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Citing your paper in Modern Language Association (MLA) or American Psychological Association (APA) formats depend mostly on the subject you are writing on. Mainly, APA style citations are used to cite writings that have a social science focus: Psychology, Business, the Social Sciences, Economics, Medicine, and Criminal Justice and Law. On the other hand, MLA style citations are used to cite writings that have humanities focus: Literature, Mass Communications, Media Studies, etc.

Basic APA/MLA Differences

1. A paper written in MLA format has the author’s name and page number displayed in the top right corner of each page. In APA format, the first few words, usually the first three, of the title with the page number runs on the top, right corner of each page.

2. In a MLA formatted paper, the author’s name, both first and last name, is spelled out on the bibliography page. In APA, only the last name of the author is spelled out while the first name is an initial.

3. The in-text citation is slightly different. In MLA, the last name of the author and the page number from which the reference was taken is displayed. In APA, the last name and the year of publication are displayed (separated by a comma).

4. The title in MLA and APA style formats has differences in its capitalization. In APA, only the first word of the title is capitalized and in italics. In MLA, all the major words of the title are capitalized.

5. In an MLA formatted paper, there is no abstract required. APA formatted papers does require an abstract.

6. The source page that list the bibliography information is called “Works Cited” in MLA and “References” in APA format. The source page should be the last page of the paper. “Works Cited” and “References” must be centered in both formats.

The differences between MLA and APA citation formats are minor. But writing in either format will ensure that papers are properly cited and the author’s chances of plagiarizing are reduced. There are several websites available, via the popular search engines, which give detailed requirements for both APA and MLA style formats.

Over the years, many changes have been made to both formats. When searching for format samples, you must be aware of outdated versions. I have found that by looking for the “Last Updated” dates on web pages, you can reduce your chances of following a version that has been outdated for several years.

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