Difference Between MLA & APA Format in Bibliographies

Modern Language Association style, which is used to document research in the humanities, is similar to American Psychological Association style, which is standard in social sciences. Both require listing all sources used in research but only those sources. MLA calls this the Works Cited, while APA calls it References.

Author and Date

While both styles call for entries to begin with authors’ last names, APA follows that with initials; MLA uses authors’ full names. The second element in an APA listing is the date, while MLA puts the date near the end.


MLA capitalizes titles just as in the sources. APA style uses this approach for journal titles, but book titles only have capitals on the first word plus the first word of any subtitle. MLA places the titles of short works, such as poems or articles, in quotation marks, but APA style does not.

Web Addresses

In an MLA Works Cited list, writers should not include the URL, or Web address, for online sources, unless their instructors specifically require it. APA, however, does require URLs, but for online journals, APA prefers digital object identifiers -- or DOIs -- instead.