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Citation Help

Footnotes, references, bibliographies, avoiding plagiarism & more.


Citation schema have become standardized according to various style guides. This sort of standardization assists both the reader and the writer in fairly straight forward ways. For the reader, a succinct and consistent format highlights key identifiers for a source. The reader can quickly perceive where the source comes from, who created it, and what kind of thing it is -- a book, an article, a news story, a website, and so on. For the writer, standardization provides a ready-made methodology to follow when referencing works and resources, precluding possible confusion or miscommunication in describing a source.

Style Guides by Discipline

Style Guides comprise more than just citation rules. They may likewise encompass the overall design, layout, and logical order of elements, impacting both the visual presentation of the work and the rhetorical presentation of argument, evidence, and conclusions. Publishing houses, journals, and, by extension, academic disciplines will cleave to specifically defined guidelines, and, while there are a few primary styles particularly prevalent in academia, any number of disciplines and subject-specific publishers may develop their own. It’s important to choose the right style for the right project, lest a promising argument founder for lack of technical constancy.

While there is a certain amount of disciplinary overlap, style guides and disciplines tend to align in this way…

  • APA, as defined by the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association – prevalent in many of the social and behavioral sciences and some of the physical and applied sciences, as well.
  • Chicago & Turabian, as defined by the Chicago Manual of Style – prevalent in many areas of the humanities, some of the social sciences, and art history.  Turabian, of course, derives from Chicago and is geared more specifically to a student audience, though extremely useful for others, as well.
  • MLA, as defined by the Modern Language Association’s MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing – prevalent in many areas of the humanities and some of the performing arts.

Depending upon their discipline, researchers will also wish to be aware of style guides for the American Anthropological Association (AAA), the American Chemical Society (ASC), the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Political Science Association (APSA), American Sociological Association (ASA), the Council of Biological Editors (CBE), the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers (IEEE) and others.

When in doubt, always seek guidance. For course assignments, consult the professor. For publications, consult the specific guidelines of the journal under consideration. For more information, consult the subject-area librarian at Memorial Library.

For additional information on the relationship between style guides and disciplinary area, try Cite Source from Trinity College at...