Research papers writing guide: MLA vs APA

When you might use MLA or APA

If you need to write an essay, then it is entirely possible that you have been instructed to use a certain formatting style. Of the various formatting styles, two of the most commonly used are MLA or APA format. Knowing the difference between the two is important for the success of an essay.

Firstly, it is important to know when you may need to use either of these two styles. As a general rule, the MLA format of essay writing is often used for Humanities-based subjects, such as Art, English, or theatre; whereas, the APA format is typically the format of choice for social sciences, such as sociology or psychology.

Using citations or references

There are various differences between the two writing styles. One of the most notable differences is that of the way citations and references are used. Both styles have their own formats, with the MLA format using a works cited page to list citations. However, the APA format does not use a works cited page; instead, it uses a reference page to list any citations that you made.

These are not the only differences; MLA style you will list the last name followed by the first name, which differs from the APA format, in which you will list the last name followed by an initial. There can also be other minor differences that can be worth checking so as to ensure that your work matches the specifications laid out for you. One of the similarities between the two though, is the fact that both include any citations listed in alphabetical format.


When it comes to formatting the work, there are similarities and differences again. One of the main similarities is that both include double spacing with 8.5 x 11 pages. However, the actual layout of the work can differ greatly. One of the main differences between the two is that of indentations used when it comes to tables and other such aspects that you may wish to include within your essay.

Ultimately, it cannot be said objectively whether one format or the other is better. Instead, this comes down to a completely subjective view and is a matter of personal taste. However, this doesn’t take away from the importance of using the correct requirements that each formatting style require. Generally, while both formats use common specifications, it is entirely possible that an individual essay may have its own specific requirements as well as, so it is always worth double-checking what is required of your essay.

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