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Difference Between MLA and APA Citation

Top 10 Details Which Distinguish APA Style from MLA Style

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 Julian Borger  30 Jul, 2018  Assignment

Difference Between MLA and APA Citation

Have you ever noticed the fact that writing is not exactly a difficult task? It can actually be a fun activity when there are no rules or instructions to comply with. But life is not that convenient for all, at least not for the students. For the major part of their academic career, they need to follow a set of guidelines while preparing various academic papers. No wonder why they need assignment writing help so frequently.

While there are several confusing instructions from the professors, students also need to follow a particular formatting style in their writing. The tricky part is that there are quite a few formatting styles in practice in today’s date. And while most academic institutes around the globe prefer either APA or MLA style, even they can be confusing at times.

APA and MLA styles generally outline the rules for citing a particular paper. It can be used in a thesis paper, a dissertation, a research paper and even while writing books and journals.

People often get confused between APA and MLA style citations because they share some similar features to some extent. However, there are plenty of differences between these two. If you are willing to submit a flawless paper, you need to know the difference. But first, you need to know the basics of these two style guides.

APA (American Psychological Association) style:

APA style is vastly used in the field of social sciences to cite various sources in a particular piece of content. The style guide offers a general format for in-text citations and the reference page. Interestingly, the latest version of the APA Citation Guide is revised according to the 6th edition of the APA manual.

MLA (Modern Language Association) style:

MLA style is generally used while citing the sources of information in a piece of content on liberal arts and humanities. Currently, the 8th edition of the MLA handbook is being referred by the individuals as well as the institutes across the globe.

As you can see, both these citation styles are used for different subject areas. So if your professor forgets to mention the formatting style for a particular project, you can choose the right formatting style according to the subject you are supposed to work on. But how do you distinguish between APA and MLA styles without the help of style guide? Well, let’s find out

APA vs. MLA

As mentioned previously, both the formatting styles are used widely by the students, researchers, authors and thesis writers. However, if you are not very familiar with the citation and formatting styles, here are a few areas that can help you distinguish between the two.

1. Content:

In the APA style research paper, there are the title page, abstract, main body and references. MLA style research paper, however, does not require a separate title page. Mentioning the names of the author, instructor, the course and date on the top-left section of the first page is acceptable in MLA style paper.

2. The positioning of the page number:

The APA guidelines put stress on the use of page numbers on the title page. On the other hand, there is no separate title page, which is why page number starts from the first content page. In both the styles, the page numbers are placed at the top right corner of the pages.

3. Location of the source list:

When it comes to the location of the source list of the borrowed information, APA style guide recommends placing it in the “references” section, while the MLA style guide asks the writer to mention it in the “works cited”.

4. The order of entries:

In APA style citation, the sources are mentioned in the reference in alphabetical order for authors. And if the there are multiple works of the same author, those works are mentioned in chronological order under the author's name. For MLA style, the sources are listed in alphabetical order for authors. And when there are several works under the name of the same author, the works are mentioned in the alphabetical order of the work-title.

5. Content of the citation section:

In the APA format, the names of authors, editors and compilers are mentioned in the references. However, in the MLA format, you need to mention a brief credit in parenthetical citations and complete description apart from the names of authors, editors and compilers.

6. The name of the contributor:

In APA style format, the names are written in particularly this order – last name, first initial, middle initial. For example: if you are citing the work of John Gregory Brown, the ideal way of writing the name will be this – "Brown, J. G." In MLA style format, full names are used instead of the initials. For instance, if it is written by John Gregory Brown, you should mention "Brown, John Gregory". However, you need to add "ed." for editors and "comp." for compilers.

7. The presentation of article titles:

In APA format, the article titles are not referenced in quotation marks. However, the MLA format prioritizes the use of quotation marks of every article title that is referenced. Additionally, only the first letter of the title is capitalized in APA style. MLA style, however, permits the use of upper on any major word in the title.

8. The priority of sources:

APA format prioritizes the sources that are more contemporary to the time. For this particular reason, it recommends the use of "name, year, page no." – in the same order (e.g., James, 2006, p. 26). On the other hand, MLA format prefers the classic sources, which is the reason why the in-text parenthesis of citation is done in this particular order "name page number" (e.g., James 26).

9. Listing the multiple works by an author:

The APA format allows you to list multiple works by a single author in chronological order while repeating the name for all the entries. The MLA format, however, recommends the use of alphabetical order while mentioning the multiple works of an author. However, you can mention the name of the author only once during the first listing. In case of the rest of the listing, you need to use 3 hyphens, a period, a space, name of the title, and then another period.

10. The mention of online sources:

While mentioning an online source, the APA format recommends the mention of complete URL. In case of MLA format, the HTTP part is omitted. Also, the access date needs to be mentioned in MLA format. The APA format does not require such details. 

As you can see, both APA and MLA styles of writing have their own set of unique features. While some researchers prefer MLA formatting style because of its easier organization of content, others choose APA over MLA as they offer a professional touch while presenting crucial scientific data in an orderly fashion. Since you are still pursuing your academic career, it is recommended that you take the suggestion of your professor before choosing the formatting style to avoid further confusion. 

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