What А The Most Popular Formats For A Research Paper?

In post secondary education research papers are a prominent part of any curriculum. It really doesn’t matter what you are specializing in, there is a good chance you will be asked to prepare a research paper at one point or another.

Keeping that in mind, there are two types of research paper formats that students are expected to use. APA and MLA are the most popular formats for research papers and can be used interchangeably for different subjects.


APA is the American Psychological Association writing format. It is specifically used for social and natural science writing. It requires the writer to use in-text citations that include the author’s name, year, and page number in that order. The sources of an APA paper much be alphabetized. The reference page is double-spaced. APA does not use capitalization for words in books and articles. However, it does capitalize the names of books and journals.

When listed in APA the author’s name comes first. There are no abbreviations.


MLA is the Modern Language association-writing format. It is used specifically for humanities such as art, literature or history. It does require in-text citations to be listed, author’s name, and page number. Quotes, paraphrases and summarized must also be cites. The works cited page is alphabetized and double spaced like APA. However, MLA follows all conventional capitalization rules.

Knowing When To Use APA or MLA

Thankfully, most post-secondary instructors will list on the assignment criteria whether the student is to use APA or MLA format. If they do not the best way to get clarification is to ask your professor which is appropriate or which they prefer. However, as we mentioned above there are specific subjects that always use APA or MLA knowing which these are can help you determine which research format to use.

It is also a good idea to know the main differences between APA and MLA writing so that you do not mix these two styles up. Although there are some clear similarities there are also some very specific differences so you will always want to double check that you are using the correct formatting structure. Before you hand your paper in make sure that you haven’t missed any of the specific formatting rules of the APA or MLA format. Many instructors will dock grades for improper formatting, and this can be a silly reason to get a poor evaluation on your research paper.