APA Vs MLA – Work Cited APA & MLA Format With Examples

APA Vs MLA – Work Cited APA & MLA Format With Examples

Working on a paper and thinking about which formatting style to use?

Confused between APA and MLA formatting?

You are at the right place!!

There are five major types of academic referencing styles: APA, MLA, Chicago, Oxford, and Harvard, which are used in writing assignments and for journal articles and reference lists.

Both of them are the most common citation styles, and both of them use parenthetical citation format.

APA and MLA citation formats are probably the most commonly used referencing styles.

What is a Citation and Citation Style?

A citation is a reference to a source of information used in a piece of academic writing. It typically includes details such as the author’s name, the title of the work, the publication date, and other relevant information. Citations are crucial for:

  1. Credibility: They provide evidence for your claims and demonstrate that you’ve engaged with existing research.
  2. Avoiding Plagiarism: Properly citing sources acknowledges the original authors and avoids presenting their ideas as your own.
  3. Navigating Resources: They allow readers to locate the sources you used for further exploration.

A citation style is a set of rules on how to format citations and references. These rules dictate how to organize the information and ensure consistency and clarity in scholarly writing. Two of the most common citation styles are APA (American Psychological Association) and MLA (Modern Language Association).

APA vs MLA – What are the Differences?

1. Purpose and Field of Use

  • APA: Used primarily in the social sciences, education, psychology, and other related fields.
  • MLA: Commonly used in the humanities, especially in literature, philosophy, and the arts.

2. In-Text Citations

  • APA: Uses the author-date method. The citation includes the author’s last name and the year of publication, e.g., (Smith, 2020).
    • Example: (Smith, 2020, p. 15)
  • MLA: Uses the author-page method. The citation includes the author’s last name and the page number, e.g., (Smith 15).
    • Example: (Smith 15)

3. Works Cited vs References

  • APA: The list of sources at the end of the document is titled “References.”
  • MLA: The list of sources is titled “Works Cited.”

4. Format of the References List

  • APA: Alphabetical order by the last name of the first author. Uses a hanging indent. Each entry includes:
    • Author’s last name, first initial(s).
    • Year of publication in parentheses.
    • Title of the work in italics.
    • Source/publisher information.


    Smith, J. A. (2020). *The study of psychology*. New York, NY: Academic Press.
  • MLA: Alphabetical order by the author’s last name. Uses a hanging indent. Each entry includes:
    • Author’s last name, first name.
    • Title of the work in italics.
    • Publisher, year of publication.


    Smith, John. *The Study of Psychology*. Academic Press, 2020.

5. Titles and Capitalization

  • APA: Only the first word of the title, the first word after a colon, and proper nouns are capitalized.
  • MLA: All major words in the title are capitalized.

6. Date Format

  • APA: Year is placed in parentheses right after the author’s name.
  • MLA: Full date is usually not required unless it’s essential for identifying the source.

7. Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • APA: DOI is included for electronic sources when available.
  • MLA: DOI is not commonly used; URLs are used instead.

When To Use APA vs MLA

When to Use APA

  • When writing papers in the social sciences, such as psychology, sociology, education, and business.
  • When the emphasis is on the date of publication, reflecting the currency of the research.
  • When detailed information on the date is crucial for the context of the research.

When to Use MLA

  • When writing papers in the humanities, such as literature, philosophy, history, and the arts.
  • When the emphasis is on the author and the page number for citing specific passages.
  • When dealing with texts that are central to your argument, such as literary works.

Examples of APA and MLA Citations


  • APA:
    Smith, J. A. (2020). *The study of psychology*. New York, NY: Academic Press.
  • MLA:
    Smith, John. *The Study of Psychology*. Academic Press, 2020.

Journal Article

  • APA:
    Brown, L. M., & Green, P. R. (2019). Effects of sleep on cognitive function. *Journal of Sleep Research*, 28(2), 123-130. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsr.12749
  • MLA:
    Brown, Lucy M., and Peter R. Green. "Effects of Sleep on Cognitive Function." *Journal of Sleep Research*, vol. 28, no. 2, 2019, pp. 123-130.

Web Page

  • APA:
    National Institute of Mental Health. (2021). Anxiety disorders. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders
  • MLA:
    National Institute of Mental Health. "Anxiety Disorders." *National Institute of Mental Health*, 2021, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders.

So, which format is better to choose and when?

  • APA for social sciences fields such as sociology, psychology, criminology, Business, and Nursing.
  • MLA in humanities fields such as Philosophy, Religion, Literature, Politics, Law, Religion, and Anthropology.

APA is more for scientists, and MLA is for humanists.

Keep in mind that it completely depends on the scenario. If you are writing about fictional work, MLA is appropriate to use.

If you are writing short publications such as academic articles, it is appropriate for you to use MLA.

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This guide should help you understand the key differences between APA and MLA citation styles, and when to use each one, along with providing clear examples for reference.

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