How to Write and Cite sources in APA and MLA for Term Papers

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All academic papers are required to follow specific formats that distinguish them from other papers. These formats are designed to enhance neatness and organization, among other things.

The two most common formats are APA and MLA. Each format has distinct requirements when it comes to a number of factors including:

  • Spacing
  • Indentation
  • Referencing
  • In-text citation

Suppose I did not get a writer to put my paper in APA or MLA format for free, I would simply download an APA template.

However, even this is not enough if I didn’t know all the set requirements, and I don’t suppose you do either. This is why I put together this brief guide on the proper formatting for APA and MLA papers.

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How to write an MLA Essay like a Pro

Essays good measures of learning, especially when they are based on research and not timed. But a deadline makes it an examinable task.

In some cases, you may have days and even weeks to get your paper done for you, but in most times the duration is limited. As such, you should know how to write an essay quickly.

Here are some quick tips to get you started:

1. Make Sure that you fully understand the assignment prompt Question

I can make two cases for why you should always read and re-read your question prompt until you get it right: first, it will help you come up with concise answers; second, it will save you a lot of time and headache.

Reading and understanding the question prompt will give you a clear mind and plan on the way forward. This is the first step in writing a research paper or essay. By doing this, you will know exactly what is required of you. You will also be more precise and quick in your research.

Suppose that you don’t understand the given prompt? It would be a recipe for disaster. For starters, your research will be compromised and you will likely go looking in places you don’t really need to.

Your mind will also be foggy and this will considerably slow down your pace as you will not have enough confidence in whatever you are writing.

In the end, you will realize that you have gone out of topic and have to start all over again, which is not only frustrating but also time-wasting. And, if you do not catch on to your mistake before submitting the essay you will likely fail and put a dent in your overall grade.

2. Now, Do Your Research and Outline Your Major Points

Researching as you write is never a good idea. For starters, your thoughts and arguments will be incoherent. It also leads to a lot of time wastage. After you read and understand the given question the next step should be conducting the relevant research.

Look for materials that answer the question in their entirety. You will find lots of resources online, and if need be you can also refer to your class notes and library. The goal here is to make sure that every resource you choose answers the question without going off the topic.

Once your research is complete you can then proceed to outline the major points and arguments of your essay. Outline these in as few sentences as possible and make a note of which resources to use to expand on each point.

This will further increase your clarity and save you the time and trouble of skimming through every resource whenever you need to make an argument.  

3. Now get down to writing the Paper

You will find that writing an essay is much easier and faster when you have a plan, and no plan is better than this. Now that you know which arguments you want to make and have the research to make them all you need to do is get down to writing.

As mentioned, make notes of which resources to refer to for each argument you make. Read the relevant parts of the resource and write it as you understand it. We have put a more comprehensive research paper writing guide that you can read more about it.

However, abstain from copying as this will get your paper plagiarized and earn you a lot of points and credibility. Also, take into consideration your grammar. 

4. Let the Introduction and Conclusion come Last

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The introduction comes before the main body of your essay. This, however, doesn’t imply that you should always write it first.

The introduction to your essay is crucial as it gives the reader a brief insight into what your paper is all about – think of it as a first impression.

A good introduction will earn your professor’s confidence, so it should be perfect.

The best way to come up with a good introduction is to write it after you are done with the essay’s body.

This way you will be able to capture your arguments as best as possible.

The conclusion, on the other hand, should be a brief summary of everything you have written. It should be short and concise – and, of course, it comes at the end of the essay.  

5. Review and edit your Work

It is easy to make small mistakes when writing your essay from scratch. These mistakes may be costly, so you cannot afford to leave them uncorrected. This is why it is always prudent to review and proofread your essay before turning it in.

In addition, check the length of your paper and ensure you meet the requirements. Feel free to read our guide on the length of a paper from introduction to conclusion and apply the tips given.

Gover every word to make sure that it is correct. And, just to be safe, run your essay through a plagiarism scan software like Grammarly to ensure that it is not plagiarized – this is the same process that professors use to check for plagiarism.

6. Now Format the paper using either APA or MLA

Now it is time to format your paper either in APA or MLA. If you cannot do this for yourself, you can hire someone to write the paper for you. For me, I would try to get a writer to put my paper in APA or MLA format for free.

However, if you can, the following guide will help you out, either in MLA or APA Formatting style. To choose which style of formatting you want, it is good you consult the assignment instructions from your professor.

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Difference between MLA and APA referencing styles

MLA and APA formats are similar in certain aspects. However, MLA papers do not have running heads and don’t need a title page or abstract. The title of your paper and your credentials are written directly above the paper’s body. The other glaring differences are:

  • In-Text Citation

In-text citations in MLA papers are required to be more concise. To this end, the citation should include the initials and last name of the source’s author as well as the exact page where the information was extracted. They are highlighted in brackets.

  • Referencing

References in MLA should also be listed alphabetically. However, the format differs greatly from APA and depending on the type of source used. In most cases, English research papers are the ones that commonly use MLA for referencing and citations.  

How to put your paper in APA Format

There are certain things that you should always keep in mind when writing an APA paper:

  • Running Head

Every APA paper should have a running head on every page. You can think of the running head as a brief variation of the paper’s title. The running head should be typed in all caps.

  • Title Page

Your paper’s title page should contain the title of your paper, your name as the author, your school’s affiliation, and the date that you published the paper. It is meant to give readers an insight into what your paper is all about as well as who you are.

  • Abstract

Think of an abstract as a brief summary of your entire paper. The abstract doesn’t necessarily follow the common rules of APA such as spacing and indentation. Its length should range between 150 and 250 words.

  • Main Body

The main body of your paper should contain the actual essay. This is where most of the formatting comes in. The basic rules are that the text should be double-spaced and each paragraph should be indented.

The different sections of the paper should also be broken down and titled in accordance with the nature of the paper you are writing. 

  • In-Text Citation

In-text citations are necessary with research papers. In APA they are highlighted in brackets or referenced directly when referring to another author’s research. The citation should contain the author’s last name and the date when the paper being referred to was published.

  • Referencing

The reference page should include a list of all the sources you used when writing your paper. The list should be arranged alphabetically. There are also other requirements on how to list each type of source, and you can learn more about them here.

Check out more on whether to underline essay titles when using these formats.

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