APA vs MLA: Difference and Comparison

The academic environment holds a strict, stringent, and focused approach to representing work in terms of writing, such as essays, research papers, science publications, etc.


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Certain rules & regulations are laid along with specific citation styles that give a unified and structured system to represent the research work.

Among many, APA and MLA are common and primarily used; both are pretty similar, so there is little confusion.

Choosing APA or MLA purely depends on the work or questions one will answer or represent through their research.

Key Takeaways

  1. APA (American Psychological Association) and MLA (Modern Language Association) are commonly used citation styles.
  2. APA is used in social sciences, while MLA is used in humanities.
  3. APA uses in-text citations and a references list, while MLA uses parenthetical citations and works cited page.


APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences and includes specific guidelines for citing sources in the text and the reference page. MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most used in the humanities, with a focus on writing and literature.


The main idea behind the APA style is to provide a comprehensive writing style with proper headlines and works cited lists as references to make it easy for the reader to read and realize.

What makes MLA different from APA are citations and references as work cited with verbs in the present tense.


Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonAPAMLA
DefinitionAPA is a writing and formatting style used in academics to write scholarly books and journal articles in natural and behavioural science.MLA is a writing and formatting style used in academics to write scholarly books and journal articles within the humanities and social science fields.
Page TitleIt’s mandatory to provide the Title on the page.No need to provide a separate title on the page.
Format of Work CitedLast name of the author, publication date, and source name.Last name of the author, source name and publication date.
CapitalizationThe title is written in italics with the first word of the title, subtitle, and proper noun in capital letters, and everything else in lowercase.The title is underlined with all crucial words in capital format.
Source PageIt is referred to as “References”.It is referred to as “Works Cited”.
Date FormatThe date is followed by the author’s name and is in parentheses.The date is followed by the publisher’s name and is not in parentheses.
Headings/SubheadingsHeadings/Subheadings are used.Headings/Subheadings are not used.
Used InNatural sciences include biology, Physics, Chemistry, Geology, and criminology.Humanities & Social Sciences such as Psychology, Arts, Anthropology, Politics, Sociology, etc.
ExampleMorgan, D. (2016). Greek Theater. USA: Triti Group.Morgan, Dylan. Greek Theater. Triti Group, 2016.


What is APA?

APA originated from American Psychology Association guidelines, where specific rules are created on how books, journals, articles, and publications will be written and formatted.

It provides a comprehensive formatting structure for the authors to organize their research or writing work with a unique style mentioning citations and references.

The central concept or idea of the APA style is to write the research article, paper, or book so that it becomes easy to read and comprehend.

There exists a proper use of headings, sub-headings, and works cited lists as references to give a friendly structured style to the text.

It is widely used in natural science, such as biology, physics, chemistry, geology, criminology, etc., to write lab reports, scientific papers, documents, etc. The language is straight and easy.

Formatting Style of APA:

  1. Font & Size: Times New Roman with size 12.
  2. Space: Double-spaced lines.
  3. Margin: One inch.
  4. Page number: On every page at the upper right side.
  5. Title Position: In Center.
  6. Abstract: Included for long papers.
  7. Reference List: As Bibliographic.
  8. In-text Citations: Last name of the Author, Publication date/year and source name.
  9. Headings/Subheadings: Included.
american psychology association

What is MLA?

MLA stands for the Modern Language Association, which defines how literature and language research papers will be written or structured.

Authors use the writing and formatting style to document their academic journals, publishers, books, and scholarly articles.

Citations in MLA follow specific conventions that make them different from other writing styles.

Sources used are mentioned in the “Work-cited” list to give proper due credit.

It is widely used in humanities and social science such as Psychology, Arts, Anthropology, Politics, Sociology, etc.

Formatting Style of MLA:

  1. Font & Size: Times New Roman with size 12.
  2. Space: Double-spaced lines.
  3. Margin: One inch.
  4. Page number: On every page at the upper right corner with the author’s name.
  5. Title Position: In the Center with quotation marks.
  6. Abstract: Not included.
  7. Work Cited List: As Bibliographical list.
  8. In-text Citations: Author’s last name, Source name, and Publication date/year.
  9. Headings/Subheadings: Not included
modern language association

Main Differences Between APA and MLA

Every academic journal, article, book, or research paper, is written brilliantly in a specific format and style to give a unique value to the reader.

Typically, the subject area of the research decides what format will be used to write the paper.

Understanding the difference between APA and MLA styles helps the author organise their write-up correctly and won’t distract the reader.

  1. In APA style, four sections are there, i.e. page title, an abstract of the research, body paragraphs with headings/sub-headings, and a list of references. In MLA style, only two sections are there, i.e. body in paragraph format and work cited pages. In MLA, the page title and an abstract are not included.
  2. In APA style, an in-text citation is in author-date format, whereas in MLA style, in-text citations are author-page format.
  3. In APA, the author’s last name is mentioned with the publishing date/year in parenthesis, whereas in MLA, the author’s name with the page number is cited.
  4. Pages referred to in APA are mentioned at the end in a single page as “References”, whereas, in MLA, it is mentioned as “Work-Cited”.
  5. APA format is used for social science like Sociology, Psychology, Nursing, Social Work, Criminology, Business, Education, etc. MLA format is used for humanities like Literature, History, Language, Arts, Philosophy, Theatre, Religion, Law, Anthropology, Politics, etc.
  1. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED314761
  2. https://okknf.smcebi.edu.pl/orwi07756sdo/11-prof-karina-gutkowski/rxJXL4Lpg4f-the-essentials-of-mla-style-a-guide-to-documenta-doc.pdf
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2 thoughts on “APA vs MLA: Difference and Comparison”

  1. the way we quote sources on the web is quite different from the standardized ways of quoting sources. ALA and MLA look great to me but I never rememberd the difference and used to get confused with them. you are doing great job by giving us answers to differences.

    1. Avatar of Piyush Yadav
      Piyush Yadav

      the formatting is quite different in both ALA and MLA. But if you have used both types of formatting to quote sources then just by looking at them, you can tell whether it is ALA or MLA

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