Essay Formats

When you start writing an essay, you are aware of all the work and time you will have to invest in research and writing. However, there is another aspect of academic writing that students commonly forget about: formatting and referencing. When your professor provides specific guidelines about the assignments, you should follow them to the tiniest detail. You will notice that those instructions usually include requirements about a specific citation style, such as APA, MLA, Turabian, or Chicago.

In the continuation, I will help you understand the differences and applications of each of these styles.

When to use a certain citation style

It’s always useful to know when different styles should be applied. Sometimes your professors don’t bother providing detailed instructions, but still expect you to format the essay properly.

  • MLA citation style is intended to be used in academic content from the areas of humanities, arts, and literature.
  • APA citation style is used in works from social sciences, education, and psychology.
  • Chicago is a distinct citation style that’s usually used in newspapers, books, magazines, and other types of non-scholarly publications. Students are not usually required to apply this citation style in essays.
  • AMA citation style is applied in works from medicine and biological sciences.
  • Turabian is the style you will most commonly use as a student. It is a simplified form of the Chicago style, designed to be used with all subjects. You can stick to it when your professors don’t ask for a specific citation format to be applied.

Main Features of APA, MLA and Turabian Style

As a student, you will mostly rely on the Turabian style, but some professors may require you to reference the sources according to MLA or APA style. You will need to go through the detailed style guidelines in order to implement them properly, but these main features will help you identify the differences:

APA Format

In this citation style, the author’s last name and the initial of their first name are written first. The date follows the name of the author and is written in parentheses. The page where the sources are provided is called “References”.

Here is an example of a reference written according to this style:

  • Frank, J. (2012). Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

In-text citations according to APA style are provided with the author’s last name and the date of publication.

MLA Format

The page of sources in MLA format is called “Works Cited”. The references are provided with the author’s full name, followed by the name of the source, the publisher and the date of citation. Here is what the same reference would look like in MLA style:

  • Frank, Joseph. Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2012. Print.

When writing in-text citations in MLA style, you should use the last name of the author and the page number.

Turabian Format

When formatting a paper according to Turabian style, the page of sources will be called “Bibliography”. APA and MLA styles instruct the use of in-text citations, but you will need to reference the sources with footnotes when using Turabian. To format the references properly, you should write the full author’s name, the source, the publisher and date of publication. Here is an example of a reference formatted according to Turabian style:

  • Frank, Joseph. Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2012. Print.

As you can see, the source provided in the bibliography page is formatted same as with APA style. The real difference of the Chicago style is in the footnotes provided as references throughout the text. They include the edition of the source, as well as the page number.

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