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Citation Support

Selecting Your Citation Style

Different academic disciplines have created specific style guidelines for citing sources, both throughout a text and as a bibliography.

They have done this because different disciplines privilege different information. The clearest illustration of this is APA style, which is used by disciplines that want the newest, most timely information. In this style, the date isn’t last, it comes right after the author—an illustration of its importance.

Which style should you use?

  • First, check with your professor or your syllabus to see if there is a preferred style
  • If your professor just asks that you choose any style as long as you do so consistently, choose the style that you're most comfortable using
  • If you're really unsure what style makes the most sense, ask your professor, a librarian, or a learning consultant for help choosing the style that's most typically used for the discipline

There are thousands of citation styles, many of which are used by particular journals or are variations of major styles. Below are the most common styles you are likely to use.

MLA (Modern Language Association)

MLA logo

MLA Citation Style is most frequently used in the humanities (literature, languages, art).

MLA style uses Parenthetical In-Text Citations throughout your paper, with authors and page numbers. There is also a Works Cited page at the end of the paper with full citations.

As a general rule, organize your information into this pattern of knowledge often used in MLA: Who? What? Where? When?


Chicago Citation Style is used most often in historical research, although other humanities and social science disciplines sometimes use it as well.

Chicago style actually offers two different options for in-text citations:

  1. Notes and Bibliography: Numbers within a paper correspond to footnotes (bottom of the page) or endnotes (end of the chapter or whole work). This is the more commonly used version of Chicago style, and typically this is the version people mean when they just say "Chicago."
  2.  Author-Date: This version is similar to MLA, using parenthetical in-text citations within a paper.

In both variations of Chicago, the Bibliography at the end of the paper should include complete citations for all of the sources you referenced in a paper, and may also include sources that you consulted but did not end up paraphrasing, summarizing, or quoting in the paper's text.

As a general rule, organize your information into this pattern of knowledge often used in Chicago: Who? What? Where? When?

APA (American Psychological Association)

APA logo

APA Citation Style is frequently used in the social sciences and natural/physical sciences.

APA style uses Parenthetical In-Text Citations within the main text of your paper. The sources that you refer to are then compiled into a References List at the end of the paper.

One key feature of APA style is that it now includes DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers), unique codes that are increasingly assigned to published articles.

As a general rule, organize your information into this pattern of knowledge often used in APA: Who? (When)? What? Where?

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