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Get to Know the Different Citation Styles


Citation is the manner in which researchers cite the sources that they have used in writing an academic paper. It is a very important aspect of every research paper and must not be taken for granted in order for a research to maintain its academic integrity. It is a tool against plagiarism and a helpful way to point readers to more available sources. It is needed every time the writer summarizes, quotes, paraphrases, or references another source.

There are different citation styles known to the academic world. These different citation styles are used accordingly for different purposes. The components included when citing are basically similar for each citation style, but each style follows a certain order by which the components and punctuation marks are arranged together. The different components needed when listing references are the title of the work being referred to, the name of the author(s), the publisher, and the date of publication. Other components may be needed depending on the nature of the source.

The three citation styles most commonly used are the following:

  • APA (American Psychological Association)
  • MLA (Modern Language Association)
  • Chicago Manual of Style/Turabian

The use of citation styles differs for different fields of study. For instance, APA is usually used in papers relating to education, psychology, and the different sciences. MLA, on the other hand, is used in the humanities, and Turabian or the Chicago Manual of Style is used in business, history, and the fine arts.

APA (American Psychological Association)

APA was first used in the year 1929 after a convention of psychologists, business managers, and anthropologists was held in order to formulate a set of style rules that would make scientific writing more organized.

APA uses in-text citation. This means that some information about the source is cited directly after a quotation. These sources are also gathered at the end of the whole document in a list called “References.”

The main component that APA focuses on is the year of publication. This highlights how different information and ideas used on the paper has evolved over time. Since APA is mostly used in the scientific field and science never ceases to evolve, it is useful that the dates are easily presented to the readers.

MLA (Modern Language Association)

While APA is used in the field of psychology and the sciences, MLA is used in the humanities. In studies relating to the humanities, how thinkers influence other thinkers’ way of thinking is important, which is why this citation style focuses on the name of the author. The page number from which the information has been taken is also important in this citation style because it makes it easier for readers to go directly to the original source and analyze the exact words written on the source. The MLA citation style also uses in-text citation and includes a list of sources at the end called “Works Cited.”

Chicago Manual of Style/Turabian

The Chicago citation style originated from the Chicago University Press in the year 1906. This is the style usually preferred by historians. It uses grammar and punctuation syntax commonly used in the American English language.

The Chicago Manual of Style is oftentimes referred to as Turabian. The name Turabian came from Kate L. Turabian, who organized the rules of the Chicago Manual of Style in a set of guidelines called “Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.”

Two basic documentation style systems can be used in Chicago style. The first is the notes and bibliography system, and the second is the author-date system. The use of these two styles depends on what kind of source is being cited and the preference of the writer.

The notes and bibliography style makes use of footnotes to cite bibliographic information. The Chicago style is mostly used in historical documents, and the use of footnotes allows ease in reading since they take away the distraction caused by in-text citations. If the readers want information on the source, they can refer to the footnotes.

The author-date system uses in-text parenthetical citations containing the author’s last name and the date of publication. These short citations are gathered in a bibliography at the end of the whole paper.

The Chicago citation style is considered by many as the most flexible among the three main citation styles because it includes guidelines for sources that are hard to cite using APA and MLA. Because of its flexibility, however, Chicago style is more complicated.

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