Friday 17 October 2014

Differences between APA and MLA citation styles

APA style and MLA style are both used to document references, but they are formatted slightly differently. Here's a handy chart to tell some of the differences.

Differences Between APA and MLA Citation Styles

Cover PageYes. Centred in the middle of the page, five double spaced lines with
Title of paper,
Name of Author
Course Name,
Course Teacher,
No. In upper left corner, in three double spaced lines:

Name of Author,
Name of Teacher,
Course Name,
Running HeadYes. A shortened version of paper title in upper and lower case in header of every page. On cover page only it is preceded by the words in upper case: RUNNING HEAD. Page number is flush right.Yes. Author's last name, then a space and the page number flush right.
MarginsOne inch all around.One inch all around.
In-text citations(Author_name, year). Comma comes after name and before page. If page number is known, add another comma and then p. + page number. Only use the author's initial if there is more than one author listed in the citation page with the same last name. If the same author has two publications cited in the same year, identify each with a lower case letter (Smith, 2013a) and (Smith, 2013b).(Author_name page). No comma between name and page. Only use author's initial if there are more than one author with the same name in the works cited section. If the author has more than one work in the works cited section use a superscript numeral to connect the in-text citation with the citation on the works cited page (Melville1 45) and (Melville2 678). Sorry, can't make the numbers superscript in html.
Citation FormatUse past tense to describe research findings: "Jones (2013) said widgets are dangerous when wet."Use present tense to describe statements made in cited works. "Eliot says April is the cruelest month."
Reference PageCenter the title "References"Center the title "Works Cited"
Reference FormatArranged alphabetically by last name, with only initials for first and middle names. Double spaced, hanging indent with no extra space between entries. The title of longer works is in italics.Arranged alphabetically by last name with first name written out and initials for middle names. Double spaced, hanging indent with no extra space between entries. The medium of publication must be included (web, print, video, etc.) The title of longer works is in italics.
Sample Reference Journal ArticleAuthor, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, volume number (issue number), pages. 

Include the Digital Object Identifier (DOI), if possible.
Author, Alan. A., Author, Bob. B., & Author, Cathy. C. "Title of article." Title of Periodical, Month, year, pages. Medium of publication

Note: MLA does not require the full URL to be included, but many instructors do. Check with your teacher. Include the date you accessed it, if the medium is "web".
Sample Reference Web Page Known AuthorFrancis, P.J. (2014). Differences between APA and MLA style. Essay Writing Tips. Retrieved from: 2014/10/differences-between-apa-and-mla.html.Francis, Peter J. "Differences between APA and MLA style." Essay Writing Tips, 2014. Web 17 Oct 2014.
Sample Reference Web Page Organization as AuthorCentres for Disease Control. (2014) Ebola. Retrieved from: for Disease Control. Ebola. Web 17 Oct 2014.

Bookmark this page to come back. For more detailed information, visit the OWL Writing Lab at Purdue University.
If you need help formatting your essay, hire me for full editing including formatting. See link above.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

APA sample essay

If you are new to essay writing, this post is for you. APA style is simply a description of how to set up an essay and how to cite the sources you use for information. An APA essay is set up with 1 inch margins all around and double spaced lines. Here's a sample page of an APA essay.

There are a couple of things to notice. First, each page has a header with a running head on it. The running head is a short version of the paper title in all caps. The reason that you use a shortened version is that some titles might stretch over more than one line, and all you need to do is identify the title for each page. Second, you have a page number in the upper right corner. If you don't know how to set up a running head in MS Word, then read this blog post: How to format headers in APA style.

Notice that in addition to double spacing the lines, there is no extra space between paragraphs and each paragraph starts with an indent of 1/2 inch.

An APA essay also includes a cover page. Here's how to format an APA cover page.

That's all there is to setting up the format of the APA essay. The rest of the details on APA style have to do with how to make citations. Notice that in APA style the references are in the form (Last Name, year, page). That means after you refer to any information from another source, you include a reference to that source. Put the last name of the author(s), the year of the publication and the page number that the information can be found on. If there is more than one author, list up to 5 names. If there are more than 5 authors, list four followed by et al. Notice that "al." is an abbreviation, so requires a period. After the period, put a comma like this: (Francis, Smith, Jones, Brown, et al., 2014, p. 14).

Here's the thing that stymies many students writing an essay in APA style: how to cite a web page. I've done a whole blog post on this, but here's a brief summary. See if you can find an author. If you can name a person who wrote the post (for example in a newspaper article found on-line) then cite the name of the author as you would normally do. If the article is posted by an organization, and the purpose of the organization is related to the topic, then cite the organization. That might be true for citing the Alzheimer's Society, or the Centers for Disease Control (CDC, 2014). But if it's an organization that is organized for the purpose of sharing widely disparate information, then cite the title of the article in quotation marks. This would be the case for example if you cite an article from wikipedia ("Africa", 2014). Notice the dates are included. Many webpages have a date somewhere on the page. If there is not date, put "n.d." Each citation needs to match a citation in your References page. The citations are arranged in alphabetical order according the the name of the author (or organization, or article title). In the citation on the reference page, you would include the full URL so any reader can locate the article. Remember, the purpose of a citation is to let a reader verify any information you provide, so you need to provide clear directions of how to find the original source. Generally this means four pieces of information: Author, Date, Publication, and Publishing source.

And that's APA citation in a nutshell! For more information on specifics of APA citations, I like to refer to the Writing Lab at Purdue University. Also, APA has a blog on which it posts helpful information and answers questions.

Saturday 11 October 2014

How to create a cover page in APA style

Creating an APA cover page is quite simple. It requires a minimum of information, but it shows your professor that you understand the basic details of APA style. An APA cover page has three basic features: a running head (with a shortened version of the essay's title), a page number, and a center section with the title of the essay, the name of the writer, the name of the course, the name of the professor, and the date, each on a separate line, double spaced.

Here's a simple graphic:

Notice that the running head begins with the words RUNNING HEAD in all caps. This is the only page on which the words RUNNING HEAD in all caps will appear. On all the rest of the pages only the actual running head (in normal upper and lower case) will appear. If you don't know how to insert a header, then read the blog post on how to create a header in APA style essays. Remember, you will format the header differently on all the other page, so you need to make sure that the document is formatted for different header on first page.

For the middle part of the cover page, simply enter the required information, set the paragraph setting to double space and the line format to centered.

After the date, place a page break. Use the page break function from the Insert menu. Don't just put a bunch of returns until the cursor moves down to the next page. That's sloppy and if you end up editing the cover page and there's a line added, then the extra line will move down and affect every page of your essay. If you don't know how to put in a page break, read my blog post 5 Essential MS Word Skills Every Student Should Know.

Wednesday 8 October 2014

How to Format Essays in MLA Style

MLA style is used for essays written for English and the humanities. The key difference between MLA style and APA style is that APA uses the author-date form of in-text citation (also generically known as Harvard style) and MLA uses the author-page style of in-text citation. But there are several other details in the the way you format essays in MLA style that are important to note.

For both styles of essay, use double-spaced lines with 1 inch margins. Indent each paragraph 1/2 inch and do not put an extra line between paragraphs. So notice that this blog is not written in either MLA or APA style.

MLA style papers do not have a title page. Instead, on the first page of the paper, in the upper left hand corner, put your name, the course name, the name of the teacher, and the date on individual lines. Double space these lines. On the next line put the paper title centred in bold.

Both styles of essay require a running head (instructions from your teacher may vary--always follow the teacher's instructions). If you don't know how to insert a running head, check out this blog post on how to create a running head in MS Word. However, in MLA style, you do not put the title of the essay in the running head. A running head in MLA style only includes your last name (as the author of the paper) and a page number. These are aligned to the right. Use automated page numbers! Don't manually insert page numbers. When you are formatting the header, type your name, then space, then use the insert menu to insert a page number. The numbers will format automatically on each page.

As I stated before, the in-text citations are the key difference in MLA essays. Remember, the in-text citation is only a signpost for the reader to get more information about something you've said in your essay. You've quoted, paraphrased or otherwise referred to someone other work. The in-text citation provides sufficient information for the reader to go to your works cited page to find the full citation, which will tell them how to find the original work. This is true for both styles of citation. So you only need enough information to specific which item in your works cited list is the right one. It's pretty simple if you have only one work by a specific author. Simply put the name of the author followed by the page number in the work with no comma or punctuation between (author year). Notice that the period follows the parenthetical citation (it's like the citation is a little note to the reader contained within the sentence).

MLA style is more forgiving than APA style for sources such as webpages that do not have page numbers. Remember, the key is giving the reader enough information to find the full citation in the works cited page. Simply tell the reader the source in the text. "According to" Then the reader can skip to the Works Cited page and find the citation for If there is more than one citation for, include some information about which article you are referring to.

If you don't know the author of a work you are citing, use a shortened version of the title. If the title is of a short work, place it in quotation marks; if the title is of a longer work, place it in italics.

Skipping down to the end of the paper, the reference section is titled "Works cited" in MLA essays. Center the title, put do not put it in bold. The entire works cited section should be double spaced with no additional spaces between entries. The paragraphs should be formatted as a hanging indent with 1/2 inch indent. If you don't know how to format a hanging indent, see this blog post on MS Word skills every student should know.

As of 2009, each entry needs to include the medium: book, print, web, film, etc.

Entries are listed alphabetically by author's last name and full first name (unlike APA style where entries only use the author's initials. The basic format is NAME, TITLE, PUBLISHING INFORMATION, DATE OF PUBLICATION, MEDIUM. In addition, if the medium is WEB, then the date of access follows the word WEB. (Note, I'm only using all caps to show which information is used; your paper would write these out using normal rules of capitalization).

My go-to source for formatting questions is the Writing Lab at Purdue University. Although I edit papers every day and I've come across most permutations at some point, I always go back there to verify what the correct format is.

Image courtesy of digitalart at