MLA and APA are two of the most widely used citation formats, but which one is correct, and why are there two different systems? In this lesson, you will learn the differences between the two systems and when to use each correctly.
Citation Format Confusion
It may seem confusing when writing a paper to be asked to switch from one citation system to another. Why would anyone want to create so much confusion for a student? Two of the major citation systems, MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association), are often used. But which one is better, and which one is the correct system to use?
While there are many long guides for both MLA and APA (most of it referring to how to cite specific things like journals, movies, books, etc.), the similarities and differences between MLA and APA mostly come down to only a few specific points.
MLA & APA Similarities
Whatever citation system you use, whether MLA, APA or other, citation is an acknowledgment that you are using someone else’s ideas, thoughts, or writing to support your claim, belief, or idea. Any information you use must be given credit. What’s also important is to be consistent. You cannot switch from one formatting system to another. Always use the style guide recommended by the institution, publisher, or organization you’re writing for.
In both MLA and APA, your paper is double-spaced, including your citation page. Both MLA and APA use parenthetical citations, in which a citation is listed inside parenthesis inside the paper. For MLA, the author’s name and page number; for APA, use the author’s name and date.
Here it is in the MLA format: According to Abramowitz, MLA is useful system. (Abramowitz 36)
Now here it is in the APA format: Jones believes APA is a good system for science. (Jones, 2015)
At the end of your work, your citation is listed alphabetically in both systems. Both styles use a hanging indent when writing citation. This means that, while the first part of the citation meets the left margin justification, all other lines are indented, like you can see here from our previous example:
MLA & APA Differences
We’ll now look at the differences between the two citation styles in a little bit more detail, starting with usage, moving onto the name of the citation page, the citation of the author and year, and finally, most importantly, how to use quotes.
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