Back in high school, I was told that MLA formatting was the only way to do a research paper. Chalk this up to my research papers all being in English classes, and as MLA is the preferred formatting for students of the humanities, my English instructors had this style hammered into their brains.
Fast forward to college and my first paper due in a social sciences class. Mind blown. There’s another format to use? What is this “APA” you speak of? Turns out, most every field or discipline has a preferred style format. APA and MLA are the major players, but there are others–such as Chicago (Turabian), commonly used for history.
As most papers are done in either the humanities or social sciences, APA and MLA are the styles that students most identify. Differentiating between the two can be difficult; confusing one for the other can be incredibly easy. So, at a glance, how do they actually differ?
- References vs. Works Cited.
- The list of references at the end of the paper is known as References in APA, and Works Cited in MLA. It is also possible to have a separate section in the MLA list of Works Consulted, so that you may keep your list of actual cited references concise.
- The author is as “Last Name, First Initial” in APA format, and “Last Name, First Name” in APA.
- Parenthetical Citations.
- If the author’s name is mentioned in the sentence, the date (and page number if quotations are used) is written in parentheses immediately after the name in APA format. In MLA format, the page number comes at the end of the sentence (no date).
- If the author’s name is not mentioned in the sentence, follow the same rules as above, but add the author name.
- Block Quotes. In APA formatting, quotes of 40 words or more are indented 1 tab. In MLA formatting, quotes of more than 4 lines are blocked 2 indents.
Klaphake, Elizabeth. My Life as an English Professor. Bellevue, Nebraska: Bellevue University Press. 1999.
(Klaphake, 1999, p. 54)
Klaphake, E. (1999). My life as an English professor. Bellevue, Nebraska: Bellevue University Press.Most content also appears on my LinkedIn page.