Art of Craftsmanship

Academic writing tips and guidelines

Help With Writing a Research Paper - APA or MLA?

Writing a research paper often has its challenges.  You have to determine what topic to write about, create a format to help you remember information you need to include and determine what resources to use in gathering data.  But when it comes to formatting the paper, many writers may find themselves confused on how to do it.  APA (American Psychological Association) and MLA (Modern Language Association) are two common formatting styles used in research papers.  Understanding how to implement each style may help reduce stress and confusion on which one to use. The following tips can help you look out for common mishaps that occur and how to avoid them.

  • Review each formatting style and get a firm understanding of how they are executed.   Often, certain styles are recommended based on area of study or instructor.  For example, APA formatting is often used by social sciences, education, and psychology studies.  MLA is commonly used in research papers related to the arts, humanities and literature.
  • Seek sample essays online that show how each formatting style is used.  Sometimes viewing how information should be presented can help you follow directions better when you do it on your own. There are samples that provide footnotes in the margin to help you recognize specific details.
  • Learn common mistakes made by writers when using both styles. Look over different examples for each style in relation reference page listing, text citations and other useful tips. 
  • Follow guidelines for formatting your work based on your teacher or instructor directions.  Sometimes writers get confuse on how to complete a certain style when they see it differently through other sources. 
  • Most schools and college universities have guidelines available on how MLA and APA styles are used. Some schools may have a preference for either style for certain assignments.  Universities may provide citation tips and manuals through their websites.
  • Consider using formatting templates. These tools allow you to plugin information while other details such as spacing, margins, font style and tabs are already set for you.  Writers have found templates to be timesavers and easy to follow.  Templates may also serve as good study tools for understanding where each piece of information goes.
  • Aside from free essay samples, review handbooks that detail each style.  Many universities offer links on their websites to handbooks with updated editions with different examples for how sources should be cited.