MLA vs APA: What's the Difference?

So many styles! Which one do I use?

In research writing, there are many different styles of citation to choose from. All of these styles are unique and have appropriate times to be used. Knowing the difference between styles and which to use for a particular piece of research writing is important to making it look polished and the making the author look credible and reliable. Two different styles are used most often are MLA and APA. While these are both similar in some ways, there are differences to consider when choosing a style.

What exactly is MLA?

MLA is largely used by universities and even secondary schools because the style is best suited within most general subject area that are not within the sciences. The style uses in text paper citations and uses a “works cited” page to detail the sources in order to give complete credit to any source. According the the MLA Handbook: 7th Edition it is simpler than other citation styles in that “only the information readers need to know to locate a source” are in the text and the rest of the source information is in the works cited page. This style also allows for flexibility when it comes to what you include in your works cited list (xiii).

and what is APA?

APA is mostly used by graduate and undergraduate students of psychology and the 5th edition APA Handbook states that the style is guided by two principals “specificity and sensitivity” (3). With these two words in mind, the APA style is more specific and detailed than the MLA style. This style includes specific ways to report and cite sources that may create a conflict of interest and rules for citing such things as statistics and legal documents. While this style also uses parenthetical citation, there are more rules for formatting them. Some rules include when to use brackets and when not to and when not to use parenthesis (85-88). Also, unlike the MLA style, you must include the year of publication in the in text citation. Also, unlike the MLA style, the type media of the source is included at the end of the detailed citation in the reference page. When making a reference page, in the APA style, more consideration is taken to legal and scientific sources.

In conclusion...

While both styles are beneficial and correct ways to cite a source in a piece of research, MLA and APA are both very different. For young students and those who need simplicity and flexibility, MLA can be used. For those who need more detailed citations of sources or need citations for more specific sources such as legal documents or statistics, APA may be more appropriate.