Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Demystifing APA and MLA Styles

Dr. Andree Swanson, EdD and Chris Crites, MBA

So, you have to write a paper and you were told that it must be in MLA format. Did some of these thoughts enter into your mind?

What the heck is MLA format?
I remember using some sort of style back in high school, but that was ages ago!
At the college I attended everything was in APA style.
I vaguely remember MLA
Oh yes, that’s where you use footnotes, right?

Although this is a comparison of the two styles, ultimately, the decision on whether to use MLA or APA style is up to the University or College that you are attending. 


 Scholars need to lead his or her reader as close to the information as a possible.  The research should be current, typically within the last five years.  As you can imagine in the field of business, engineering, and health care administration, information that is 20 years old would be of little or no use.  The one exception would be historical or literature reviews.  The MLA reference does not provide a means to show the date, volume, and page numbers of the document, only the date of retrieval.

The APA Publication Manual focuses on scientific research versus a literature base.  The study of business and finance is more closely aligned with scientific research than it is with literature.  Scholars must include peer-reviewed, current literature.  The APA style manual allows for this documentation.  Important elements include providing a specific link back to the research.  Currency of data is important in this field as new research is accomplished and published.  Social sciences use the APA Style Manual to document current studies that have been published.  To this end, business courses tend to follow the social sciences (e.g., economics is based on social behavior) than the literature base, thus the importance of using an APA reference.

Comparison of Two Styles

MLA Reference

Bowling, Daniel, & Hoffman, David. “Bringing Peace into the Room: The Personal Qualities of the Mediator and Their Impact on the Mediation.” Negotiation Journal. Jan 2000: 16, 1. ProQuest. Web. 20 May 2012.
Notice: the only date that is shown is the date of retrieval

APA Reference

Borstorff, P. C., & Lowe, S. K. (2007). Student perceptions and opinions toward e-learning in the college environment. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 11(2), 13-29. Retrieved from ABI/INFORM Global database. doi: 1432002441.
The date of publication clues scholars and other readers that this information is current, and important in the world of business.  The page numbers provide precise information for scholars so that this information can be located easily for further research.

            Learning to apply APA formatting when writing your papers is something that is truly useful in all business applications.  Perhaps you may not use true APA formatting, but hopefully learning this style will enhance your critical thinking skills.  In future writings, you will consider a statement of fact only to wonder where the author gained the source of this information and check for their parenthetical citations.  The ability to research and document sources garnered her selection as a national training manager in a male-dominated field.  Thus, knowing APA style and understanding the importance of documentation could be what gets you your next job.

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