What are MLA and APA Citation Formats?
MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association) are formats for how to style your papers. They are sometimes referred to as "style formats" or "citation formats."
These formatting guidelines cover things like where to put your name, the title of your paper, and page numbers, how to cite your sources in the text of your paper, what your bibliography should look like, and what your paper should look like in general.
Other fields have their own style formats. MLA and APA are the two most common. If you enter a field which requires a different citation format, your professors will let you know.
Why Use Citation Formats?
Understanding citation formats can be helpful when you are looking at a works cited list in an article or book and want to track down an item. Knowing the elements of a citation will tell you:
- if something is an article or a book,
- located in print or online,
- who wrote it,
- and when and where it was published.
Think of style or citation formats as a method of communication about the resources used for research. People from around the world can look at a citation and know where the resource came from, what it is, and can then track it down.
You may never use MLA or APA in your career, but the practice of using a format as a method of communication is something that you will probably do every day as a professional in some form or another.
Also, recognizing types of resources based on a style format and knowing how to locate them is also a valuable and transferable skill.