APA vs MLA: Difference and Comparison

APA (American Psychological Association) style is commonly used in social sciences and sciences, featuring in-text citations with author’s last name and year of publication, and a references list at the end. MLA (Modern Language Association) style is often used in humanities, employing in-text citations with author’s last name and page number, and a works cited page at the end. APA focuses on concise and clear writing, while MLA emphasizes literary analysis and the humanities.

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 vs MLA

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, focusing on writing and literature.

APA vs MLA

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

FeatureAPAMLA
DisciplinesSocial sciences, behavioral sciences, natural sciencesHumanities, liberal arts
In-text Citation StyleAuthor-date (e.g., Smith, 2023)Author-page number (e.g., Smith 23)
Reference ListTitled “References”Titled “Works Cited”
Reference List OrderAlphabetical by author’s last nameAlphabetical by first word of entry (excluding articles like “a,” “an,” “the”)
Author Last Name in ReferencesInitials only (e.g., A. Smith)Full name (e.g., Alice Smith)
Title Case in ReferencesSentence case except for major words in journal titles (e.g., The Journal of Psychology)Title case (e.g., The Joy of Learning)
Page Numbers in ReferencesIncluded for all sourcesIncluded only for print books
Database Information in ReferencesExcludedIncluded, if available
Title PageRequiredNot required, replaced by header with author name, course name, instructor name, and date

 

What is APA?

APA style is a set of guidelines established by the American Psychological Association for formatting research papers, manuscripts, and citations in academic and scientific writing. It is widely used in various disciplines within the social sciences, including psychology, sociology, education, and communication.

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Key Components of APA Style

  1. In-text Citations: APA style utilizes parenthetical author-date citations within the text to acknowledge the sources of information used in the paper. This includes the author’s last name and the publication year, e.g., (Smith, 2020). Page numbers are also included when quoting directly from a source.
  2. References List: At the end of the paper, APA requires a comprehensive list of all sources cited, titled “References.” This list includes detailed bibliographic information for each source cited in the paper, arranged alphabetically by the authors’ last names.
  3. Formatting Guidelines: APA style specifies guidelines for formatting the title page, abstract, headings, margins, font, and other stylistic elements of a paper. It emphasizes clarity, consistency, and professionalism in written communication.
  4. Publication Manual: The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association serves as the official guide to APA style. It provides detailed instructions on how to format papers, cite sources, and construct references accurately.
american psychology association
 

What is MLA?

MLA style is a set of guidelines established by the Modern Language Association for formatting research papers, manuscripts, and citations in literature, languages, and humanities disciplines. It is commonly used in English studies, literary criticism, cultural studies, and related fields.

Key Components of MLA Style

  1. In-text Citations: MLA style employs parenthetical author-page citations within the text to acknowledge the sources of information used in the paper. This includes the author’s last name and the page number(s) of the cited information, e.g., (Smith 123). Page numbers are necessary for direct quotations but optional for paraphrased or summarized information.
  2. Works Cited Page: At the end of the paper, MLA requires a separate page titled “Works Cited,” listing all sources cited in the paper. Entries are organized alphabetically by the authors’ last names or by the title if no author is provided. Each entry includes detailed bibliographic information following a specific format.
  3. Formatting Guidelines: MLA style specifies guidelines for formatting the title page (if required), headings, margins, font, and other stylistic elements of a paper. It emphasizes simplicity, clarity, and uniformity in written communication.
  4. MLA Handbook: The MLA Handbook serves as the official guide to MLA style. It provides detailed instructions on how to format papers, cite sources, and construct works cited entries accurately.
modern language association

Main Differences Between APA and MLA

  • In-text Citations:
    • APA: Uses author-date format (Author, Year) for in-text citations, often without page numbers.
    • MLA: Utilizes author-page format (Author Page) for in-text citations, including page numbers, especially for direct quotations.
  • References/Works Cited:
    • APA: Requires a references list at the end of the paper, listing all sources cited in alphabetical order.
    • MLA: Requires a works cited page at the end of the paper, listing all sources cited in alphabetical order by the author’s last name (or title if no author).
  • Formatting Guidelines:
    • APA: Emphasizes concise and clear writing, with specific guidelines for title page, headings, margins, font, and overall formatting.
    • MLA: Emphasizes simplicity and uniformity, with specific guidelines for headings, margins, font, and overall formatting, often used in literary analysis and humanities studies.
References
  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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Last Updated : 06 March, 2024

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34 thoughts on “APA vs MLA: Difference and Comparison”

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  17. While the article explicates the distinctions between APA and MLA, it overlooks the evolving trends in citation styles and the implications for contemporary scholarly work.

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