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Citing Your Sources

Choosing a Style


Always ask your professor if the sources you’ve chosen are appropriate, and if they have 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 parenthetical in-text citation).

If you need a style other than APA, Chicago, or MLA, try visiting the Other Citation Styles page, or Ask a Librarian

What are the differences?

Style APA Chicago MLA
Who usually uses it: Social Sciences, Nursing and Health, miscellaneous other disciplines. History, Art, Philosophy, and anyone who is going to use a lot of different types of outside information. English and other languages (it stands for Modern Language Association).
What they pride themselves on: Thoroughness, avoiding bias. Flexibility (you can cite almost any kind of source in Chicago). Simplicity.
What is important: Date and authority. Ease of reading and authority. Authority.
What you need to know for in-text and other formatting: Always in a date with the author(s); Running heads can be tricky to format; the list at the end is called References. Notes are not very different from bibliography entries (once you have made one, the other is simple); the list at the end is called Bibliography The list at the end is called Works Cited
I'm ready to use: APA Citation Style Chicago Citation Style MLA Citation Style


What stays the same for all styles?

  • In-text citations are meant to lead your reader to the source in the list at the end. 
  • The list of sources should be alphabetized and have a hanging indent. The title of the list (References, Bibliography, or Works Cited) goes at the top, centered.  It is not bold, italics, underlined, or given any other special formatting. 
  • You cite only the sources you actually used in the paper, unless otherwise instructed in the assignment.
  • All styles (including those not listed here- yes, there are more) expect that you have found good quality, scholarly sources.  Your assignment is only as good as its sources. 
  • You are expected to cite where an idea came from, even if you reword it.  This is called paraphrasing, and it is considered plagiarism to paraphrase without a citation.  In other words: if the idea did not originate in your brain (or if it is not considered common knowledge), cite it!
  • Each style includes many of the same parts, just in a different order.  All should have: Author(s); title; date of publication; publisher or source (like a journal); page or section numbers where applicable. 

Tips from the Librarians:

  • Write your list of sources first.  Even if it is not perfect, it is much easier to write your paper if you know what you want to incorporate and where it came from.
  • It can seems intimidating, but paraphrasing is almost always preferred over a direct quotation.  A quote shows that you read something.  A paraphrase shows that you understood it.
  • When in doubt- ask!  Ask your instructor, ask a librarian, ask a tutor. 
Last Updated: May 28, 2024 11:56 AM