APA vs. MLA: A Comprehensive Comparison of Citation Styles

In the academic realm, citing sources is akin to providing a roadmap for your readers to trace your intellectual journey. Two prominent styles—APA (American Psychological Association) and MLA (Modern Language Association)—stand out as go-to guides for proper citation. However, they diverge in significant ways, each tailored to specific disciplines and preferences. So, begin to embark on a comprehensive guide on what is the difference between APA and MLA format to help you navigate the winding paths of academic writing.

APA Style: What Is It?

APA style, short for the American Psychological Association style, is a standardized set of rules and guidelines used in academic and professional writing. It is particularly prevalent in the fields of psychology, social sciences, education, and business.

APA style ensures consistency and clarity in research papers, essays, and other written documents by providing specific rules for citing sources within the text and formatting references at the end of a document. It dictates the use of in-text citations with author names and publication years, as well as the organization of a “References” page listing all sources cited.

However, if you’re a Greenwich University student and your instructor has asked you to write a research paper that follows APA format, but you aren’t able to do so because of poor writing skills then consider searching for Greenwich assignment help on the internet and get a list of experts who are specialist in your University assignments.

M.L.A Style: What Is It?

MLA style, which stands for Modern Language Association style, is a widely accepted set of guidelines for writing and documenting scholarly papers, especially in the fields of humanities and liberal arts. MLA style provides a structured format for citing sources within the text, known as in-text citations, and for creating a “Works Cited” page that lists all the sources used in a paper.

It emphasizes clarity, consistency, and ease of reference, making it easier for readers to locate and verify the sources cited. MLA style also includes rules for formatting paper layout, including margins, font size, line spacing, and page numbering. It’s a valuable tool for writers and researchers to maintain scholarly integrity and proper documentation of their sources while ensuring the presentation of their work is clear and professional.

Navigating the Citation Maze: Difference Between APA and MLA Format- Which Style Suits Your Scholarly Journey?

Ø The Origins

  • APA: Developed by the American Psychological Association, the APA style primarily caters to the social sciences, psychology, and education. Its inception in the 1920s aimed to standardize scientific writing in these fields.
  • MLA: The Modern Language Association introduced the MLA style in 1951, primarily designed for humanities, arts, and literature disciplines. Its purpose was to streamline citations in language and literature research.

Ø In-Text Citations

  • APA: APA uses the author-date system. In-text citations include the author’s last name and the publication year, usually within parentheses, e.g., (Smith, 2022). For direct quotes, page numbers are also required, e.g., (Smith, 2022, p. 45).
  • MLA: MLA employs the author-page system. In-text citations consist of the author’s last name and the page number, e.g., (Smith 45). MLA also allows for a shorter author-page format for subsequent citations from the same source.

Reference List Vs. Works Cited

  • APA: APA uses a “References” page to list all sources cited in the paper. The author’s last name is used to sort all entries alphabetically. The hanging indent format is common.
  • MLA: MLA opts for a “Works Cited” page, also listing all cited sources. Entries are arranged alphabetically by the author’s last name or by the title for sources without authors. The second and following lines are centered, with the initial line level with the left margin.

Inclusion of URLs

  • APA: In APA style, it’s recommended to include the URL of an online source if the source isn’t easily accessible. URLs are preceded by “Retrieved from” or “Available at.”
  • MLA: MLA suggests omitting URLs unless the instructor or publisher specifies otherwise. In that case, URLs are enclosed in angle brackets, e.g., <>.

Publication Date

  • APA: APA requires the inclusion of the publication date in both in-text citations and the References list. It’s formatted as (Year, Month Day).
  • MLA: MLA primarily uses the year of publication in in-text citations. The Works Cited page provides a detailed publication date for each source.

Italics Vs. Quotation Marks

  • APA: APA employs italics for book and journal titles, as well as longer works like magazines, newspapers, and movies.
  • MLA: MLA uses italics for book and movie titles but places titles of shorter works, like articles and poems, in quotation marks.

Multiple Authors

  • APA: In APA, for sources with up to 20 authors, all names are listed in the References entry. For sources with 21 or more authors, list the first 19 followed by ellipses and the final author’s name.
  • MLA: MLA usually lists up to three authors in the Works Cited entry, followed by “et al.” for additional authors.

Citing Electronic Sources

  • APA: APA provides specific guidelines for citing electronic sources, including Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) and URLs.
  • MLA: MLA also offers guidance for citing electronic sources, including URLs. If a DOI is available, it should be included.

Footnotes and Endnotes

  • APA: APA discourages the use of footnotes and endnotes for citation purposes. They are typically reserved for additional content or clarifications.
  • MLA: MLA permits the use of footnotes and endnotes for supplementary information or as an alternative to in-text citations.

Common Usage

  • APA: Widely used in the social sciences, psychology, education, and some fields of business and health.
  • MLA: Predominantly employed in humanities, arts, literature, and related disciplines.


In the labyrinth of academic writing, choosing between APA and MLA depends on your field of study and the specific requirements of your institution or publisher. Both styles have evolved to serve the needs of their respective disciplines, ensuring clarity and consistency in scholarly communication. As you embark on your academic journey, mastering these citation styles will be an invaluable skill, guiding you through the intricate landscape of research and writing.

However, still, if you’re confused about which format style Bristol University accepts in their assignments then consider looking for University of Bristol assignment help and hire your university expert writers for your assistance.


DWH.2022. How to Write a Bibliography: Referencing Formats and Their Importance. Online Available at: <> (Accessed: 06 September 2023).

Lanning, S., 2016. A modern, simplified citation style and student response. Reference Services Review44(1), pp.21-37.

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