By: John K.
13 min read
Reviewed By: Rylee W.
Published on: Sep 10, 2019
Working on a paper and thinking about which formatting style to use?
Confused between APA and MLA formatting?
You are at the right place!!
There are five major types of academic referencing styles: APA, MLA, Chicago, Oxford, and Harvard, which are used in writing assignments and for journal articles and reference lists.
Both of them are the most common citation styles, and both of them use parenthetical citation format.
APA and MLA citation formats are probably the most commonly used referencing styles.
On this Page
Before moving forward with APA and MLA style guides and the differences between them, you need to learn what a citation and citation style is. A citation is added into the academic papers and essays to refer back to the source of information and to credit the original author.
It includes the name of the author, date of publication, name of the publisher, year of publication, page number, in case of books, anthologies, and journals, name of the journal, edition, DOI (Digital Object Identifier), and the online source from where the data is retrieved. A citation is important to avoid plagiarism and to add credibility to your academic work.
Universally, there are three main types of citation styles: APA, MLA, and Chicago.
APA format citation is similar to MLA format in quite some ways like both of them use font type and size, Times New Roman 12pt, margins are one inch all around, and the paper is double spaced. However, where they have some similar aspects, there are a number of differences between them that could not be avoided. Learn and follow them completely if you do not want your teacher to minus your score.
Talking about the APA vs MLA points, both of these referencing styles have different histories, originations, and purposes of development. Researchers and experts developed these referencing styles to support particular fields of study. Here is a detailed guide on APA format with examples.
APA style papers and essays have a separate title page that is formatted in the respective style. The main things to add in the APA citation vs MLA citation style title page are:
MLA paper does not require any separate title page, and, generally, the author’s name, instructor’s name, department, and date of submission are mentioned on the first page of the assignment. The paper starts immediately after these details and with a centered paper title.
Though both the citation styles share some common traits, they do have some differences in their formats. The paper presentation in both styles is the same as both of them have 12pt Times New Roman font size and style, the 1-inch margin on all four sides of the paper, and double spaced.
All the paragraphs are indented, and the paper must contain proper, and accordingly, incites to credit the paraphrase and direct quotes. One of the main APA and MLA differences is that in the MLA, writers add endnotes and footnotes to give additional information. In APA style paper, no footnotes are added.
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A major APA vs MLA format characteristic is the style of referencing that is used in both of them.
APA format vs MLA format citation will be included in the following way.
The references in the APA format are added to the ‘References’ page, while the cited works in MLA are added to the ‘Works Cited’ page.
For Hardcover Books
In both APA and MLA formats, the books’ authors, year of publishing, publisher, and place of publishing are added, but in a different order.
The author’s last name followed by the initials of the first name and year of publication, italicized name of the book, city, state, and publisher is added.
James, H. (1937). The ambassadors. New York, NY: Scribner.
For the MLA print book citation method, the last name is followed by the first name of the author, the main title of the work, city, publisher, the year of publication, and print, to indicate the kind of book.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1942. Print.
For Online Books
Online book citation differs in the way that the online source, the web link, is added into the citation so that it is accessible afterward also.
The following format is followed,
Porter, R. (1994). London, a social history. Retrieved from http://books.google.com
For MLA online book citation, the following order is followed,
Bodnar, Kipp, and Jeffrey L. Cohen. The B2B Social Media Book. Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2012.
For Books from a Database
Apart from hardcovers and print versions, there are many books that are available in the databases, line websites, and online publishing sites and could be accessed online. For them, a link to the main database is added to the reference.
For APA, the whole format is the same, but the link to the website is added.
Bloom, H. (1986). American women poets. Retrieved from http://www.infobasepublishing.com
The whole format is the same except only the source; the web is mentioned with the date and URL of the source.
Morem, Susan. 101 Tips for Graduates. New York: Ferguson, 2005. Infobase Publishing eBooks. Web. 16 Mar. 2010. http://www.infobasepublishing.com
For Websites and Blogs
For most students, online sources are the way to go. People now prefer and rely on digital mediums than print books and other sources. To highlight more of the APA vs MLA features, we are adding how to cite your online sources here.
For websites, only its link is added, without the date on which it was accessed, along with the author and date of publishing.
Cain, K. (2012, June 29). The Negative effects of Facebook on communication. Social Media Today RSS. Retrieved from http://socialmediatoday.com
For blogs and articles, follow the following structure.
China, The American Press, and the State Department [Web log post]. (2013, January 3). Retrieved from Schonfeld, E. (2010, May 3).
One core difference that we would like to mention and add in this APA vs MLA argument is that where APA follows a separate format for websites and blogs, MLA follows the same for both.
Cain, Kevin. "The Negative Effects of Facebook on Communication." Social Media Today RSS N.p., 29 June 2012. Web. 02 Jan. 2013.
For Print Journals
Academic journals are often used by students to learn about new trends and studies and to stay up-to-date also. When adding journals to your paper, or study, make sure that you follow proper citation guidelines to ensure its flawless structure.
Our complete guide on MLA Format a sample paper and further examples will help you understand it further.
To add citations and references for journals, add volume and issue number and page numbers along with the date of publication, the author's name, and paper title.
Jacoby, W. G. (1994). Public attitudes toward government spending. American Journal of Political Science, 38(2), 336-361.
For MLA, all the details mentioned in APA paper format will be added except that the order of mention will be different.
Jacoby, William G. "Public Attitudes Toward Government Spending." American Journal of Political Science 38.2 (1994): 336-61. Print.
For Online Journals
Besides being available in libraries, academic journals are available online as well. If you are here to look for a guide to know about how to cite online journals, follow the following structure.
Along with the previously mentioned details, in the online version, the link of the main website, paper title, and doi (Digital Object identifier), or the date of retrieval is added.
Poiger, U. G. (1996). Rock 'n' roll, female sexuality, and the Cold War Battle over German Identities. The Journal of Modern Language, 68(3), 577. doi:10.1086/245343
The date of retrieval and the title of the website are added at the end of the reference.
Poiger, Uta G. "Rock 'n' Roll, Female Sexuality, and the Cold War Battle over German Identities." The Journal of Modern Language 68.3 (1996): 577. JSTOR. Web. 2 Jan. 2013.
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For Database Journals
Apart from print and online journals that you can find for your paper's assistance, to format a paper from a database, use the following methods.
To know the format, follow the following structure,
Davis, E. (1932). New chapters in American psychological history. The Science News-Letter, 22(605), 306-307. doi: 10.2307/3907973
Follow the following structure to add your citations for online academic journals.
Jacoby, William G. "Public Attitudes Toward Government Spending." American Journal of Political Science 38.2 (1994): 336-61. JSTOR. Web. 23 Apr. 2010.
Found a great quote or phrase? Great. Adding direct quotes and phrases and paraphrased content is a great way of supporting your research in social sciences. However, the added information must be cited and referenced properly.
For a Single Author
For APA in-text citation, the last name of the author followed by the date of publication and page number, in the case of books or journals and specific parts of a study, is presented in parentheses.
"Darwin's theory of evolution is flawed and inconsistent. (Shawn, 2015, p. 15)."
In case the author's name is mentioned in the sentence, just add the year in front of the writer's name and the page number at the end of the sentence.
Shawn (2015) argues that Darwin's evolution is flawed and inconsistent (p. 15).
For MLA style, the last name of the author, followed by the page of the book or journal, if any, is presented in parenthesis.
"Darwin's theory of evolution is flawed and inconsistent. (Shawn 15)."
If the author's name is added to the sentence then the page number is mentioned only.
Shawn (2015) argues that Darwin's evolution is flawed and inconsistent (15).
For Multiple Authors
In APA format, all the last names of the authors and year of publication are mentioned in the first in-text, separated by a comma and ampersand.
Greenhouse effect is one of the key players in increasing global warming (Williams, Smith, & Shaw, 2015).
For every other subsequent in-text, only the first name is added, followed by et al and the year of publication.
Global warming is affecting the environment on a large scale can be minimized by reducing our carbon footprint (Williams et al., 2015).
For MLA paper citations, you do not need to add and mention all the writers in the first in-text. Only the first author is mentioned, while the others are cited as et al followed by the page number.
By minimizing the use of plastic and non-biodegradable substances, the environmental hazards of carbon and global warming could be minimized to a large extent (Williams et al. 50). In case the authors are mentioned in the sentence, only page numbers will be mentioned at the end of the sentence.
For Sources Without an Author
Coming across a source without any author is probably the most frustrating thing for a student, but it is common when you are working with digital images, movies and videos, dictionaries and encyclopedias, and online web pages where authors are not mentioned.
In APA, in case you do not find the author, add the first few words of the study and the year of publication.
According to a new research, human cloning may be the future of human advancement ("Genetics and Genes," 2014).
If you have mentioned the title of the study in the content, then add the year of publication only.
According to "Genetics and Genes" study (2014), human cloning may be the future of human advancement.
In case of no author name in MLA citation, the name of the work is used in parentheses and quotation marks. If the title is too long, shorten the title but make sure that the words are the same as added and mentioned in the Works Cited.
"From the moment you hold your baby in your arms, you will never be the same. You might long for the person you were before, when you had freedom and time and nothing in particular to worry about" ("The Last Time").
For online sources, in both APA and MLA, the same format of author's name and date of publication is followed. In case nothing is mentioned, just add the title of the article or paper.
Make sure that you follow the right in-text citation style.
MLA does not follow a tightly knitted headings and subheadings system as it is mostly used by the students of literature and other social arts subjects. These subjects do not have many headings and subheadings and follow the paragraph system only. However, if you still want to divide your paper into sections, there is a suggested format for it.
|1. Heading 1|
|1.1. Subheading 1|
|1.2. Subheading 2|
|2. Heading 2|
|2.1. Subheading 1|
|2.2. Subheading 2|
This table is just for reference and to give you an idea only; you should use whatever works best for you but make sure that it is consistent throughout the paper.
APA format has a well-defined headings and subheadings system; because this is followed by the scholars of scientific studies and they use headings and sections to organize their work, this format has a set guideline for sections.
A usual APA format for headings and subheadings is:
|Level 1 Heading|
|Level 2 Heading|
|Level 3 Heading|
|Level 4 Heading|
|Level 5 Heading|
When adding headings and subheadings in your APA-style paper, consider these and follow the structure carefully.
In an APA paper or essay, the references are added at the end of the paper and under the 'References' title. The works used as references in an MLA paper are added under the 'Works Cited' title. All the citations and references are organized in alphabetical order.
None of the APA or MLA calls for bibliography as a must. They treat References and Works Cited pages as thorough references. However, if you do need to add the bibliography, follow the citation structure as prescribed by your respective paper's citation format.
So, which format is better to choose and when?
APA is more for scientists, and MLA is for humanists.
Keep in mind that it completely depends on the scenario. If you are writing about fictional work, MLA is appropriate to use.
If you are writing short publications such as academic articles, it is appropriate for you to use MLA.
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Colleges use both of these citation styles. It depends on the teacher’s instructions and whether your paper is from the humanities or sciences field.
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John K. is a professional writer and author with many publications to his name. He has a Ph.D. in the field of management sciences, making him an expert on the subject matter. John is highly sought after for his insights and knowledge, and he regularly delivers keynote speeches and conducts workshops on various topics related to writing and publishing. He is also a regular contributor to various online publications.
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