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MLA and APA Writing Examples


Writing research papers can be aggravating. Students may spend hours trying to figure out how to format their paper, cite sources, and pick the proper writing style. Usually, professors and teachers assign certain style guidelines. Two common style guides are the Modern Language Association (MLA) style and the American Psychological Association (APA). The differences between MLA and APA styles are evident in their formatting, citation systems, and approaches to writing.

MLA Writing Style

Researchers in the humanities field use the MLA style for their papers. The MLA style suits humanities research papers because of its structure. Humanities research papers are built around a thesis which the author proves throughout the paper. MLA style papers rely less heavily on graphs and pictures than those in APA style. However, an MLA-style paper will rely on concrete, proven facts and verifiable statistics to support its thesis.

APA Writing Style

The American Psychological Association designed its own style guide for research papers for writers in social science fields. APA-style papers usually present the results of experiments or studies. This paper’s style allows for the clear expression of statistics and data. Usually, APA-style papers include graphs and pictures to better illustrate the data.

MLA Formatting

Certain aspects are common to both APA and MLA-style papers. Both styles require using 8.5 x 11 inch white paper, one inch margins on all sides, and double spacing. However, the similarities end there. Generally, MLA-style papers do not require a title page. An MLA-style paper contains the author’s last name and page number in the upper right-hand corner.

APA Formatting

APA-style papers must have a title page at the beginning, which include a title in the upper left-hand corner of the page, a page number in the upper right-hand corner of the page, the title centered in the middle of the page, the author’s name, and institutional affiliation. Additionally, APA-style papers usually include an abstract, which provides a brief description of the paper. Every page on an APA-style paper features the title of the paper and the page number in the upper right-hand corner.

MLA Citations

Both APA and MLA-style papers feature parenthetical citations in the body of the work. The difference is the formulation of the citations. An MLA-style paper uses the source author’s last name and page number. A bibliography appears at the end of both APA and MLA-style papers. In an MLA-style bibliography, sources are listed alphabetically by the author’s last name. Following the author’s last name is the title, name of publication, date, and edition.

APA Citations

APA parenthetical citations use the source author’s last name and the year in which the source was published. If more than one writer collaborated on a source, all of the authors’ names are mentioned the first time that source is used in the text. However, only the last name of the first author in the group will be used when that source is mentioned subsequently. APA-style bibliographies list sources alphabetically, then followed by publication year, title, publisher, and pages.

About the Author

Rachel Levy Sarfin has been writing professionally since 1998. She has written for the "Yardley News" and the Healthwise Lifewise blog, and served as the Jerusalem correspondent for the Omanoot website. Sarfin completed her Master of Arts in Middle Eastern studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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