There are several styles of referencing.  Different referencing and citation styles have developed to address the specific needs of disciplines.  All reference styles tend to include similar elements, such as the title, author, and date, but they have different formatting conventions (i.e., the order of the elements, capitalization, etc.) to those familiar with that specific style.

Publishers developed rules of style for specific manuscript structure, punctuation, graphics, and references to move an idea forward to achieve clarity of communication of that field.  It may seem like academic entities can’t agree, but authors write for different purposes and different audiences, so the citation styles reflect that.  We continue to use different citation styles for two reasons: disciplinary differences and tradition. 



Researchers must follow the rules established by the publisher to avoid inconsistencies among journal articles or book chapters, and the same goes for universities and graduate programs.  For example, without style rules, different manuscripts might use multi-phase or multiphase in one issue of a journal or book.  Disciplinary style guidelines helps readers scan papers quickly for key points and findings using uniform use of such elements as:

·                     construction of tables,

·                     citation of references,

·                     punctuation and abbreviations, and

·                     headings.

Rules of style in academic writing in different disciplines cite different types of resources and place higher value on different criteria.  Often times, dissertation or theses committees will ask you to use the reference style most commonly used in that discipline.  However, your university may prefer the use of a different referencing system, so check with your professor or syllabus.

APA Style

American Psychological Association (APA) Style is the editorial style that many of the social and behavioral sciences use to present written material and research.  APA Style was developed in 1929 by a group of social scientists who wanted to establish standards of communication within the field.  These scientists determined that the best scientific writing is direct.  APA Style helps:

·                     choose the graphic form that will best suit analyses,

·                     describe individuals with accuracy and respect,

·                     express the key elements of quantitative results, and

·                     report critical details of research protocol.

In APA Style, all lines after the first line of each entry in your reference list are indented one-half inch from the left margin, or a hanging indentation.  Authors’ names are inverted (last name, Initials) for all authors of a particular work (up to and including seven authors).  If the work has more than seven authors, list the first six authors and then use ellipses (. . .) after the sixth author’s name, followed by the last author’s name of the work.  All entries are alphabetized by the last name of the first author of each work.  For multiple articles by the same author, or authors listed in the same order, list the entries in chronological order, from earliest to most recent.

More information can be found in the APA Style Guide to Electronic References, Sixth Edition and at the APA Style Blog.

MLA Style

Modern Language Association (MLA) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities.  MLA style is a style of documentation based on a few principles, rather than an extensive list of specific rules.  While the handbook is organized according to the process of documentation, this teaches a flexible method for citing resources that is universally applicable.  Once you are familiar with the method, you can use it to document any type of source, for any type of writing, in any field.

Works are published in a large range of formats.  Online, modes of publication are regularly changing and MLA restructured in 2016 to meet these changes.  Entries in the list of works cited are composed of facts common to most works, dubbed the MLA core elements.  In your citation, the elements should be listed in the following order:[1]

·                     Author.

·                     Title of source.

·                     Title of container,

·                     Other contributors,

·                     Version,

·                     Number,

·                     Publisher,

·                     Publication date,

·                     Location.

Learn more in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook.


AMA Style

The AMA (American Medical Association) style was developed for writing medical research.  The AMA Manual of Style is a must-have guide for anyone involved in medical and scientific publishing.  The first edition of an editorial manual for the AMA’s scientific journals appeared in October 1962 and intended primarily as a guide for in-house staff and, secondarily for authors.[2]  Now, AMA style is widely used, either entirely or with modifications, by hundreds of other scientific journals, textbooks, and academia. 

AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors is the style guide of the AMA and written by the editors of Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).  It specifies the writing and citation styles for use in the journals published by the American Medical Association.  AMA style aims for simplicity and trusts the target readership to have a certain amount of knowledge.  For example, AMA style foregoes periods in abbreviations, because they are unnecessary for clarity’s sake.

In your citation, the elements should be listed in the following order:[3]

·                     When writing your reference list, include the last name and the first and middle initial of the authors without punctuation. 

·                     Use sentence case for all titles (i.e., capitalize only the first word of the title).

·                     Abbreviate and italicize names of journals according to the listing in the National Library of Medicine database.

·                     Use a comma if the items are sub-elements of a bibliographic element or a set of closely related elements (e.g., Author AB, Author CD).

·                     Use a semicolon if the elements in the bibliographic group are different (e.g., between publication date and volume number).

·                     Use a colon before the publisher’s name, between the title and the subtitle, and after a connective phrase (e.g., “In,” “Presented at”).

Learn more in the tenth edition of the AMA Manual of Style.

Chicago Style

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) began in 1891 when the University of Chicago Press first opened its doors.  CMOS provides guidelines on a variety of topics including manuscript preparation and publication, grammar, usage, and references– lovingly dubbed the “editors’ bible.” [4]  Although formatted differently, all bibliographic entries are arranged alphabetically by author’s last name.  Like MLA’s Works Cited, Chicago style’s list should include all sources cited within the work and may sometimes include other relevant sources not cited but provide further reading.

Common elements include:[5]

·                     All entries in the bibliography will include the author (or editor, compiler, translator), title, and publication information.

·                     The author’s name is inverted in the bibliography, placing the last name first and separating the last name and first name with a comma; for example, John Smith becomes Smith, John.  (If an author is not listed first, this applies to compilers, translators, etc.)

·                     Titles of books and journals are italicized.  Titles of articles, chapters, poems, etc. are placed in quotation marks.

·                     The year of publication is listed after the publisher or journal name.

·                     In a bibliography, all major elements are separated by periods.

Learn more in the seventeenth edition of the CMOS Manual of Style.















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