The differences in format style

As papers are reaching their deadline (and unless your teacher has already chosen for you) you are going to have to figure out how you want to format your paper.  What usually happens is that high-school students are briefly introduced to both MLA and APA style papers and then left to their own devices.  After all, it isn’t really that important to know about that sort of thing in high-school right?


I know this from experience.  Coming from an understaffed school with teachers that were simply trying to survive the latest provincial cuts, I was never really taught how to differentiate and use the different styles of paper formats that students are expected (yep, they won’t teach you in university!) to know once they hit university.  And it never bothered me.. until I went to university.  My first papers were stressful.  When my psychology professor told us that papers were to be in APA style… that 747 went WAY above my head.  I got through it with the help of The Writer’s Handbook and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

So, the first step is knowing how to choose the right format for your paper.  MLA or APA?  And just so everyone knows, this will be a loose guideline.  We are hoping to have a wiki page up soon that will be more in depth!

APA Style:  use APA Style for subjects related to the social sciences (ie. business, economics, law, anthropology, etc.) and medical (science) subjects such as psychology, biology, etc.  APA Style requires an abstract page which is basically a summary of what your paper is about as well as a title page. When doing an in-text citation, you need to use the last name of the author(s) as well as the publication year of the document.  Because research changes so rapidly in the sciences, this is important for your reader to know!  Research that was conducted about psychology in the 70’s isn’t as relevant as research that was conducted in 2001.

(Example of in-text citation) In recent years, it was discovered  that prolonged exposure to water caused the skin to wrinkle (Bert and Ernie, 1992).

MLA Style: use MLA Style for subjects related to the liberal arts and humanities (ie. literature, media studies, etc.).  MLA doesn’t require an abstract or a title page, instead place your information in the upper-left corner of your first page with the title centered.  When doing an in-text citation you need to include the  last name of the author(s) as well as the page number of the source. No need to include the date of publication though!

(Example of in-text citation) Percy Jackson is a perfect example that no one can escape their destiny.  While trying to live like a “normal” person while on vacation with his family, Percy’s vacation is abruptly cut short by a fellow demi-god who was sent to bring Percy back to the fight (Riordan 9).

The important thing to remember about an in-text citation, is that it is not meant to be the bibliographic reference!  It is only letting the reader of your paper know briefly where the information came from.  They can then check the bibliography and get the rest of the information (such as book title, etc.)  Hopefully this helps a little bit.  I’ll keep everyone updated on the wiki page!


1 Comment

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One response to “The differences in format style

  1. Marbie Mcloven

    I just really want to say, “Thank you”, for being such a big help! I had to annotate my College syllabus and saw that we had to use MLA format and I didn’t know what that was. I really needed help. I searched the internet and I couldn’t find anything. Then I found you and I was saved I was too happy thank you thank you thank you thank you so much!

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