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Citation Styles: Overview

Automatically generate citations from databases and catalogues. Use citation builders to create citations. Check authoritative guidelines for citation cyles.

Cite your sources

  • Citing your sources helps you to avoid plagiarism.
  • Readers can go back and look at your sources if they'd like to follow up or read further.                                 
  • By demonstrating how widely you've researched a topic, your own argument ends up being more credible.
  • Citations can show you've considered a wide variety of opinions when forming your own argument. 
  • Citing is standard practice in academic conversations.  Scholars have been debating ideas through written works for years and citing is a way  of respecting those who've engaged in the topic before you. 
  • Citing gives you the opportunity to show off your research abilities!   why cite icon                  

You must cite the source when you...

  • Paraphrase someone's ideas.
  • Mention someone's ideas.
  • Summarize a source.
  • Quote someone's exact words                                                                                
  • Use numerical data, such as statistics.
  • Use an image, such as a picture or a diagram.
  • Use multimedia, such as a video, an animation, or an audio recording.
  • Mention a fact that is not common knowledge.

Citing mainly occurs in these areas of your paper :

  • In-text citation
    • An in-text citation is a reference made within the body of text of an academic essay. Include an in-text citation when you refer to, summarize, paraphrase, or quote from another source. For every in-text citation in your paper, there must be a corresponding entry in your bibliography or reference list.​

Examples of in-text citations:

APA format example: 
The sky is blue (Cottrell, 2013).
ACS format example:
The sky is blue.1
IEEE format example:
The sky is blue [1].
  • Reference list or Bibliography
    • A reference list and a bibliography look very much alike. They both contain entries arranged alphabetically  for example, by author, and they include the same basic information. The difference lies not so much in how they look as in what they contain. The purpose is to help the reader uniquely identify and access each source.

bibliography is a detailed list of works cited in your paper, plus the background readings or other material that you may have read, but not actually cited.

A reference list is the detailed list of references that are cited in your work. For example, in APA Style, each reference cited in text must appear in the reference list, and each entry in the reference list must be cited in text.

  • Footnotes / Endnotes
    • Some academic disciplines (such as history & political science) prefer to use footnotes (notes at the foot of the page) or endnotes (notes at the end of the work) to reference their writing. Although this method differs in style from the usual "'author, date'" system, it serves the same purpose, i.e. to acknowledge the source of ideas, data or quotations without undue interruption to the flow of the writing.

This depends on the following:

  • What type of work you are writing?
    There are different citation styles for different disciplines. For example, when you cite sources in a psychology (APA style) paper you would probably use a different form of citation than you might in a paper for an English (MLA style) class. 
  • ​How you are using the borrowed material?
    ​Identify your sources. If your sources are very important to your ideas, you should mention the author and work in a sentence that introduces your citation. If, however, you are only citing the source to make a minor point, you may consider using parenthetical references, footnotes, or endnotes.
  • The expectations of your instructor!
    Save time by consulting your instructor to determine the form of citation appropriate for your paper.

Adapted from How do I cite sources?,© 2017 Turnitin, LLC.

Commonly used citation styles

Ask your module instructor/coordinator/tutor for the preferred citation style and if there are other special formatting instructions you should follow. Once you have determined the style to follow, use it consistently in your paper (in-text), bibliography or reference list.

This guide contains resources on commonly used citation styles as follows:

  • ACS (American Chemical Society)
  • APA (American Psychological Association)
  • ASA (American Sociological Association)
  • Chicago/Turabian  
  • Harvard
  • IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)
  • Legal Style
  • MLA (Modern Language Association)

Citation generators

A citation generator/builder/maker can assist you in generating references and citations based on your preferred citation style. Different online citation generators include the following:. 

   Tips when using citation generators or builders    

  • Make sure these tools are using updated style guides.
  • When citing from a database, ensure the information required to create citation is complete.
  • Keep track of capitalization of words as there might be limitations in the generator.
  • You can also use multiple citation generators to verify your list. However, make sure to recheck based on instructor or journal guidelines before making a submission.

So, before you start writing your paper, consider using a citation generator or builder. These tools are helpful in turning a long bibliography into an easy-to-use and changeable list of references. Below are some commonly used citation generators or builders that are freely available from the Internet: