Great Directions for Deciding on a Research Paper Format

Unfortunately, there is more to writing a research paper than just writing it. One must also decide what format to use. Some classes, schools, or teachers will pre-assign a format style; however, some do not. Therefore, it often falls to the student to decide which style to use. There are two main styles that are used for academic papers; MLA and APA. There are, of course, merits to both styles, but inevitably each person will have a preference. Here is directions and advice on choosing a formatting style for your research paper.

The Merits of MLA

MLA stands for Modern Language Association.

The first merit of using MLA style is that unlike APA, it does not require a title page. MLA describes “short quotations” as being four lines or less instead of the 40 or more words that APA uses. As a general rule, MLA style does not require the writer to include extra documents such as abstracts the way APA does.

The Merits of APA

APA stands for American Psychological Association.

When citing authors, APA style requires only the last name whereas MLA requires first and last name.


There are many advantages and disadvantages to both styles, but there are other things to consider as well. One of these things is the fact that APA style is generally best suited to subjects such as the various sciences, education, linguistics, and business topics. MLA on the other hand is better suited to subjects such as literature, arts, history, religion, English, etc.

How to Choose

While choosing a formatting style may seem like a daunting task, it comes down to a few basic questions. What is your topic of choice? This will play a large part in deciding which style to choose because each one is better suited to certain subjects. Which style do you find easier to use? This also will play a big part in the decision, because at the end of the day, the last thing you want to do is make the task of writing more difficult. Which style suits your needs? This is a combination of the first two questions and is ultimately asking what you want out of the formatting style.

Both styles are somewhat tedious, but if you are in need of a professional formatting style, it is worth it. Simply look at all of the pros and cons for what you need and make a decision based on that.

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