APA and MLA are the most widely used documentation styles for research writing in the social sciences and the humanities. For acknowledging sources within the body of your writing, both styles advocate the use of parenthetical documentation, with an accompanying References (APA) or Works Cited list (MLA). Thus brief citations appear in parentheses in the text immediately after the cited material. These parenthetical citations contain enough information to enable the reader to identify the cited sources from the Works Cited or References list where full bibliographic information is given for all of the sources the writer has consulted in order to write the paper. Thus footnotes or endnotes are used only to give explanatory material that is somehow tangential to the text.
The major differences between APA and MLA in-text citation styles involve page numbers (APA often does not use them : MLA always uses them) and publication years (APA always uses them : MLA usually does not). The following examples demonstrate the basic way the same source would be cited in papers using MLA style and APA style:
MLA IN-TEXT CITATION :
This approach corresponds to the frequently cited theory that scientific revolutions come about through paradigm shifts (Kuhn 79).
APA IN-TEXT CITATION :
This approach corresponds to the frequently cited theory that scientific revolutions come about through paradigm shifts (Kuhn, 1970).
The basic MLA in-text citation uses the author's last name and the page number (notice there is no "p." and no punctuation between the two). For electronic sources, you can cite the paragraph number if that is possible (preceded by "par." or "pars." with no comma after the author's name) or the screen number if available or the heading for that part of the document. IF the electronic source has no page numbers, screen numbers, headings or any other way to designate where you found your information, you must cite the source in its entirety. In such a situation, MLA recommends including the name of the source's author in your text rather than in a parenthetical reference, then letting the corresponding entry in the Works Cited list provide the longer information (thus there would in effect be no parenthetical citation at all).
With an APA in-text citation, what you include depends on whether the source was in print or electronic form. The basic citation in text uses the author's name and the year of the publication, separated by a comma. If the author's name has already appeared in the text, only the year ap¬pears in the parentheses. If you are using a direct quotation or if for some other reason you need to cite a specific part of a source, the page number (or in the case of electronic sources, the paragraph number or the heading for that section of the document) can be added to the citation. Thus the citation in the preceding example would become (Kuhn, 1970, p. 79). Of course, this material is only enough to allow the reader to find the more complete bibliographical information. Notice that the APA sys¬tem includes the date of publication in the parenthetical citation, whereas MLA style usually does not.
To continue the section on Mastering The Conventions of Documentation
Styles of Documentations