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Style and Form: The Difference Between APA and MLA Papers and Essays


Most papers that high school students write are based off the Modern Languages Association  (MLA) style of writing. This is the type of paper in which the writer has a thesis and expresses this in the first paragraph of the paper. The body paragraphs go on to prove and illustrate the thesis. This type of paper lends itself to literary analysis, so is most often used in English classes. It is also used for all papers in the liberal arts and humanities. Clear transitions from one point to another are very important. Citations follow the current style outlined by the MLA (Perdue University's Perdue Owl is a good source for the current MLA formatting, as well as, of course the MLA Handbook, but make sure you use the latest edition, if you want the latest formatting rules.) Changes in this style of citation happen so frequently that I  would not get hung up in keeping your student abreast of them. I would just pick one way of doing them and stick with that throughout his high school years. Any changes to that a professor in college requires should not be too much of a change for your student. In my experience, every professor will require something a bit different anyway.

Writing a paper in the American Psychology Association  (APA) style paper, on the other hand is written and formatted in a very different style. It is easier for students to transition from the typical reports students write in their Elementary years to this style than it is for them to transition to the MLA style papers, so I  usually require the APA style beginning in Middle School.

APA style papers strive for objectivity, so their is no thesis statement or opinion expressed, until a simple paragraph at the end of the paper. The paper is just a presentation of the facts. Instead of the transitions that are so important in the MLA style paper, the APA style papers uses section titles and sub-section titles, much like a magazine article. In keeping with the factual nature of the paper, it is very formal in tone. For example, the use of "I" or "we" is forbidden, as well as are contractions. At the end of the paper, in the conclusion, the writer can now briefly state his opinion. Lastly, the citations are handled differently. The instructions on how to write the citations for an APA style paper can also be found at the Perdue Owl website. This type of paper is most often used for psychology and science papers, so I assign this style to be the style of notebooking I require for their science beginning in seventh grade. They write an APA style paper for each chapter of the spine text, but they must include outside research they have done on the subject.

However you choose to introduce these paper writing styles, I think it will benefit your student to have some experience in both styles by the time they graduate.

Style and Form:
The Difference Between APA
and MLA Papers and Essays



1 comment:

  1. Huh, I never really knew what the differences were between the two. I know in high school my teachers required MLA style of documentation and I had their handbook with me everywhere.

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