Term Paper Formats: APA vs MLA

What term paper formats research paper writers use normally depends on what their field of study is. The two most popular formats are Modern Language Association (MLA) and American Psychological Association (APA). English and the Humanities (arts, religion, world languages, and philosophy) tend to use MLA, while psychology, nursing, education, and business make use of APA. Both formats get updated periodically, MLA manuals are on their seventh edition, while the APA manual are currently using the sixth edition.

General Approach to Citation

Most MLA citation places priority on authorship of source documentation. Most in-text citation will record the authors name. In the Works Cited page at the end of the paper the author’s name is the first to appear. APA place their emphasis on the date a particular work was created. As a result, the date (generally the year) appears within the physical text. The date appears after the author’s name in the “reference” page at the end of a research paper. Both formats use parenthesis to cite quotations.

Purpose for Conducting Research and Writing

Using MLA or APA can also depend on the type of research and writing you are involved in. A research paper using MLA is used to show cause and effect, narrate, interpret, illustrate, compare and contrast, to analyze, argue a particular point of view, whereas APA is used for reporting original research, and to review previous literature related to the current research topic.

Other Features

Whereas MLA does not require a separate title page, APA requires a title with running head. An APA paper has an abstract summarizing the paper, while there is no such requirement in an MLA paper. MLA papers also lack headings. How a quotation is formatted depends on the number of words (short quotes are 40 words or less, long quotes, over 40) in APA. MLA quotations are formatted based on lines of text (four lines or less are short, while anything over 4 is considered long).

The More Things Change

For all their differences MLA and APA do have their similarities. Both formats are intended to ensure that your sources are properly cited within the text. Both require double spacing throughout the paper. Citations on the “works cited” and “references” pages have a hanging indent are listed in alphabetical order. Even though their standard of what defines the length of a quote, both use the same format of block quotes (indented an inch from the margin).