The American Psychological Assocation (APA) and Modern Language Association (MLA) are two common style guides used for writing academic papers. APA is used within social sciences (e.g. psychology, education, sociology). MLA is primarily used in the liberal arts and humanities.

If you are just starting to write papers for college or are a graduate student, your instructors will include the style that is required for assignments in the assignment guidelines. In addition, they may require additional preferences (e.g, a different style to the cover page). Pay attention to these requirements because instructors will remove grade points if a student does not follow the formatting for approved grammatical and citation requirements.

It is recommended (strongly) that students study and learn the requirements of the style early on in their education career and keep updated as different editions are released by MLA (currently 3rd edition) and APA (currently 6th edition). Having a good knowledge of the style will assist the student write more efficiently. Another recommendation is to have the style book by your computer as you work so that you can check punctuation and citations as you write. Highlight the most commonly used punctuation and other information with a highlighter and post-it notes, because the answer surely will come up again.

Both APA http://www.apastyle.org/ and MLA http://www.mla.org/ have Websites and search engines that can help if you have a tough style problem. Also, most colleges have Writing Centers or online tutorials to help you with ensuring that your use of the style guidelines in your academic paper are perfect.

Here are some major differences in the two styles.

Reference Examples:

APA Style
Jelfs, A., Richardson, J., & Price, L. (2009). Student and tutor perceptions of effective tutoring in distance education. Distance Education, 30(3), 419-441. doi:10.1080/01587910903236551.

Mellers, B.A. (2000). Choice and the relative preasure of consequences. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 910-924.

MLA Style
Jelfs, Anne, John T. E. Richardson, and Linda Price. “Student and tutor perceptions of effective tutoring in distance education.” Distance Education 30.3 (2009): 419-441. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 16 Feb. 2010.

Palmer, William J. Dickens and New Historicism. New York: St. Martin’s, 1997. Print.

In-text citation examples:

APA Style
This is the citation format when there is a quote: According to Black (2009), “all clowns scare children to death” (p.3).

MLA Style
According to Kenneth Black, “all clowns scare children to death” (3).

Professional Editing
There is another option if you need help with academic writing, especially when you are writing a thesis or submitting a paper for publication. Many editors specialize in academic writing and will offer to edit a paper based on word count or pages and the type of editing required. Academic editing will cost more than a standard edit. These editors are professionals who have a lot of experience editing papers in different style formats. They can provide expertise for the difficult editing issues such as footnotes and endnotes, charts and tables, and citing references.