "The use of bullets (heavy dots) in place of enumeration is sometimes resorted to, but these may be considered cumbersome, especially in scholarly work."
- "Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition"; University of Chicago; 2010
- English Discourse: How and When to Use Block Quotes
Jennifer Reynolds is a professional writer covering crafting, electronics and entertainment topics. She graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing from York University.