The College Student's Guide to Citation Styles

Many writing assignments and projects will need to be completed during a student's college career. Plagiarism involves both intentional and unintentional copying of someone else's ideas and written work. Because plagiarism is a serious offense that could have serious academic repercussions, it's important to avoid it. Even unintentional plagiarism can carry a stiff penalty. Understanding plagiarism and its consequences is the first step to avoiding this mistake. You can also avoid plagiarism by citing the sources you use in your writing to give proper credit to the original author or authors. Any time you use the research, ideas, or words of someone else in your own writing, you must cite this information with in-text citations and a complete list of sources at the end of the document. How you cite sources depends on the academic style of your document, so you must know the style requirements as you compile your citations.


The American Psychological Association style is the preferred style for science and social science documents. APA style stipulates double-spacing with one-inch margins on all four sides of the document. The preferred typeface for APA style is 12-point Times New Roman.

The APA citation style requires in-text citations and a full reference list at the end of the document. The format of the citations and entries into the reference list depends on the type of source cited. Write in-text citations directly into sentences to incorporate them into the text you are quoting or paraphrasing. For example, when citing a work written by a single author, include the idea or quote and then follow it with the author's last name and the year of publication in parentheses. If a source has two authors, list both names in every citation, connected with an ampersand and in parenthesis. For citations with more than two authors, list each author the first time, and in subsequent citations, list only the first author and use "et al."


The Modern Language Association style typically is used for literature and humanities documents. MLA citation requires two-part parenthetical entries for each source. The in-text citation identifies the source and points the reader to the works cited list, found following the document. Generally, the in-text citation should include the author's last name and the pages of the cited information, and you should place it immediately after the quoted or paraphrased text. For the works cited list, compile the sources in alphabetical order by the authors' last names or by the title of the article if author names are not available.


When writing medical documents or research, the American Medical Association style may be required. AMA style requires numerical citation of each source in the body of the document. Place the numbers outside of any commas or periods and inside any semicolons or colons. AMA style also requires a numerical reference list at the end of the document of all information cited.


The Chicago Manual of Style citation format is used in the natural and social sciences as well as humanities documents. When writing something that you will publish, CMS style is the standard. CMS style requires a superscript number after quoted or paraphrased text. Number each citation sequentially throughout the document. CMS gives the option of footnotes at the bottom of pages with citations or endnotes, which is a list of sources that appears at the end of the document. Footnotes generally are used in history, humanities, and art documents. Endnotes generally are used in social, natural, and physical science documents.


The Turabian style is a simplified Chicago style that is often used for natural and social sciences and humanities documents. A fundamental difference between CMS and Turabian styles involves publication. CMS is generally for published works, and Turabian style serves works that will not be published. Citations in Turabian style are generally the same as CMS style.

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