Caleb S.
Caleb S.

A Beginner’s Guide to Citation Styles

4 min read

Published on: Oct 12, 2023

Last updated on: Oct 12, 2023

A Beginner’s Guide to Citation Styles

Citing your sources is an essential hallmark of academic writing. Citations are important for giving credit to the original authors, avoiding plagiarism, and supporting your arguments with evidence. 

As a writer, you have to cite the source material according to a standardized set of rules and conventions. Known as citation styles, these rules define how to cite different kinds of sources that you use in your academic writing

So what are these citation styles, how to use them, and how do you decide which one to use in your writing? 

This guide will answer all these questions. You’ll learn about the most common citation styles and get tips for deciding which one to choose. So let’s dive in!

Types of In-Text Citation Formats

In-text citations are the citations that you insert within the text right after mentioning or alluding to a source. It indicates that the ideas mentioned are taken from another source. 

There are three main types of in-text citation formats that are commonly used in academic writing: parenthetical citations, numerical citations, and note-bibliography citations.

Parenthetical Citations

Parenthetical citations are the most common in-text citations used in academic writing across disciplines. 

These citations are placed right after the sentence or paragraph where you have used the source. They provide basic information about the source, such as the name of the author, the publication date, and/or page number within brackets. 

The reader can then refer to the complete list of references below to find the complete reference.

Here’s a parenthetical citation example:

The role of artificial intelligence is expanding rapidly in various industries (Smith & Johnson, 2019).

Common citation styles that use parenthetical citations include:

  • APA
  • MLA
  • Chicago (author-name)
  • Harvard

Numerical Citations

In numerical citation formats, you place a number after the content where you’ve used an external reference. Each reference is numbered according to the order in which they appear in text. 

These numbers are placed either in superscript or brackets. The corresponding citation details are then listed in numerical order in the bibliography or reference section. 

For instance:

The scientific community continues to debate this phenomenon.

Numerical citations are common in scientific citation styles, such as:

  • CSE
  • IEEE
  • NLM
  • ACS
  • AMA

Note-Bibliography Citations

The note-bibliography system uses footnotes to cite sources. In-text superscript numbers lead readers to detailed notes at the bottom of the page. The notes contain short bibliographic information, while a comprehensive bibliography is included at the end of the work. 

The note-bibliography format is used most commonly in Chicago (note-bibliography) style.

Here's an example: 

The concept of justice is multifaceted, with various philosophical perspectives shaping its interpretation.3

Common Citation Styles & Their Examples

Here are the most popular citation styles for different fields. Each style provides extensive guidelines on how to cite various kinds of sources and how to apply these rules in different writing contexts. 

Read on to learn about each style briefly with examples. 

American Psychological Association (APA 7th Edition)

The APA style, developed by the American Psychological Association, is widely used across social sciences. It is sometimes also used in natural and management sciences. It is one of the most common and widely used styles. 

It uses author-date format for in-text citations. That is, it includes the author's last name and the year of publication in parentheses. 

Here’s what it looks like:

In-text Citation

The role of artificial intelligence is expanding rapidly in various industries (Smith & Johnson, 2019).

Reference Entry

Smith, A., & Johnson, B. (2019). Artificial Intelligence: Transforming Industries. Publisher.

Modern Language Association (MLA 9th Edition)

Developed by the Modern Language Association, the MLA style is most commonly used in humanities disciplines, such as literature, arts, language studies, and philosophy etc. 

It uses the author-page format for in-text citations, with a corresponding Works Cited page. 

Here's an example:

In-text Citation

There are two opinions regarding this piece (Doe 45).

Reference Entry

Doe, John. Title of the Book. Publisher, Year.

Chicago Manual

The Chicago style (also known as the Turabian) is used widely across a range of disciplines. Student papers related to arts, humanities, social sciences, and other subjects often follow Chicago style.

The Chicago Manual of Style offers two primary citation systems: the Author-Date system (Parenthetical Style) and the Note-Bibliography system (Footnotes Style). Let's delve into the specifics of each.

Chicago Author-Date (Parenthetical Style)

The Author-Date system employs parenthetical in-text citations that include the author's last name and publication year. These citations directly correspond to a comprehensive reference list at the end of the document. For example:

In-text Citation

(Smith 2018)

Reference Entry

Smith, John. 2018. The Innovators: A Journey in Technology. TechBooks Publishing.

Chicago Note-Bibliography (Footnotes Style)

The Note-Bibliography system, distinctive to Chicago, utilizes footnotes or endnotes to reference sources within the text. These notes contain detailed bibliographic information and are usually numbered sequentially throughout the document. 

Here's an example:

In-text Citation

The Industrial Revolution had a profound impact on societal structures and economic systems.1

Reference Entry

Smith, John. The Age of Machinery. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018.

Harvard Style

The Harvard referencing system is an author-date system used in various disciplines. It requires the author's name and the publication year in parentheses in the text, with a corresponding reference list. 

In-text Citation

(Smith, 2018)

Reference Entry

Smith, John. (2018). "Advancements in Quantum Computing." Quantum Journal, 12(3), 45-58.

Council of Science Editors

CSE style is a citation style for science, used in natural sciences such as physics, environmental sciences, and other fields. CSE style uses a number in parentheses or in superscript to refer to the source in the text, and provides the full details of the source in the reference list at the end of the paper.

In-text Citation

This idea was originated by John Smith1

Reference Entry

1. Smith J, Lee K. A new technique for synthesis. J Chem Sci. 2020;10(2):34-40.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) style is prevalent in technical fields, such as engineering. It employs numerical citations in square brackets for in-text references, with a corresponding numbered list in the bibliography. 

In-text Citation

The concept of artificial intelligence has evolved significantly in recent years [1].

Reference Entry

[1] J. Smith et al., "Advancements in Robotics," Abbrev. Robotics J., vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 123-145, 2022.

American Medical Association (AMA) 

AMA is commonly used in the medical and biological sciences. It utilizes numerical citations in superscript for in-text references, and the corresponding list is usually titled "References." 

In-text Citation

The study found a significant correlation between diet and cardiovascular health.2

Reference Entry

2. Johnson, Emily; Davis, Michael. "Innovations in Sustainable Energy." Renewable Energy Journal. 2022; 8(4): 245-260.

National Library of Medicine (NLM)

NLM is another citation style used in medicine and medical sciences. The NLM style typically employs a numeric system for in-text citations.

In-text Citation

According to recent studies on diabetes [1], the prevalence has increased in urban areas.

Reference Entry

1. Author XY, Author ZW. "Breakthroughs in Genetic Research." Journal of Medicine. 2021;25(2):189-202.

Vancouver Referencing Style 

The Vancouver referencing style is predominantly used in the medical and scientific fields. It employs a numerical system for in-text citations, sequentially numbered throughout the document.

In-text Citation

A groundbreaking discovery was made in the field of genetics [1] which revolutionized medical research.

Reference Entry

Brown, Alice; Clark, David. "Unraveling Quantum Mysteries." Journal of Science. 2023; 15(2): 87-102.

Oxford Style

The Oxford citation style, also known as the Oxford referencing system, is commonly used in the humanities, including literature and history. It typically employs a footnote or endnote system for in-text citations, providing detailed references at the bottom of each page or at the end of the document.

In-text Citation

The Renaissance era marked a significant shift in artistic expression.^1

Reference Entry

1. Smith, John. Exploring the Cosmos. Stellar Publications; 2022.

American Political Science Association 

The American Political Science Association (APSA) citation style is widely used in political science research. It employs an author-date system for in-text citations.

In-text Citation

(Smith and Johnson 2017)

Reference Entry

Smith, A., & Johnson, B. (2017). Title of the Article. Journal of Political Science, volume(issue), page range.

American Chemical Society

The American Chemical Society (ACS) citation style is commonly used in the field of chemistry. It uses a numeric system for in-text citations.

In-text Citation

(Smith and Johnson 2017)

Reference Entry

Smith, A., & Johnson, B. (2017). Title of the Article. Journal of Political Science, volume(issue), page range.

American Anthropological Association (AAA)

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) citation style is commonly used in anthropology and related fields. It is based on an author-date system.

In-text Citation

Cultural relativism is a key concept in anthropological research (Smith 2016).

Reference Entry

Smith, John. (2016). Title of the Article. Journal of Anthropology, volume(issue), page range.

American Sociological Association (ASA)

The American Sociological Association (ASA) citation style is commonly used in sociology research, along with APA. Moreover, similar to APA, it uses an author-date system.

In-text Citation

Social stratification plays a pivotal role in shaping societies (Doe 2015).

Reference Entry

Doe, Jane. (2015). Title of the Article. Journal of Sociology, volume(issue), page range.

Which Citation Style Should You Use?

The decision to choose a citation style for your academic paper is not a difficult one. Your choice will mostly depend on two factors: the conventions of your field, and the instructions of your instructor/editor. 

Know the Conventions of Your Field

Different disciplines have different citation styles that reflect their values, methods, and standards of research and writing. 

For example, MLA style is widely used in the humanities, such as literature. As it emphasizes precise page numbers of the referenced text, it makes it easier to locate the source, unlike APA, which prefers publication year and emphasizes the currency of the source

Here’s a table that shows the most common citation styles for different subjects so you can have an idea: 

Subject

Commonly Used Citation Style

Biology

CSE, APA

Computer Science

IEEE

History

Chicago, MLA

Literature

MLA

Psychology

APA

Economics

APA or MLA

Physics

CSE, 

Chemistry

CSE. ACS

Political Science

APA, APSA

Sociology

APA, ASA

Business

APA, Harvard

Education

APA, MLA

Medicine

AMA, NLM

Environmental Science

APA or MLA

However, this table is not exhaustive or definitive. You should always make sure which style you are required to follow. 

See Publisher’s Guidelines / Check Instructor’s Instructions

If you are writing for a specific journal or publisher, you should follow their guidelines for the citation style that they require. Most journals and publishers provide specific citation styles and rules for writers to follow. 

If you are writing for a specific instructor or institution, you should check their instructions and expectations for the citation style. You should consult them before you submit your writing, and follow their citation instructions consistently throughout your paper.

If you are unsure or unclear about which citation style to use, or how to apply it correctly and accurately, you should always ask for clarification or confirmation from your instructor, institution, or publisher.

To Conclude,

Following a specific citation style accurately is essential to avoid plagiarism and to minimize the chances of your paper being rejected. However, you don’t have to remember each and every rule while citing. In fact, these rules are too detailed and too extensive for anyone to know by heart. 

Instead, make your citations more accurate and efficient with MyEssayWriter.ai’s citation machine to ensure accurate and perfect citations according to the style of your choice. 

Our citation machine is kept up-to-date about various rules and guidelines for different citation styles. So whether you need to find relevant sources for your content or cite sources in a specific style, our citation tool can make it faster and more accurate. Try out our AI essay writer today!

Caleb S.

WRITTEN BY

Caleb S. (Mass Literature and Linguistics, Masters )

Caleb S. is an accomplished author with over five years of experience and a Master's degree from Oxford University. He excels in various writing forms, including articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As a valued author at MyEssayWriter.ai, Caleb assists students and professionals by providing practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style enhancement.

Caleb S. is an accomplished author with over five years of experience and a Master's degree from Oxford University. He excels in various writing forms, including articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As a valued author at MyEssayWriter.ai, Caleb assists students and professionals by providing practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style enhancement.

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