APA vs MLA? Which Citation Style is Better for Your Paper

Formatting and Citation styles are sometimes best friends of academic writers and sometimes a puzzle to be solved. If you are a student who wants to know the difference between the APA and MLA citation styles – here is everything you need to understand to cite your work like a pro! 

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Understanding the Basics: APA vs. MLA

Understanding the Basics: APA vs. MLA

I know citation and referencing sound a lot, and just like most other students, you also hated your supervisor/instructor when they made it compulsory. 

These referencing styles are relatively easy to learn, and if you do it right, they can also help remove plagiarism from your paper. But first, you need to know what they exactly are:

American Psychological Association (APA) and Modern Language Association (MLA) are some citation styles used in academic writing. Both differ in many ways with one’s set of regulations regarding citation formatting of your document, and you even have to observe some punctuation in your bibliography.

APA Style Referencing Live Example and Model to Follow in Your Paper

Example Text that is Used in MLA and APA styles example:

Book Title: “The Art of Writing: A Comprehensive Guide”

Author: John Doe

Publisher: ABC Publishing

Year of Publication: 2022


Book Reference Example:

Suppose that you want to quote a book named “The Art of Writing: A Comprehensive Guide” that is written by a writer named John Doe and the book was published by Publisher: ABC Publishing in 2022


MLA Format Example:

Doe, John. The Art of Writing: A Comprehensive Guide. ABC Publishing, 2022.

(author last name comma first name comma book title full stop publisher name comma the year of publication and then a period)

Step-by-Step MLA Formatting Explanation:

  1. The author’s name is presented with the last name first, followed by a comma and the first name.
  2. The book title is italicized and followed by a period.
  3. The publisher’s name is listed after the title, followed by a comma.
  4. The year of publication is mentioned, followed by a period.

APA Example for Referencing style Using the same Book

APA Format Live Example (do it as it is in your paper):

Doe, J. (2022). The Art of Writing: A Comprehensive Guide. ABC Publishing.

(author last name comma initial/starting letter of first name period book title colon/period book/journal/research paper title period publisher name)


  1. The author’s name is presented with the last name first, followed by the initials and a period.
  2. The book title is italicized and followed by a period.
  3. The publisher’s name is listed after the title without a comma.
  4. The year of publication is mentioned in parentheses, followed by a period.
  5. This illustrates the basic structure of a book reference in both MLA and APA formats.

Note: Remember that the details might vary depending on the type of source (book, article, website, etc.), and specific rules exist for each style. Always consult the official style guides for comprehensive and accurate referencing.

Detailed Instruction Manual Table of MLA and APA Referencing Styles (Updated January 2024)


Features MLA APA
Disciplines Humanities, Arts, Literature  Social Sciences, Sciences, Psychology
In-Text Citation Format (Author Page Number) (Author, Year)
Bibliography/Page Format Works Cited References 
Order of Elements (Book) Author. Title of Book. Publisher, Year. Author. (Year). Title of Book. Publisher
Order of Elements (Journal) Author. “Title of Article.” Journal, Year, Page Numbers. Author. (Year). Title of Article. Title of Journal, Page Numbers
URLs in Citations Optional (unless instructed otherwise)  Generally included for online sources
Italics/Quotation Marks Titles of Books: Italicized Titles of Books: Italicized
Inclusive Page Numbers Both inclusive (e.g., 120-125)  Only the first page (e.g., 120-125)
Authors in In-Text Citations (Author Last Name) (Author Last Name) 
Footnotes/Endnotes Used for additional comments or sources Rarely used; typically, in-text citations 

References vs. Works Cited

APA References:

APA has a References page, meticulously alphabetized and detailing the sources used in your paper. It’s a structured way to show your citations that are easy to backtrack.


MLA Works Cited:

On the other hand, MLA presents a Works Cited page, organized with a clean layout that complements the straightforward nature of the style.

Parentheses vs. Commas

APA In-Text Citations:

In this regard, APA uses the format (Author, Year) in parentheses. This approach leads the readers directly to the source, focusing on coherence and precision.

MLA In-Text Citations:

In MLA, you have a more straightforward format, such as (Author page number) inside brackets. It is simple and eliminates all the frills.

APA’s Precision vs. MLA’s Simplicity

Citing Online Sources in APA:

As per online sources, APA must provide the URL address, which is the direct way to the source’s digital location. This is consistent with APA’s philosophy of being meticulous.

Citing Online Sources in MLA:

In MLA, it is more laid back. You may add URLs, but it is only required if your instructor sets such a requirement.

Italics vs. Quotation Marks

APA Titles:

Another unique benefit of APA is that it italicizes book and journal titles, thus adding style to your citations.

MLA Titles:

In the traditional MLA version, titles are in t

Why APA Might Be Your Go-To – When to Use APA Referencing Style

APA is synonymous with precision. It pays great attention to authorship, dates, and precise and structured referencing. The aim is to give a reader a clear path to the source material.

  • Perfect for research papers, psychology, and social sciences.
  • Employs a simple author-date citation format.
  • Structured in-text citations and reference page.
  • MLA: Simplicity and Author-Centric Approach

Why MLA Might be Your Go-To – When to Use MLA References

MLA, in contrast, embraces simplicity. It respects the author and the name of the work while emphasizing the concepts of straightforwardness and readability.

  • They are widely applied in literature, arts, and humanities.
  • Highlights the author-page number structure of citation styles.
  • Simple Works Cited page and the bibliography.
  • What’s the main difference between APA and MLA?

Common Student Doubts About MLA and APA Referencing Styles

What citation style should I follow in high school?

Academic writing starts in high school. MLA is the most commonly favored choice among several students. The simplicity of the model and its emphasis on authorship are the main aspects that make it an excellent ground-zero point. Look at it as a beginner’s or training wheels version of a citation style – it is quick to learn and helps you get started on the right track.

What Citation Style Should be Used by College Students?

Ah, college, where the world of academics widens, and the options of citation materials grow alongside it. APA steps into the spotlight. It is commonly adopted in the social sciences and sciences as it provides a formal referencing method. Prepare for a more detailed reference list, as college is not the place for shortcuts.

What’s a DOI, and do I need it?

APA introduces the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) for specific sources, making it easy to track online publications. MLA takes a more relaxed approach; a direct link will suffice if the source lacks a DOI. It’s like choosing your GPS – APA’s precise coordinates, MLA takes you to the general area.

Which Citation Style is Better?

Here’s the truth – neither is better; it’s about fitting the right style to your academic dance. High school? Start with MLA. College science paper? APA’s got your back. The key is understanding each style’s rhythm and letting your content shine without tripping over citation hurdles.

Can EduWriter Generate Accurate APA Citations?

Yes, indeed! EduWriter.AI’s APA format generator harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to produce spot-on APA citations. It navigates the intricacies of APA guidelines, ensuring that your citations adhere to the required format. Everything, from creating in-text citations to a perfect References page, is facilitated by EduWriter.AI to streamline the process for you, which will save you time and allow avoiding mistakes.