A Guide To Research Paper Writing: APA Vs. MLA


Most people do not know the difference between the two most common writing styles. The two writing styles have their similarities and differences. Every lecturer or anyone who offers any form of academic assignments can choose any depending on preference. Each one has different sets of demands that are only met by one of the styles or both.


The various differences to note are that MLA (Modern Language Association) is often used in the humanities for instance in languages, fine and creative arts and other related studies. APA (American Psychological Association) is used while writing research papers for social sciences. These include Psychology, social work, sociology, anthropology and any other related fields. The similarity in both is that the citations have a hanging indent and the whole paper is double spaced.

In MLA the citing section at the end has “work cited” as a guideline on where to write the citations while in APA, the citations are written under “references”. This difference does not alleviate the need to have the full content of the paper to be in the reference or work cited section of the paper. Both research papers insist on proper referencing at the end and in text citing.

The work cited in MLA is written from last name to first name (Jones, Gilbert) while in APA style, the last name is written then the first name is abbreviated e.g. (Jones, G.). As previously mentioned, all the work that was looked up needs to be well attributed to avoid claims of plagiarism. This claim can have you penalised by the school for breaking the rules on academic plagiarism.

The page number is typed in parentheses at the end of the sentence to refer to the page that the content was derived from e.g. Gilbert Jones (26). In APA though, when the name is mentioned in the work, the year of publication has to be put in parentheses (Gilbert Jones (2013). The two writing styles use parenthetical form of in text citation e.g. Jones, (2006) and Jones (24). In both cases, the citations or work references are positioned in an alphabetical order at the end of the writing.

The quotes in MLA are limited. When they are 4 lines or longer, they are blocked which means they are indented two tabs over. In APA, quotes more than 40 words are indented one tab or 5 spaces. The quotes in both have to be done in a manner that flows and can be easily understood.

Depending on the various needs in writing, the different writing styles can be used across the board on the various respective fields they are mostly used in.

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