Guide to Research Paper Citation Styles
Style guides and manuals are necessary to provide a sense of uniformity in the style and format of a document. The modern style guides emerged in the early twentieth century. They are a set of standards for the writing, design, and format of a written work. There are different styles for almost all academic disciplines. Medicine, journalism, law, government, business, academic papers, and others all have specifics of what the style and format a work should look like in order to provide the reader with easy reading comprehension.
There are also many organizations that have designed specific style guides. These organizations are responsible for keeping the style up to date with the cultural and technological changes of the day. It is not uncommon to see the 12th edition of any one specific style guide.
With the introduction of the Internet, there are new style guides being created every day, for blogs, online articles, podcasts, and web posts. Web site style guides discuss a publication’s visual appeal and usable technical aspects in addition to the format and content of the text itself.
Style guides reach all around the world. Each different region has its own set of standards that all differ slightly from the region next door. Typically, the region and discipline in which you are working will determine what type of style to use. When writing for a class, however, it is never a bad idea to clarify with the instructor beforehand about which style he or she prefers.
Newspapers, magazines, and the general news industry use AP style. It provides guidelines for business articles, sports, media law, punctuation, photo captions, and more. The Associated Press editors update the guide every year, typically in the month of June. It provides cultural and technological updates, adding new words like “podcast,” “text messaging,” “social networking” and “high-definition.”
- Official website for journalists wondering about news style and format
- A comprehensive guide to AP Style
- A guide to journalism writing and how to cite sources in news articles
APA format was originally created in 1929 as a set of procedures to ease the reading comprehension of works with multiple citations. Largely intended for psychology, education, and other social sciences papers and projects, the sixth edition of APA was released in 2009. The APA style includes a reference sheet at the end of the works.
- Browse the official site for American Psychological Association
- Learn from an APA Guide to Style and Format how to write in APA format
- Find an APA Citation Machine that creates citations for you. Just fill in the blanks.
MLA format originates from 1985 as “the standard guide for graduate students, scholars, and professional writers.” It is one of the most widely used style formats in the United States and Canada and is intended for use in papers in the fields of literature, arts, and the humanities. MLA Style uses parenthetical citation in the essays and Works Cited pages at the end.
- Look around the official site for the Modern Language Association
- Learn how to prepare papers in MLA format in the MLA Overview and Workshop
- If all else fails, check out this MLA Citation Machine.
The AMA is a style guide created by the Journal of the American Medical Association. First published in 1962, the 10th edition was released in 2007. It was designed to provide a standard style guide for medicine, health, and the biological sciences.
Turabian is a style guide for research papers of all subjects. It was mainly intended as a standard for college students to use with all subjects. It was first released in 1937, and its 7th edition was published in 2007 in America and the United Kingdom. It is named after its creator Kate L. Turabian, who invented the style guide at the University of Chicago.
- A site dedicated to the founder of Turabian
- A Turabian Citation Generator for when nothing else works
The University of Chicago Press published the Chicago style in 1906. It is widely used throughout the United States and deals with many aspects of editorial practice, from American English grammar to document preparation and citation. The Chicago style presents bibliographic information in notes and usually includes a bibliography
- The official Chicago Manual of Style website
- A simplified overview of Chicago style
- The Chicago Style Citation Generator for Works Cited Pages
The Yahoo! Style Guide proves guidance for “writing, editing, and creating content for the digital world.” It includes sections on writing catchy headlines, using company and product names, and has a guide to basic HTML coding.
- The official Yahoo! Style Guide
- Editing 101 help for those curious about online writing styles
- A featured Ask the Editor function that allows for interactive advice giving instead of new published editions
How Style Guides Differ
There are a lot of minutiae that different style guides disagree upon. One major difference is which dictionary is used — “The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language,” “The Oxford English Dictionary,” or “Webster’s New World College Dictionary”. In addition to spelling, the style guides use different grammatical rules. They differ widely on the spelling and treatment of words, such as when to abbreviate months or days of the week and whether to italicize titles or put them in quotes. The style guides also disagree on punctuation, whether it be apostrophes, commas, periods, dashes, hyphens, or slashes.
Another source of discontent is the usage of certain words, such as whether to use gender specific or gender-neutral words, and the ongoing “that” vs. “which” debate. The style guides also have different formats for their works, especially in-text citations or footnotes. Headings, lists, and block quotes also top the list of formatting disagreements.
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