Always ask your professor if the sources you’ve chosen are appropriate, and if s/he has any special instructions or requirements for citation.
Each academic discipline uses a different citation style because each has a different priority for information. Because of these different priorities, the information within a citation will be in a different order, and sometimes in a different format (i.e. foot or end note v. a paranthetical in-text citation). Each different style, however, will have certain things in common:
- Each wants you to use both in-text citations throughout your paper in addition to some kind of list of all of your sources at the end. What that list is called varies by style, but it will exist for all different styles.
- Each style wants you to give credit where it is due, because the people who have created your sources have done a lot of hard work in doing so. Also, giving a list of references allows for further research to be conducted and helps to continue the scholarly conversation (of which you are now a part!).
- Each style will include many of the same parts of a citation: Author(s); title; date of publication; publisher; place of publication; and often page or section numbers where applicable.
DON'T FORGET: If you are paraphrasing (rearranging information into your own words), you still need to cite!
APA (American Psychological Association) is used primarily for psychology and other sciences. As such, it is very interested in the currency of your sources. This is why they ask for the date to be given in text along with the last name(s) of the author(s). APA prides itself on having a rule for everything, so as to take the guess work out of citation (American Psychological Association, 2010). Also, becaus they are scientists, they want their style to focus on reducing, or better yet eliminating bias from the writing (American Psychological Association, 2010). The rules given in the most recent Publication Manual of Style of the American Psychological Association "have retained and strengthened the basic rules...and the guidelines on avoiding bias in language there were first published by APA" (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 3).
American Psychological Association. (2009). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC.
Chicago style uses either foot or end notes (pick one, and stick with it) in addition to the bibliography at the end. The purpose of using notes, as opposed to a more popular parenthetical in-text citation, is that "notes allow space for unusual types of sources as well as for commentary on the sources cited, making this system extremely flexible." 1 This is important for history and art, which frequently use Chicago style. It allows for citing things like pamphlets, diaries, radio transcripts, paintings and other sources without interrupting the flow of the paper.
1. University of Chicago Press, The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 655.
University of Chicago Press. The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.
MLA (Modern Language Association) Style Citation is used primarily for the Humanities. The Modern Language Assocation concentrates on simplicity. The MLA Handbook states that "by requiring...only the information readers need to locate a source in your list of works cited, MLA style makes reading a research paper easier on the eyes - and the brain - than other styles do" (Modern Language Association xiii).
Modern Language Association of America. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 7th ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2009.