Home Blog Essay Writing Tips Mastering Academic Writing Styles: APA, MLA, Chicago

Mastering Academic Writing Styles: APA, MLA, Chicago

Different Formatting Styles

Academic Writing Styles Demystified: APA, MLA, Chicago

Do you want to learn more about the formatting styles existing in the field of academic writing? If yes, then you should be very attentive when reading our manual since it includes many helpful tips and suggestions on the most popular formatting styles.

In academic writing, is it vitally important to not only write great texts but also present them in an appropriate manner? As such, students are asked to learn the essential peculiarities of different paper formatting styles since they define the quoting, citing, and referencing the sources used in research. Students and academicians work with different formatting styles such as the American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), Chicago Manual of Style, Harvard Style, and many others. You probably know that each style has its own set of guidelines that should be followed by the individual writing a paper in this style.

In our guide, we are going to familiarize you with the essentials of the most popular formatting styles used by academicians.

There are three main citation styles allowing to format the academic papers: APA, MLA, and CMS. Have a closer look at the brief description of each style below:

  • APA style. This style is often utilized by social sciences. As such, if you are studying nursing, psychology, sociology, or any other related discipline, you will need to know how to follow APA guidelines. Pay attention that you will need to use the 7th, the most recent edition of this style;
  • MLA style. If you are studying humanities, you will need to use the style developed by the Modern Language Association. As such, if you are studying journalism, theatre, art, literature, or any other discipline, you will need to format your paper in accordance with the MLA style;
  • CMS style. If you are studying advanced segments of literature and art, most probably, you will be asked to use the 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style. Now, it`s time to analyze each of these styles in detail.

APA Citation Style

If you are studying psychology, sociology, physics, or any other scientific discipline, you will be asked to follow the APA citation style in your papers. In fact, the formatting style defines the general layout of your paper, as well as the citations and a reference list.

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The APA formatting style appeared in the Psychological Bulletin in 1929. Later, the first guidelines were expanded to the APA Publication Manual. Following the APA style, you need to write your paper as follows:

  • Title page. A title page should inform your reader about who is the author of the paper. This page should have the title of the paper, the name of the student, the name of the tutor, as well as the title of the school;
  • Abstract. APA style paper requires writing an abstract, which is a shortened version of the paper. Basically, it is a 100-250-word summary of the paper that includes its most important aspects;
  • Main body. If you are writing a lab report for a scientific discipline, your main body will include an introduction, literature review, methodology, results, and discussion;
  • References. In this part, you need to include all the sources you have used when researching data. When writing a reference list in the APA formatting style, you should follow the rules mentioned below:
  1. All the entries should appear in the alphabetical order;
  2. You need to make this section double-spaced;
  3. Your reference list should be written on a separate page. It should be called “References;”
  4. You need to write the titles of books, journals, magazines, and newspapers in italics;
  5. For more information, check the 7th edition of the APA citation style.

In case of having any difficulties with this citation style, you may use the online APA citation machines that will help you do everything correctly.

As for the in-text citations, you should know that the author`s name and the date of publication are separated by a comma. On the reference list, you need to include the author`s name and the year of publication. Have a look at the APA citation format example:

Citation: (e.g., Johnson, 2019)

Reference: Johnson, M. (2019). Maslow`s hierarchy. Main strengths and weaknesses of the theory. Scientific Studies, 10(3), 14-19.

Now, when you know how to write an APA style paper, let`s discuss the MLA style.

MLA Citation Style

As you already know, the MLA citation style is widely used in humanities. If you are studying literature, history, or any other related discipline, most probably, you will be asked to follow the MLA style in your papers. When using the MLA format citation, you need to keep in mind the following rules:

  • Use Times New Roman;
  • Make your text double-spaced;
  • Do not include headings and subheadings in your paper;
  • Do not include a title page;
  • Use one-inch margins on all sides;
  • The titles of your sources should be in italics;
  • Write your full name in the left upper corner of the first page. Below your name, you need to include the name of your tutor. Then, you need to include the date of the paper and the name of your course;
  • The title of your paper should be center-aligned;
  • Page numbers should appear in the upper right corner along with your last name. For example, Smith 3.

Have a look at the example:

Joe, Branson. “The concept of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby.” American Literature Review, vol. 43, no. 2, 2017, pp. 34-38.

Now you know how to write an MLA style paper. Let`s discuss the Chicago Manual of Style.

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Chicago Style Citation

Chicago style citation, which is also called a Chicago Manual of Style was first published in 1906 by the Chicago University Press. Initially, it was a compilation of typographical rules that should have been followed by the writers. Such a formatting style is widely used in published manuscripts and takes the rules of American English grammar into consideration. The latest version of CMS takes the advancements in the Internet and computer technology into consideration. It should be noted that the Chicago formatting style uses two equally important systems: notes-bibliography and author-date.

  1. A notes-bibliography system is used for humanities. It requires citing footnotes and endnotes including a bibliography into the paper;
  2. An author-date system is used for natural, physical, and social sciences. It requires citing sources in parentheses including the author`s last name, as well as the date of publication. The additional information about the source is provided at the end of the paper.

Instead of listing all sources on a reference page, the Chicago format citation requires using footnotes and endnotes within the paper. Have a look at the example:

Citation: (Miller 2018)

Reference: Miller, John, ed. 2018. Cartography: Six Art Essays. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

We do hope that our guide will help you understand the essential peculiarities of the existing paper formatting styles. If you have any difficulties with formatting, you may have a look at the well-written papers available on the web. Most probably, you will find it easier to understand how professional writers match their citations, reference list, as well as the general layouts to the common formatting rules. All in all, we highly recommend you not to underestimate the importance of proper formatting since it will help you receive a good grade for your academic paper.


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