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Research Paper Formatting: MLA vs. APA


Knowing what style to use MLA or APA?

Depending on what you are studying you may be expected to use either MLA or APA formatting. The main difference between the two is how the sources are cited.

When To Use APA

The American psychological association (APA) style as it was originally listed is a set of rules for authors to follow when they submit their paper for publication. This system was created to reduce plagiarism and provide proper information organization that was universally understood by scholars. It very quickly has become the most popular writing format that is used for scientific papers and academic writing. The APA style allows for citations to be made directly within the document, the inclusion of direct quotes as well as the addition of both endnotes and footnotes to the document. It also gives the author permission to include past tense verbs within the document.

Other Characteristics

When To Use MLA

The Modern Language Association (MLA) style is used for literary research as well as any topical paper that falls under the field of humanities. Like APA it also has it’s own set of established rules for citing and listing references. Many college and universities use MLA as the standard format for submitting research papers, topical essays, and thesis documents. MLA focuses primarily on the proper citation of books, anthological collections, literary works, media, and other.

Other Characteristics

*The general rule of thumb for knowing which to use MLA or APA is if your paper is in the field of science such as psychology, then you use APA. Otherwise any humanities coursework written assignment should be completed using MLA format.