The research paper writing project is an important assignment in any post-secondary curriculum. It doesn’t matter what discipline you are working in, there’s always a good chance you will have to do this kind of assignment at one point or another. Keeping this simple truth in mind there are two types of formats you are likely to use: the APA and the MLA styles. Here are a few tips you need to know about applying the correct format for your research paper:
The MLA (Modern Language Association) style format is used for subjects in the humanities, such as literature, history or art. It requires you to use in-text citations that include the source author’s name and the page number where the original piece of cited material can be found. Citations may include quotes, paraphrased material or data.
The APA (American Psychological Association) style format is used for subjects in the natural and social sciences, such as psychology, sociology, and anthropology. It also requires you to use in-text citations that include the source author’s name, year, and the page number where the original piece of information can be found. All citations in APA format must follow standard capitalization rules for books and articles.
If you’re lucky your professor will provide an assignment prompt complete with detailed requirements. This will usually state which style you should use when formatting your research paper. If you can’t get any direct clarification from your professor then the course subject should tip you off. If you are still uncertain then simply head to the library and start looking up some academic journals within your field. Looking at how those items are formatted should provide you with answer.
As you gain experience you should be able to tell the difference rather easily. If you know you will primarily spend your time studying a specific field then it would be good idea to pick up a formatting guide you can reference as you write your drafts. Although there are some pretty distinctions between the two styles you should always double check, especially when it comes to a resource type you aren’t very familiar with (e.g., slideshow or web presentation). The most important thing is that you stay consistent throughout. While it may not seem that big of deal to switch back and forth, this is actually quite annoying to the reader and can cost you a letter grade.