MLA and APA citation

Citation: MLA and APA Guide

The Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) are different forms of writing styles that are dependent on the subject in which you study when writing your papers. MLA is often used by the humanities, while APA is used by social sciences such as psychology, sociology, education, anthropology, and others. Both styles are similar as they both require in-text citation as well as a reference list at the end of the paper. Properly referencing information that isn’t your own is necessary to avoid plagiarizing someone else’s work. The following information is based on the current issues of both guides, the 7th edition of the APA Manual and the 9th edition of the MLA Handbook.


APA Citation

APA’s in-text citation format must follow the author-date arrangement. This is the author’s last name followed by the year of publication of the written source within the sentence using parathesis to separate citations of the text; for example, (Morales, 2023). If one were to use direct quotes the author would include the “p.” or “pp.” for one page or multiple pages respectively, after the publication year; for instance, (Morales, 2023, pp. 2-10). The reference could occur before the direct quotation of the information: Morales (2023) found “there is not much research literature on Filipino Americans” (p. 8).


A free-standing block is used for longer, direct quotes with the entire text being indented ½ an inch and cited with a page number and punctuation. If one is paraphrasing someone else’s work, the writer must reference the author and year without the inclusion of page numbers. Many times, there are multiple authors on a single piece. With two authors, you must name them both followed by the year. For example:


Research by Morales and Vaca (2023) reports… OR (Morales & Vaca, 2023) as an end of sentence citation.


With three or more authors, the first author’s name is used followed by “et al.” with both types of in-text citations. Et al. is a Latin term that simply means, “and others.”


Morales et al. (2023) states… OR (Morales et al., 2023).


When paraphrasing, one might write similar ideas from different sources into one sentence. If this is the case, you may cite using the author-year method for each source separated by a semicolon.


… (Morales, 2023; Vaca, 2023; Enrile, 2000).


If there are no authors, one should replace this section with the organization from which it was written.


American Red Cross (2005)…


In the case there are authors with the same last name, use their first initials with their last names.


(M. Morales, 2023; G. Morales, 2020)


An in-text citation must be included in the References page at the end of your written document. The reference page must start on a separate page, center-titled “References” in bold. The list is written in alphabetical order with an indent of every line following the first. Authors’ names should be stated as last name and first name initial and middle name initial if applicable. Dependent on the source type, the citation’s format will change. For journal articles, the form is the following:


First author’s last name, first name initial. Middle name initial (if applicable)., second author’s

last name, first name initial., & third author’s last name, first name initial. (year). Title of article. Title of Journal or Periodical, volume number(issue number), pages.


Jones, C. P. (2002). Confronting Institutionalized Racism. Phylon, 50(1/2), 7-22.


If a DOI is not available, copy and paste the website’s URL in replacement.

For books, the basic format is similar to journal articles. The author’s last name, first initial, year of publication, title of work in italics, publisher name, and DOI when available. If there is no author, use the editor’s name and include “(Ed.)”.

Other popular sources are webpages or online sites such as news articles and blogs. In this situation. Webpages are structured slightly different:


Author last name, M. G. (Year, Month Date). Title of article/page. Site name. URL


MLA Citation

            MLA’s in-text citation uses the author and page number for both direct quotes and paraphrasing information. For example:


… (Morales 24). OR Morales stated… (24).


When a source is numbered, one may reference the work by using the word “lines” followed by the line numbers enclosed in parentheses, for instance, (lines 20-25). Similarly to APA citation, if there is no author labeled, utilize the title of the article. If the title of the source is short (e.g. an article) use quotation marks, whereas if it is longer, italicize the title. A lengthy title should end at the first clause. For example:


Saint-Exupéry writes on the conflict of responsibilities in relationships and how we should appreciate time spent with others rather than looking at it as time wasted (64).


MLA format requires a “Works Cited” page at the end of one’s written document if in-text citations are used. This is the equivalent of the APA’s references page. “Works Cited” is titled and centered on a new page followed by references in alphabetical order. The example below is a basic format for a book citation with one author:


Last name, first name. Title. City of publication, publisher, publication date.


Saint-Exupéry, Antoine. The Little Prince. New York, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000.


In addition, if there are multiple authors of a book, use the last name, and first name format followed with commas. If there are three or more authors, use “et al.” after the first name of the first author. For books with no authors listed, skip the author’s surname and first name portion of the template above and begin with the title of the book.

The citation structure for periodicals has a different template. The basic format includes the author’s last and first name, the title of the article in quotation marks, the magazine in italics, day, month, year of publication, and page numbers.


Phyllis Jones, Camara. “Confronting Institutionalized Racism.” Phylon. Nov. 2002. pp.7-22.


For online sources such as web magazines, websites, blogs, and online scholarly journals use a format that includes the URL of the cite and date of access. For example:


Snow, Anita. “US Southwest swelters under dangerous heat wave, with new records on track.”

Associated Press News. 15 Jul. 2023, Accessed 10 July 2023.


It is important to cite the sources used appropriately to avoid plagiarism. Dependent on one’s career, college course, or professor’s preference, MLA and APA are popular writing styles to format academic papers. Becoming comfortable with the style that is most used in your field will allow you to master citations in no time. While it is not common, new editions of the APA Manual or the MLA Handbook may tweak citation formats. One must know the current edition and cite sources based on the current information.


Author: Maerie Morales