The APA, or American Psychological Association, and the MLA, or Modern Language Association are the two most common academic writing formats used to present information and arguments in the humanities and social sciences fields. The differences between how to write a paper in APA format and how to write a paper in MLA format are subtle but worth knowing about and in this post I intend to explore these differences.
So what are the two styles used for?
Those who are studying in the humanities subjects use the MLA format for their written papers as it was designed for use with writing about language or literature. In contrast, the APA format was designed to be used by those in the fields of social science to add strength and definition to their writing.
What are the key differences?
Whereas an APA paper must always include a title page, one written using the MLA format doesn't need to unless specified by the teacher or professor. An APA paper must also include a brief summary of the paper known as an abstract which again is not needed in a paper written in the MLA format.
There are no differences in the main body of the text and information and research can be presented in the same fashion. However, there is still one further difference when it comes to citing works in each style.
Although both styles need to present source material and reference them accordingly, how they present that data does differ slightly. Each paper should present its full sources at the end of the paper and should be titled:
APA - References
MLA - Works Cited
Parenthetical or in-text citation are intended to be a short reference which guides the reader to the source list. In-text citations using the MLA style presents the authors' last name followed by the page number in the document being referenced: (Smith, p.345). Whereas in the APA style it is presented as the authors' last name followed by the year of publication: (Smith 2010)
Quotation source text also differs in the two formats. Using the APA format, quotations which are more than 40 words in length are indented by five spaces. while in the MLA format, any quotes that are longer than four lines are indented by ten spaces.
Any misuse of these formats will result in penalties of some kind and knowing how to write a paper in the correct format is something every student needs to be aware of before putting pen to paper.