APA, MLA & Harvardn Picture

APA, MLA & Harvard; What Do They All Mean?

APA MLA and HARVARD referencing

One of the most common tasks students face in their academic life is to write papers that draw upon the research of others. In high schools and universities across the world, students are required to mention or give credit to the sources they have borrowed facts or information from that is not common knowledge to the public. For example, if a student mentions the date of Independence of Pakistan in their assignment, they do not need to mention any sources for this fact as it is common knowledge. However, if they include the total population of Pakistan in the assignment, then the students are required to mention the source of this information as different surveys claim diverse results.


This is called Referencing. The basic definition of referencing would be ‘to provide a book or article with citations of sources of information’. The details about where the information was found and upon which an assignment is based on is listed in two chapters at the end of the assignment; called the Reference list and the Bibliography. Direct quotes or paraphrased findings of other authors are mentioned in the reference list. Sources that were read for background information but were not necessarily or directly included in the assignment are listed in the bibliography.

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Referencing styles:

There are a set of guidelines pre-defined to make reference lists and bibliography reliable and easy to read. These are called Citation or Referencing styles. Different academic fields use different styles. The following are some of the most popular and commonly used styles:

APA; stands for the American Psychological Association and is primarily used in the USA.

MLA; stands for Modern Language Association and is used particularly in the USA.

Harvard; mostly used in UK and Australia.

Vancouver; mainly used in scientific and medical papers.

Chicago and Turabian; these are two different styles but are mostly used for referencing in history and economics.

We will lightly discuss three of the most commonly used citation styles.



APA referencing format:

APA stands for the American Psychological Association. We can identify this style by how it puts an emphasis on the author and the date of publication of a piece of work. The APA style helps a student to cite a source and format their paper/essay/thesis in a clear and consistent manner.

For APA referencing style, these guidelines were made to help in comprehension reading in the field of sciences, either social or behavioral since they make communication easier and language biases are also reduced due to more choice of words. Sometimes, APA style of referencing is used entirely and sometimes with some modifications by many sciences based magazines and journals. This style of referencing is also included in the public and medical health journals, in the endorsed text books and for writing papers in the classes etc. You can find many APA referencing examples in the health journals. Some people also make use of APA referencing generator for APA referencing.

In 1923 APA got involved in the publishing of journals, in Psychological Bulletin an APA committee had issued a guideline comprising of seven pages. In the same journal in 1944 some more guidelines were introduced and they were 32 pages long. The APA publication manual however was first published in earlier 50s and since that time it is referred as APA style of referencing. Some revisions were made in the initial editions in 1957 and 1967. APA referencing guidelines’ subsequent editions were also published in 1974, 1983, 1994, 2001, 2009, and 2019. APA referencing for websites now days is also important since websites also use some previously researched items.

Do Check Out: A Simple Guide to APA Referencing


MLA stands for Modern Language Association. It is most often used to write papers and cite sources by the students of the liberal arts and humanities. It is also arguably the most well used among all citation styles.


The modern Language association has developed another style of referencing known as MLA style referencing and there are generally two parts of this MLA referencing. In text citations which are added in the essay body and work cited which is mentioned at the end of your work or dissertation. MLA format and MLA citations are simple and considered easier. MLA citation machine or generator is also offered by some websites for the ease of writers.

In any format and to any type of source, the following guidelines are applicable:

  • MLA In text citations whereby the first element from the works are cited along with the name of author, number of page. Parenthesis is used for citation in this case, for example, (Smith 173). If name of author appears in the essay body you can also use in parenthesis the number of relevant pages for example, Smith is of the view that …. Applicable (173). Between the name of author and page number there is no need of any punctuation. MLA heading format is also introduced so that the writers can make their publications even better. MLA header or MLA heading can also be used for the plagiarism free work.
  • The cited work is actually the list of sources from where the writer has fetched the ideas and concept. And it is actually a form of acknowledgement of the previously done work. You need to arrange the work by first element, by the surname of author in alphabetical order in MLA referencing. The other key elements for all entries which include formatting as well as punctuation are added afterwards. The elements which are not relevant can be removed as well. For each entry format the subsequent lines with the help of hanging indent.



This referencing style is mostly used by university students in the UK and Australia. It is a kind of small notes that a student uses within the text of the paper. Footnotes and endnotes are not used in this style.

All the referencing styles are generally based upon the following set of guidelines;



  • Harvard referencing:

What is Harvard style citation? It is generally used by university students and they do it to cite the source of information. In this type of referencing two types of citations are included:

  • In text citations are used in any case where the writer has to quote or paraphrase a source. They are generally located within a work body and fragment of full citation is contained in them. On the basis of type of source, the in text citations of Harvard style referencing examples may appear as follows:

“After that I lived like a young rajah in all the capitals of Europe…” (Fitzgerald, 2004).


  • The Harvard style referencing list is located generally at the end of the work and full citations are displayed for the sources which are used in assignments. For example, Fitzgerald, F. (2004). The great Gatsby. New York: Scribner. Some writers and students also make use of Harvard style referencing generators to make their work easier. Harvard style referencing for websites is also done sometimes to acknowledge the work of previous researchers in that particular field.


In-Text Citation: 

This is also known as Parenthetical Citation as it appears inside a parenthesis. It is a short notation that appears every time a source is used and indicates information that was summarized or quoted from another source. This in-text citation is fully documented at the end of the paper in reference list.


Example: (Rowling, 1997)


This includes all the information someone would need to find the exact source(s) a person has used.

Manuscript Format: 

Guidelines for the manuscript format outline the sections of a paper, their order, margin sides, the spacing of elements et cetera.

The basis of the guidelines differs based on which referencing style a student uses.

Referencing or citing your sources is an important part of academic writing. It also helps to avoid plagiarism; which is highly frowned upon in the academic world. The simplest way to avoid mistakes is to use the style your institution recommends and not to mix and match.

For some students, perfectly referencing their work can be a daunting task. Students can contact the literary angels at Creative Savantz who are well versed in the art of perfect citations and can help provide you research papers and thesis written from scratch. You can use these plagiarism free papers as the basis of your own work. You can submit your work to us for editing as well and bag that A+ without further worries.

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