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The Various Writing Styles and How They Are Utilized by Grads/Undergrads

This topic will cover the generally accepted writing formats for undergraduate/graduate level writing – MLA, APA and Chicago style specifically. Generally each are associated with a certain field of study and there is no generally accepted styles of writing. What are some of the benefits/drawbacks of each format of writing? Undergraduates normally only interact with one style (ex. I only use MLA but I know some liberal arts degrees require Chicago style proficiency). Explore the reasons certain styles are recommended when all of them have places in the same/similar fields. Also explore what, if any, is the most generally accepted writing style for graduate and undergraduate studies and how they are related.

  • It depends on the discourse. Education and psychology journals use APA. Journalists typically use Chicago. Liberal Arts and Humanities journals use MLA. These different editing styles have different emphases as dictated by the what is important in that field of discourse.Much of the same information is included, but in different ways or in different orders. – nsnow 6 years ago
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  • I'm not sure this is entirely true. I think it depends on the program. In music, I know that we use Chicago at my university in our undergrad program. – Laura Jones 6 years ago
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  • Maybe I'm wrong nsnow but my professors told me that Chicago is the writing style for most liberal arts degrees. Let me rephrase - explore why undergrads specialize in one format when there is a multitude that could be used when moving on to graduate school. Perhaps my university does things differently but all of the liberal arts courses use MLA and every other school (business, engineering, etc.) lists MLA as one of the applicable writing styles. – Connor 6 years ago
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  • @Venus Echos I tried to make it more flexible in the ways you described. I'm more concerned subjectively then because I know more academic papers in the English field are done in Chicago but all undergraduate classes ask for MLA specifically at my school. Still looking for feedback from my previous note by the way. – Connor 6 years ago
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  • I don't think most undergraduates only use MLA format, as you intimated. Yes, each style is usually linked to a particular field of study; however, the format that one uses is dictated by his/her major, also by the preference of the professor. All professors do not stick to the style that established guidelines say one should use for a particular major. I teach in higher education, and I know that some professors do not have a preference and will allow the students to use any of the formats regardless of their major. Without having the results of some type of survey, I think it is difficult to outline pros and cons of a particular format. I have heard students complain about a few of them. I think it depends upon the individual and what his/her needs/preferences are. – liztroi69 6 years ago
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  • Connor, I really like the title it draws me in. I believe you have structured the topic in a manner that flows well. Thanks Venus – Venus Echos 6 years ago
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  • @liztroi69 I guess I'm wrong in my understanding but at the university I study at they don't do it that way. I asked my professor and he said that you're right for most schools but mine just teaches it differently. So the question was more subjective than I thought. I apologize. I do think a topic covering the generalization of formatting and how one could be viable where another isn't is still a topic to consider. But yes, my original topic was not sufficient on an objective level. – Connor 6 years ago
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  • Actually, it is more accurate to think about what style publications in academic fields desire more than anything. This usually dictates what style a discipline uses. For instance, MLA is the Modern Language Association, and that is why it is the preferred style in English studies (and since most students learn to write papers in English classes first, they learn MLA). Chicago is used in lots of publications because of the way it cites sources (footnotes are a lot more readable than parenthetical documentation). APA is the American Psychological Association, and so the journals that publish under them (and related social sciences) follow their lead. @Connor-did you go to a liberal arts college? I did my undergrad at one and I think we pretty exclusively used MLA. But now I have taught at a city college and a state university and I have helped undergrads with Chicago, APA, and others. – Caitlin Ray 6 years ago
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  • @ Caitlin Ray Perhaps that is a good point. What academic fields require what format of writing? Unfortunately, my point is undergraduate school, at least for my liberal arts school, solely teaches MLA where there are communications and journalist majors being restricted in this way. Mine is more analysis/writing courses so maybe you could make an argument for those but Chicago seems like the style most suited for my desired style of writing and a couple of my teachers have implied that is the style I will use in graduate school. My school, UNH, is more specialized in business majors but has quite a successful liberal arts college. Like I tried to make clear in my edits, perhaps the question is why don't schools make more effort to teach the few most popular writing formats (APA, MLA, and Chicago)? Maybe this is a thing and, as I've stated in other comments, this is more a subjective question but I feel students should be more aware of other writing styles and be more capable moving forward with a multitude of writing styles under their belts. – Connor 6 years ago
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  • This is a pet peeve of mine, writing styles. There should be a - one - consistently agreed upon style, and I would put forth Turabian and, more importantly, footnotes as the thing to use. Obviously, that's my personal bias though. Aside from that, the problems with all styles in respect to citation, particularly a bibliography, is that they all differ and, as far as I can tell, for little good reason. APA seems to be largely misunderstood in one major way: that one should never use first-person voice in an APA style paper. This is false, and even when I have informed professors that it is false, and yes, pulled out my APA style manual and showed them, currently, section 3.09 (Sixth Addition) where it says "to avoid ambiguity, use a personal pronoun rather than the third-person when describing steps taken in your experiment," and then I usually get some version of This Is How We Do It Here, which would lead me to say that the only consistency I see with writing styles is they all are frequently modified at will, if not whim, by professors and publishers alike (the latter leading to the irritating reality of having to reformat, if not effectively rewrite in some cases, one's paper to satisfy the personal preference of the editor). I prefer Turabian because I know it and use it, so there is my bias, but I use footnotes and find them to make the most sense. True, in all papers they may not make most sense, but then again, if one is simply citing sources, it really does not matter much if it is at the bottom of the page, end of chapter, or end of work, at least not to me. Yet, if those footnotes actually contain information, are exegetic in nature, or otherwise add to that which I am *now* reading, then yes, on the page I am reading makes most sense, again, to me. I find in-text citation styles of MLA and APA both distracting. Superscript numerals used in Turabian are bad enough, but one has to do something, and again, I prefer Turabian's method. APA as a style is, in my humble opinion, the worst style because it effectively teaches the writer to use passive voice, particularly if he or she has been trained to consider first-person a sin. (I would argue that since one writes a paper, it only makes sense to refer to oneself.) I could go on and on (and on) about writing styles, if not academic "research," e.g., multiple authorship abuse, plagiarism, etc., but at least I did note a few common problems with the major three writing styles. Generally, there should be a movement to agree to at least a citation style, largely formatting (capitalize or not? italicize or not? oh, please....) issues, and be done with it. The rest is, well, style. As I was taught, be consistent. And if you are wise, use Turabian. Ha. – Rael64 6 years ago
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  • The standardization for writing styles is a natural course of action by those promoting the English language, even though I believe they are futile efforts. Much like the language itself, those sorts of developing tools inadvertently tend to divide it by how the users manipulate it, and leads to those unique changes in the format and rule. Regardless, this is an excellent tail to the overall discussion of writing styles, and how certain formats become adapted to various individuals vs. the organized brand. I anticipate some intriguing points related to this topic. – N.D. Storlid 6 years ago
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  • These days, more and more students are seeing the goal towards their writing being to tailor their writings towards their professor and thus lessen their own individual creativity in their writing. – Kmo 6 years ago
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  • Useful tips for students as well as for writers who are connected with academic field. – WilliamRiley 6 years ago
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