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A Citation Guide: Citation Styles

How to cite sources for any research project, from a three-minute speech to a doctoral dissertation.

Bibliographic Elements: The Basics of Documentation and Citation

MLA?  APAChicagoYou're not sure?  It doesn't matter at first, because they're all basically the same, no matter how different they seem. All citation formats include these elements of basic bibliographical description: AUTHOR, TITLE, SOURCE, DATE. Most also include electronic identification for items on databases or online.

However, some academic disciplines use a particular format. Your instructor will probably tell you which format style to use. If not, see the boxes below.

             AUTHOR's name/s.


     SOURCE (publisher, journal info, "container," producer, website info, DOI)

     DATE (location varies, but it's always required)

Immediately upon finding a possible source (article, book, webpage, or whatever), make a record of these bibliographical elements, which are common to all styles and formats. Take notes, get a screenshot, check the book out, email the record to yourself, copy and paste the site URL, put it in a folder...if you can't describe the source, you cannot ethically or honestly use it. See this handout about plagiarism of words and ideas.) Later, when you have time, format the information according to a standard. If you get stuck, check with your professor, a librarian, or a tutor.

Online Citation Help from the Official Sources

Citation Help from Purdue OWL

Purdue University's Online Writing lab has been a nationally-recognized reference for conventions of formatting and citation, as well as many other issues in writing. However, it recently went into business with a for-profit company so is suggesting the use of sponsored monetized resources including a citation generator and advertising which may cost you money or trick your computer. Beware of these; avoid them.

Though its main content is still helpful, use this OWL's links with caution. Many databases also include a basic citation generator. Check the results, though; occasionally an error appears.

    ClicMinerva Owl, a symbol for wisdom, working at night, and keen visionk here to use the OWL.



Style Manuals

   These books are the standards for style, format, and citation in their disciplines. Ask for them at the reference desk. (Earlier editions may be found in the stacks.)

 ACS (chemistry): QD8.5 .A25 2006 REF.

 APA (social sciences): BF76.7 .P83 2013 REF.

 Bluebook (law): KF245 .U55 2010 REF.   

 Chicago (humanities, history): Z253 .U69 2010 REF.

 CSE (sciences): T11 .S386 2006 REF.

 IEEE (engineering, computers, and IT).  Ask at the reference desk.

 MLA (humanities): LB2369 .G53 2016 REF.

 Turabian (Chicago for students): LB2369 .T8 2013 REF.