How To Choose a Format For Dissertation Writing: APA Vs MLA


There are two major writing styles that students may need to use in their dissertation. The most common choices are APA and MLA style. To figure out which style to use, students should start by asking their professor or the academic committee. Most schools have standards for every paper that is submitted, so students should make sure that their writing style and format matches up with the college's expectations.

  • An Overview
  • APA style is officially known as the American Psychological Association style. Created in 1929, this type of writing style is supposed to help researchers avoid plagiarism and reduce the distractions for the readers. It requires the writer to create a bibliography, use in-text citations, footnotes and direct quotations. Typically, individuals who use this style will write in the past tense.

    With the Modern Language Association (MLA) style, students can expect a more literary inclined paper. It is often used in the humanities and is intended to help with creating manuscripts. MLA style normally focuses on citing books, literature and multimedia. Unlike APA style, MLA style uses the present tense instead of the past tense.

  • The Basics of APA Style
  • When students create a dissertation in APA style, they will need to use double-spaced texts and footnotes. A bibliography must be listed in alphabetical order according to the author's last name. If there are multiple works by a single author, these are listed in chronological order. In the text, the titles of the books are capitalize in sentence style and page numbers are placed on the top right hand corner of every page. In addition, a shortened title is placed next to the page number.

  • MLA Style
  • The bibliography in MLA style is called a works cited, and it is also listed in alphabetical order by the author's last name. Afterward, multiple works by the author are listed alphabetically instead of chronologically. At the top of the page, the title is centered in the middle, while footnotes are used to provide additional information. When a quote or statistic is used in the document, the author's are referenced by last name and page number like this: (Jones, p. 6).

  • Choosing a Style
  • Typically, a dissertation will be written in APA style if it is a field of science or research. MLA style is normally used for the humanities like art, history, literature and the social sciences. This can change depending on the specific class or the professor, so students should always check on the formatting rules before they begin writing.

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