Citation Styles Explained

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In formal, academic, and technical writing, writers are required to give credit for all thoughts and language that are not their own. They do so through a process called citation.

The citation style that a writer uses is based either upon the discipline in which a writer works or the venue for which the writer publishes. This article overviews and compares a few of the more popular styles, including CSE, APA, MLA, and Chicago. A complete list of citation styles is available at the University of Maryland Reference Library.

All citation styles share the following features:

  • An abbreviated form of citation in the manuscript that refers to a complete bibliographic entry elsewhere.
  • A complete bibliographic entry, including the author, title, and publication details.

Citation styles differ in the following features:

  • The use of parentheses, footnotes, or endnotes.
  • The use and title of an alphabetized list of bibliographic entries.

The following chart outlines the practices currently required by four major style guides: CSE, APA, MLA, and Chicago.

Style Reference book In-text Post-Text (Title)
CSE Scientific Style & Format, 8th ed. parenthetical or endnotes, depending on the documentation system chosen[1] Reference List
APA Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. parenthetical References
MLA MLA Handbook, 8th ed. parenthetical Works Cited
Chicago The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. footnotes (all bib info in
footnotes)

 

[1] CSE allows three documentation systems: citation-name, citation-sequence, and name-year. The first two use endnotes; the last is parenthetical. All refer to a Reference List that is organized either alphabetically or by order of mention.

Each style manual contains a complete set of samples for publication types ranging from blog posts to monographs.

Writers who are submitting journal articles for publication should be aware that journals usually adopt a style and then modify it to suit their purposes. So you should check the journal’s “Instructions to Authors” for sample citations.

Michelle Baker is the Conservation Writing Pro. She teaches environmental scientists how to write more clearly. And she edits scientific journal articles and APA dissertations. Contact her for all your writing training and editing needs: michelle@conservationwritingpro.com

[1] CSE allows three documentation systems: citation-name, citation-sequence, and name-year. The first two use endnotes; the last is parenthetical. All refer to a Reference List that is organized either alphabetically or by order of mention.

Comments

  1. Nina Bicknese says:

    Can see only the first three columns of your chart. The first two letters of the forth column are visible, but can’t determine content of that column. Are there additional columns? Is it possible to re-post this table or provide it as an attachment? Perhaps you can send it to me by e-mail? nina_bicknese@fws.gov
    I love the Austin Powers humor!

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