Difference Between Dissertation Styles - Why Is It Important?

How to Distinguish Dissertation Writing Styles | APA, MLA, Harvard, Chicago

The Origin

Historically, we have inherited various writing styles that are widely used nowadays due to many reasons. The main reason is that people engaged in different academic disciplines are used to utilizing the most convenient styles regarding the particular characteristics of their writing. As a result, they are often reluctant to change the way they cite and write. One more reason is that diverse styles appeal to different audiences and support various areas of study.

APA (American Psychological Association) Style has been used in journal publishing since 1923 and is widely used by Education, Sciences, and Psychology. The last (7th Edition) official guide to APA style was published in 2019.

MLA (Modern Language Association) Style has been known since 1951, and the first full style edition was published in 1977, known as MLA Handbook for Writers of Dissertations, Research Papers, and Theses. It’s popular with the audience that deals with the Arts and the Humanities. The current MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (8th Edition) has been in use since 2016.

Harvard Style is also known as a so-called ‘parenthetical author-date reference system.’ Its history dates back to the end of the nineteenth century and, naturally, originated at Harvard University, where such a reference type was used for the first time. It is pretty similar to APA and is more popular in the UK and Australia, whereas APA is primarily used in the United States. Furthermore, Harvard is mostly applied by the Humanities and doesn’t have any published manuals.

The Chicago Manual of Style (also known as CMS or Chicago) was first published in 1906 by the University of Chicago Press and has been widely used by the Fine Arts, Publishing, Business, and History since then. The last 17th edition has been utilized since 2017 to meet the latest social requirements.

Why Should We Know How to Use Styles Duly?

A knowledgeable audience, especially educators, sticks to rules when it comes to citing and writing. Thus, professors don’t usually like it when students mix several styles in one paper. Moreover, a proper reference provides the author with the necessary credit and confidence in their work and helps avoid plagiarism. Apart from this, readers may want to know more about ideas you have incorporated into your paper, and a well-done citation is the best way to do it fast and effortlessly.

Let’s not forget that various academic fields historically use different styles that are regarded as the most convenient one to that specific audience. Clearly, it takes some time to figure everything out, and many students don’t have time for this, especially when it comes to writing serious papers like dissertations.

In case you have trouble distinguishing and applying styles when it comes to write a dissertation, you can always rely on our experts. It doesn’t matter what kind of problem you have, as our professionals are ready to help with them. Even if you just need to adjust your paper or any part of it to the required format, edit or proofread it, our team will find the best and the most efficient solution that meets all your requirements. Our mission is to make student life easier by providing every person with quality work and helping them to have more spare time for their favorite activities.

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Key Differences

So, it’s time to look through the distinctions these styles have. Take a glance at our table at the end of this article to be more definite and understand all differences effortlessly.

Let’s Start With the MLA Style

When it comes to fonts and indents, MLA has the same requirements as the others (see the table below). The key difference is that other recognizable fonts can be used, apart from the standard Times New Roman.

This style doesn’t require a separate title page. Nevertheless, it is important to indicate the main information, like name, professor, course, date. The title should be centered and with first capital letters. If an in-text quotation is long, it is formatted differently. Please mark, it’s applied for quotes longer than 4 (prose) or 3 (verse) lines. The header is flush-right for both title and number. The title is usually the author’s last name with the first capitalized letter.

References should start with the phrase [Works Cited] centered on a separate page at the end of your dissertation. Follow this link to get more examples: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_style_introduction.html.

One author:

Markus, Steven. Paranoid Personality Disorder. Penguin, 1987.

Two Authors

Lloyd, Christopher, and Garrett Pallacki. The Media in Our Fast-Changing Society. Allyn and Bacon, 2020.

Three or more authors:

Underbrown, James, et al. Life After Death: Theory and Applications for Tutoring. Utah State UP, 2016.

No Author:

Encyclopedia Informatica. Somerset, 1999.

A work in an Anthology, Reference, or Collection:

Last name, First name. "Title of Essay." Title of Collection, edited by Editor's Name(s), Publisher, Year, Page range of entry.

APA Style Particularities

It’s important to know that a separate title page is required, where you should indicate the corresponding information (check the table below). Different formatting is applied for quotations if they are 40 words or longer. The key difference here is that there should be one empty line between the introduction line and a quote. In case the introduction line doesn’t include the author(s), this information must be indicated after the quote.

The title is capitalized in a header, and it’s flush-left, whereas the page number is flush right. Please mark that the header on the title page doesn’t have a page number.

References. You need to use centered [References] on a separate page after your work. Follow this link to get more examples of the proper APA referencing: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_style_introduction.html.

One Author:

Beckett, S. T. (2008). The science of chocolate (2nd ed.). Royal Society of Chemistry. https://doi.org/10.1039/9781847558053

Two Authors:

Ramsey, J. K., & McGrew, W. C. (2005). Object play in great apes: Studies in nature and captivity. In A. D. Pellegrini & P. K. Smith (Eds.), The nature of play: Great apes and humans (pp. 89–112). Guilford Press.

Three - Twenty Authors:

Wolchik, S. A., West, S. G., Sandler, I. N., Tein, J., Coatsworth, D., Lengua, L., Weiss, L., Anderson, E. R., Green, S. M., & Griffin, W. A. (2000). An experimental evaluation of theory-based mother and mother-child programs for children of divorce. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68(5), 843–856. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.68.5.843

In case you have more than 20 authors, you need to indicate the first 19 and add an ellipsis followed by the last author.

Harvard Style Essentials

As it’s been mentioned before, the Harvard style doesn’t differ much from the APA style. The key difference is that this style seems to use less punctuation.However, this style is a mix of Chicago and MLA and doesn’t look like APA when it comes to the title page. The title requires all capital letters when you write it, whereas the header uses capital letters for the first letter of each word. The header is flush-right with a page number indicated on the title page.

Long quotations formatting is exactly the same as it is in APA. In-text referencing is pretty similar to APA. However, there are some punctuation differences (check the table). Basically, this style requires fewer commas for citing.

References start with the word Bibliography on a separate page. Naturally, all works are in alphabetical order. Follow this link to find out more: https://guides.lib.monash.edu/c.php?g=219786&p=1454246.

Sense, K 2006, Academic culture: a student’s guide to studying at university, National Centre for English Language Teaching and Research, Canberra.

Department of Transport and Communications 1984, Sound and television broadcasting stations: field strength contour maps, 1:2,500,000, Department of Transport and Communications, ‘2NB Broken Hill’, 32°11’S 139°26'E.

Kim, D & Johnson, T 2012, ‘Political blog readers: predictors of motivations for accessing political blogs’, Telematics and Informatics, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 99-109, (online Ebscohost).

Oxford English dictionary online 2019, ‘Argument’, viewed 19 February 2020, http://www.oed.com.ezproxy.lib.monash.edu.au/view/Entry/10767

Chicago Style Hallmarks

It differs greatly in the shadow of referencing. The biggest difference is that we don’t place information about the source straight after the quote or paraphrase in the text itself. Footnotes are used for this purpose, and they are located at the bottom of every page, where the information about the cited sources can be regarded as full. However, it is important to admit that in-text referencing and bibliography are formatted slightly differently.

References. Look at the footnotes for books:

  1. Carry Wing, Purple Time (New York: Penguin Press, 2019), 218–19.
  2. Mike Frazer and Matthew Kingsman, A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018), 23.

And now take a glance at the same works in bibliography:

Frazer, Mike, and Matthew Kingsman. A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018.

Wing, Carry. Purple Time. New York: Penguin Press, 2019.

Journal article:

  1. Mark B. Clay et al., “Predicting Responses to Contemporary Environmental Change Using Evolutionary Response Architectures,” American Naturalist 167, no. 8 (August 2014): 288, https://doi.org/20.2011/873554.

The same article in bibliography:

Clay, Mark B., Michael Clark, Norman Garrett, Nicolas C. Batch, Patrick Oswald, Jesse D. Ganasky, Stephen R. Palumbi, and William Marcus. “Predicting Responses to Contemporary Environmental Change Using Evolutionary Response Architectures.” American Naturalist 167, no. 8 (August 2014): 271–92. https://doi.org/20.2011/873554.

If you want to know more, follow this link: https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide/citation-guide-1.html.

What If You Don’t Follow a Particular Style

Everybody knows that it is important to follow a particular writing style. However, it is difficult to understand why it is necessary. The main idea is consistency. While reading your work or the works of others, a reader needs to focus on writing and shouldn’t be distracted by punctuation, formatting, grammar, and other things. Everything should be clear and comprehensible. That’s the main idea.

Moreover, a properly formatted or cited paper gives more credit to the author and allows everyone to find sources effortlessly, in case they want to learn a subject deeper and don’t want to be lost in editions, volumes, pages, websites. Your works are not the only ones to read. Thus, every person should understand easily while reading someone else’s paper.

Reading should be convenient, and every style helps to fulfill this aim, too. So, if you don’t follow a particular style accepted in your area of study, you are at risk of not putting across your point of view well. Surely, it’s not an effect you want to achieve. It is crucial not to forget about the audience, consistency, and convenience.






Fonts & Indents

12-pt Times New Roman ( or other recognizable fonts, like New York, Helvetica); double spacing; 1-inch margins; no extra spacing between paragraphs; paragraph indentation - 5-7 spaces or ½ inch for all sections

12-pt Times New Roman (or other easily available ones); double spacing; paragraph indentation - 5-7 spaces or ½ inch for all sections

12-pt Times New Roman; double spacing; paragraph indentation - 5 spaces for all sections

12-pt Times New Roman;

double spacing; 1-inch margins;

indentation - ½ inch for all sections

Main subjects

The Humanities or Liberal Arts

Social Sciences

The Humanities

The Fine Arts, Business, History, Publishing

Title page

No separate title page

Left-justifying heading





Centered Title With First Capital Letters on The Line Below the Heading

[Title Here, up to 12 Words, on One to Two Lines]

[Author Name(s), First M. Last, Omit Titles and Degrees]

[Institutional Affiliation(s)]

Author Note

[Include any grant/funding information and a complete correspondence address.]

Header (flush right, page 1 is indicated): [Title Is Here 1]


by (Name)




[City and State where it’s Located]



[Title Is Written Like This]

5-7 lines


3-5 lines




Long quotations

For more than 4 lines of prose or 3 lines of verse.

Perkins states:

A quote is indented ½ inch from the rest of the text without quotation marks. Put a full stop before parentheses. (15) (page or author-page if the author hasn’t been mentioned before the quote)

For 40 words or longer.

Perkins (2020) states:

Quote indentation ½ inch. (p. 15).

The same as APA.

For 5 or more lines long.

Perkins states:

Quote indentation 1 inch (page number, if any).

In-text referencing

- - -

Endnotes and footnotes are at the bottom of every text page


- - - -

One author, paraphrasing (Reference at the end of a sentence)


(Preston, 2014).

(Preston 2014).


With a page reference

(Preston 77).

(Preston, 2014, p.76).

(Preston 2014, p.65).


One author, quoting (Reference at the end of a sentence)

Preston states "Quote" (Preston).

"Quote" (Preston, 2014, p.76).

"Quote" (Preston, 2014, p.76).

Reek claimed: “Quote.”1 (where 1 is a footnote)

With a page reference

Sheller writes, "Quote" (Sheller 16).

Preston (2014) states that "quote" (p.76).

Preston (2014, p.76) states that "quote".


Two authors (General)

(Sheller and Hyke)

(White & Perrone 2014)

(White & Perrone 2014)


With a page reference

(Sheller and Hyke 146).

(White & Perrone, 2014, p.55)

(White & Perrone 2014, p. 55)


Three authors

(General - 1st time)

(Moritz et al.).

(White, Perrone & Howes, 2019)

(White, Perrone & Howes 2019)


General - subsequent

The same

Use et al.: (White et al., 2019)

The same as the 1st time


With a page reference - 1st time

(Moritz et al. 203).

(White, Perrone & Howes, 2019, p. 78)

(White, Perrone & Howes 2019, p. 78)


With a page reference - subsequent

The same

(White, Perrone & Howes, 2019, p. 78)

The same as the 1st time


4-5 authors

(General - 1st time)

The same as 3 authors

(Carrabine, Cox, Lee, Plummer & South, 2009)

(Carrabine et al. 2009)


General - subsequent

The same as 3 authors

(Carrabine et al., 2009)

The same as the 1st time


With a page reference - 1st time

The same as 3 authors

(Carrabine, Cox, Lee, Plummer & South, 2009, p.82)

(Carrabine et al. 2009, p. 82)


With a page reference - subsequent

The same as 3 authors

(Carrabine et al., 2009, p.82)

The same as the 1st time


6 or more authors


The same as 3 authors

Use et al. after the first author: (Kring et al., 2019)

Use et al. after the first author: (Kring et al. 2019)


With a page reference

The same as 3 authors

(Kring et al., 2019, p.105)

(Kring et al. 2019, p.105)


An organizational author

(Australian Institute of Criminology 19).

(Australian Institute of Criminology, 2005)

(Australian Institute of Criminology 2005)


Multiple works (the same author and year, general)

(Harris, “Shortened Version of the Title”).

(Harris, “Shortened Version of Another Title”).

Put a lower-case letter after the year:

(Sarre, 2015a)

(Sarre, 2015b)

Put a lower-case letter after the year:

(Sarre 2015a)

(Sarre 2015b)


With a page reference

(Harris, “Shortened Version of the Title” 477).

(Harris, “Shortened Version of Another Title” 303).

(Sarre 2015a, p. 207)

(Sarre, 2015b, p. 4)

(Sarre 2015a, p. 207)

(Sarre 2015b, p. 4)


Book chapters

The same as Books in every appropriate case

The same as Books/eBooks in every appropriate case

The same as Books/eBooks in particular cases


Journal Articles

One author: the same as Books for one author (both referencing and paraphrasing)

One-two authors: the same as Books for one author (both paraphrasing or referencing)

One author: the same as Books for one author (both referencing and paraphrasing)


Reports (first time)

(Industry Canada 34).

"Quote" (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2019).

(Australian Bureau of Statistics 2019)



The same

(ABS, 2019).

The same


non-government reports (general)


(Flatau, et al., 2017)

(Flatau et al. 2017)


non-government reports with a page reference

(Stevenson 55)

(Flatau, et al., 2017, p.28)

(Flatau et al. 2017, p.58)



Author’s Last Name and page number flush right:

Adams 1

Title flush left, page flush right. No page number on the title page.


Work title and page flush right


Author’s Last Name and page number flush right:

Hughes 2

No header on the title page

Unique Characteristics

No separate title page

A title page with author notes

It seems to have the simplest in-text referencing and formatting.

This style doesn’t use in-text referencing straight after the quoted sentence but uses footnotes instead.


Centered [Works cited]

The hanging 5-7 spaces or ½ inch, alphabetical order, inactive hyperlinks



The hanging 5-7 spaces or ½ inch, alphabetical order, inactive hyperlinks

Centered [Bibliography]

The hanging 5-7 spaces or ½ inch, ascending order, inactive hyperlinks

Centered [Bibliography]

The hanging 5-7 spaces or ½ inch, alphabetical order, inactive hyperlinks

Useful links