College professors and some high school teachers require Modern Language Association (MLA) research paper format for all papers regardless of topic. However, the social sciences favor American Psychological Association formatting. APA has a book much like the MLA handbook, detailing format requirements and variations on reference information. The differences between MLA and APA format do not change the way you research your topic or write the research paper. However, they do differ in visual presentation, in-text citation and reference composition.
Create a title page. MLA format does not use a title page. An APA title page is page- and line-centered. Type the title of the paper, double-space, then type your first and last name. The professor may require additional information, such as course number, date or word count.
Write an abstract. Professional publications require an abstract. However, this step depends entirely on your professor’s wishes. If the professor requires an abstract, it should have no more than 200 words and summarize the material presented in the paper, including conclusions or findings.
Add headings. MLA format uses headings, but most professors do not like or require their use. Main headings should be centered on the page in boldface using title case. Secondary headings should be flush-left, boldface and title case. Include tertiary headings in the first sentence of the paragraph and should be boldface and sentence case with a period. For example, a paper on schizophrenia would include a main heading such as "Case Study," "Etiology" and "Treatment." Additional headings under "Treatment" would include "Occupational Therapy," "Psychoanalysis" and "Drugs." "Drugs" could be further broken down into paragraph headings identifying each drug used.
Modify in-text citations. APA format uses the author-date form of in-text citation rather than author-page number as in MLA format. Type the author’s last name and the publication year of the reference material within parenthesis, e.g. (Smith, 2008). Include page numbers only when using direct quotations using the following format: (Smith, 2008, p. 32). MLA format does not use the abbreviation for page.
Convert the bibliography. Change the title of the bibliographic page from “Works Cited” to “References.” APA format uses the initials for author’s first and middle names instead of the whole first name. In addition, multiple publications by the same author are listed according to publication date rather than alphabetically and the name of the author is repeated for all entries. MLA format allows you to substitute three hyphens (---) in place of a replicated author.
Add DOI or URL to the bibliographic entries. DOI stands for digital object identifier and is included with electronic publications. If a DOI is not available, use the complete URL where the reference was obtained. Paper references omit this step. MLA format no longer requires the use of URLs on Works Cited pages.