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Academic Research and Writing: Formatting & Citing

Why Cite?

It is extremely important to provide citations for the resources that you use in your research paper for two reasons:

  1. to give credit to an idea that is not your own; and
  2. to make it possible for your audience to locate them.

All reference citations include authorship, date of publication, and source or location of publication. However, different subjects have a preference for what other information is included and how it is organized in the citation. As a result, a number of citation styles have emerged with their own set of guidelines. The primary styles you will encounter as a student are APA, MLA, and Chicago. 

Below are lists of the three primary styles and what subjects typically (but not always) use that style. You should ALWAYS check your assignment guidelines or syllabus for instructions on which style to use. If you are in doubt, it is highly recommended that you contact your instructor. Your grade may depend on it. 


MLA Style was created by the Modern Language Association in 1883. The 9th (current) edition came out in 2021. It is typically used in the following subjects:

  • Languages, including English
  • Comparative Literature
  • Humanities
  • Philosophy
  • Religious Studies


APA Style was created by the American Psychological Association in 1929. The 7th (current) edition came out in 2019. It is typically used in the following subjects:

  • Business
  • Communication
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Linguistics
  • Nursing
  • Political Science
  • Psychology
  • Sociology


Chicago Style, also known as Turabian Style or CMOS, was created by the University of Chicago Press in 1906. The 17th (current) edition came out in 2017. It is typically used in the following subjects:

  • Anthropology
  • Art
  • History