8 5.5 Citation Styles

Style Manuals are guides that help you learn how to improve your writing, to write particular types of papers (such as research reports, technical reports, theses), and to acknowledge your sources properly and consistently through footnotes and reference lists. You can get helpful advice on how to strengthen your writing skills by consulting a style guide.

In chapter 4, we discussed how academic disciplines use particular style guides with rules for creating citations, often developed by professional associations in those specific subject areas. For example, chemists might use the American Chemical Society (ACS) Style Guide; sociologists would probably use the Style Guide from the American Sociological Association (ASA); those in psychology and related fields might use the Publication Manual of American Psychological Association (APA), and so on. There are also publication styles that are not associated with a specific subject area, such as the Chicago Manual of Style, and the Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (commonly known as Turabian’s), and others.

The exact form of citations will vary depending on the style guide used but they all provide most of the same information. Understanding what each part of a citation represents will help you read the citation, no matter which style is used. Below is an article citation formatted in a few different styles:

APA Style Beezhold, B., Radnitz, C., Rinne, A., & DiMatteo, J. (2015). Vegans report less stress and anxiety than omnivores. Nutritional Neuroscience, 18(7), 289-296. doi:10.1179/1476830514Y.0000000164.
Chicago Style Beezhold, Bonnie, Cynthia Radnitz, Amy Rinne, and Julie DiMatteo. “Vegans Report Less Stress and Anxiety Than Omnivores.” Nutritional Neuroscience 18, no. 7 (2015): 289-96.
IEEE Style B. Beezhold, C. Radnitz, A. Rinne, and J. DiMatteo, “Vegans report less stress and anxiety than omnivores,” Nutritional Neuroscience, vol. 18, pp. 289-296, 2015.
MLA Style Beezhold, Bonnie, et al. “Vegans Report Less Stress and Anxiety Than Omnivores.” Nutritional Neuroscience 18.7 (2015): 289-296.

Your professor will usually tell you which style you should follow for your papers in that class. If not, you should ask. If no specific style is preferred, the most important thing for you to remember is to choose a particular style, follow its rules, and be consistent.

Why use a style guide?

When you write a research paper, you are writing for an audience of subject experts. This is true whether you’re writing a class paper for your professor or submitting a research article to a journal for publication. Style guides are an important part of the scholarly conversation. Style guides help you communicate in a very consistent manner and in a way that is understood by your specific audience, addressing such points as:

  • Which sections of your paper should contain types of information such as background, methods, and analysis
  • How you show you’re using ethical practices in your writing
  • Where your ideas came from and which works were consulted
  • Where readers can learn more about this topic
  • How you conducted your research and what steps you took
  • What support you have for your claims

Take the time to get to know the standards for communicating in your major. It’s a great way to improve the quality of your writing!

Finding style guides

Some styles have quick guides available on the Web. The library also has copies of many different style guides, and librarians can help you locate them, whether they’re available online or in the library. To find style guides in your area of study, talk with your professors or a subject specialist librarian. You can also consult the library’s handy online guide.


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