APA vs. MLA: What Style Guide Do I Use

A new day, a new story, so you have been given your new assignment by your instructor and you are free to choose the styling format for the paper you submit. And you cannot even tell what is the difference between MLA and APA, so how to choose. APA stands for the American Psychological Association and MLA stands for Modern Language Association. Because we have to discuss scientific research and evaluate gathered data, APA allows for direct quotations, in-text citations, footnotes and endnotes. APA is used mainly for writing scientific papers, papers that involve social data gathering and can also employ the use of past tense in verbs.

Main Difference:

Well the most basic and defining answer to that simple question is; MLA is used for humanities related research and APA is used to research conducted in the social sciences, topics such as political science, economics, human geography, sociology and demography. While humanities include; literature, art, philosophy, music, religion and languages. APA is heavily favoured when the research includes data gathering and interpretation. On the other hand, MLA is favoured when philosophical discussions are to be conducted in the paper. One simple and rather famous difference between MLA and APA is that MLA calls its referencing sheet ‘references and APA calls its referencing sheet ‘works cited’.

  • Naming Differences: When naming authors, the simple difference between APA and MLA is that MLA uses full first name then coma and then the last name. But in APA style of writing, you only put the initials of first name, then coma and then the second name. For example, Freud. S will be written in APA styling while Freud, Sigmund in MLA.
  • Title Page: Title pages in MLA and APA have one simple difference. MLA does not have a title page and APA does have a title page. MLA only requires that you use your name, your instructor’s name, and date and course title in your first page. In APA format, in MLA paper thesis statements, evidence for your research, bibliography, headings, abstract, page number and title page are all included.
  • Naming In text: In APA citations, you include the name of publication after the name of author e.g. Freud (1932) but the same text will be cited in MLA as Freud (29) as you will be citing the page number rather than the year of publication.
  • Formatting Styles; Both MLA and APA use double spacing, 12 point fonts and 1 inch margins. APA formatted paper has four parts; title page, main body, abstract and references. MLA does not have any separate sections necessarily but works cited page has to be included.
  • History: APA style came into being in 1929 and the style was created to make a standardized way to write scientific papers so that there are no discrepancies in relating your information. But MLA was founded in 1883 in order to ensure that languages and literature were now onwards studied in a more organized and elaborate fashion.

So these are the differences between MLA and APA styling in references. Of course the way you choose the research formatting style is by looking at the topic of your research. If your topic of research is humanities related than you choose MLA and if you choose social sciences then you will choose APA. Come see us at Dissertation Firm if you have any confusion.