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Lesson 6: Different Types of Formats

In this lesson, we’ll be taking a look at the two most commonly used types of essay formats.


  • To enumerate the two most commonly used types of essay formats
  • To discuss when to use them
  • To define their parameters
  • To outline the importance of knowing which format to use

In our previous lessons, we stressed the importance of fitting the way you write your paper to the need your paper aims to fulfill. We were able to discuss deciding how to write your paper based on its goal and what it aims to contain. However, another very important thing to consider when writing your papers is what format you need to use. In this lesson we’ll be outlining the two most commonly used kinds of formats for English composition work. We’ll be showing you a couple of distinctions and discussing when each format should be used.

1. Modern Language Association (MLA) format

When to use it:

The MLA format is often used for papers that are concerned with the arts and the humanities. Initially developed by the Modern Language Association, this format is meant to outline facts, opinions and different parts of the text in a manner that is reactive to another text—points are usually separated by sub-headers denoted by an Arabic numeral (much like in this lesson), followed by the title of the subheader.

Distinct guidelines:

The format for MLA requires a 1-inch margin on all sides, font Times New Roman (or equivalent simple texts such as Arial or Calbiri), size 12, double-spaced. There is no title page in the MLA format. The upper-right hand corner should have your last name along with the page number (illustrated above).

The bibliography in the MLA format is labeled as “Works Cited” and lists down the references alphabetically, according to author. Below are the two main types of references and their MLA formats.

a. Entire Websites

Specific Topic. Name of the Website, 2010. http://fullurl.com. Date Accessed.

b. Specific References 

Specific Websites

Writer/s. “Name of Article”. Specific Topic. Name of Website, Last edited date. Web. Date of access.

Specific Books /Resources

Lastname, Firstname. Title of Book. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. Medium of Publication.

II. American Psychological Association (APA format)

When to use it:

The APA format was initially formulated to help provide a reliable, uniform format for scientists and researchers. It has a lot more specifications than the MLA format and is usually used in the sciences. It makes use of footnotes and in-text citations. It’s a great deal more stringent than MLA because unlike that format which is built to accommodate reactions or critiques of work, the APA format is made to argue and withstand the rigors of an influx of information which is often the case in the sciences.

Distinct Guidelines:

The APA format features a separate title page and a running head which is the header throughout the paper and contains a one-line statement about what the paper is about.

Also, for papers that are at least 7 pages long, it contains a separate abstract page. The abstract should contain a short summary of the paper, what it aimed to achieve and what it contains—if the paper is a study (which is often the case in the sciences), it should also contain a short description about the methods which were used as well as the general findings of the paper. If the paper is shorter than 7 pages, it shouldn’t contain the abstract page but should begin directly with the introduction.

APA papers aren’t divided into simply enumerated sub-sections as in MLA. Instead, they’re divided into clearly separated sections such as the Introduction, Review of Related Literature, Results, Discussion of Data, Recommendations and the Conclusion.

 However, like the MLA format it also features font size 12, in a basic font, double-spaced with 1 inch margins on every side. Below is an example of the APA title page.

In the APA format, there are different ways to cite sources. Here it’s important to cite both in-text and in the bibliography which in this case, is called the References page. Below are the common categories used for citing sources.

a. Websites

Online Journals

LastName, A.B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Online Periodical, volume number (issue number if available). Retrieved from http://www.fullurl.com/pageused/etc.html

Other websites

Website Name. (Year of publication).Name of article [Type of data file if downloadable]. Retrieved from http://www.fullurl.com/thefile.pdf

b. Books

LastName, A. B. (Year of publication). Title of work: Capital letter also for subtitle. Location: Publisher.

*Note: if the book has two authors, write accordingly, linked together by “and”—if more than 3 authors, use et al after the first author’s name. Also remember that when writing the location, write both the city name and (if available) the state’s abbreviation without periods—for example New York, NY or Los Angeles, CA.

c. Journals

 LastName, A. B., (Year).Title of article.Title of Periodical,volume number(issue number), pages.

*Note: if the book has two authors, write accordingly, linked together by “and”—if more than 3 authors, use et al after the first author’s name. Also remember that when writing the location, write both the city name and (if available) the state’s abbreviation without periods—for example New York, NY or Los Angeles, CA.

Now we’ve discussed everything that we need to know about MLA and APA, the two most widely used formats for academic papers. This will help you (should you be coming up with an English composition for school) write an effective essay.

Next we’ll be moving onto the main part of our class: in the coming lessons we’ll be discussing the different how-tos of English composition. We’ll be looking at specific tips and tricks to keep in mind when writing our English essays. Our next lesson, specifically, is going to be about making an outline. Keep reading and learn how to keep organized when writing your essays!




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