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Citation Styles

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Student Resources > Avoiding Plagiarism > How to Properly Use Citation Styles




How to Properly Use Citation Styles



Different disciplines and fields use different citation styles.  Below are links to the major citation styles used by students and faculty at GW:


  • APA (American Psychological Association)
  • MLA (Modern Language Association)
  • CMS (Chicago Manual of Style)
  • CSE (Council of Science Editors, formerly Council of Biology Editors)
  • IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)


Electronic Sources:  An area of particular confusion in conducting research today is how to properly cite electronic sources.  We have a separate section below devoted to resources for citing electronic sources.


Style Guides


APA (American Psychological Association)


Purdue's OWL (Online Writing Lab) was one of the first such online services and remains one of the most respected for its online handouts. This resource covers APA (American Psychological Association) style for citing sources used within the social sciences and is updated for the 5th edition of the APA manual.  The resource includes explanation and examples of how to do in-text citations and the reference page.

This cite is maintained by the American Psychological Association (APA) and is where APA annouces the most recent changes to APA style that have to do with electronic sources.  Specific sections of the cite include: Electronic media and URLs, Electronic media spelling guide, General forms for electronic references, Reference examples for electronic source materials, and Citations in text of electronic material.



MLA (Modern Language Association)

Purdue's OWL (Online Writing Lab) was one of the first online services and remains one of the most respected for its online handouts. This resource covers MLA (Modern Language Association) style for citing sources used within the liberal arts and is updated according to the 6th edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers and the 2nd edition of the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing.   The resource includes explanation and examples of in-text citations and the Works Cited page. 


This is the official MLA FAQ page that includes responses to key electronic source questions such as  "How do I document sources from the Web in my works-cited list?" and "I am using a source on the Web that has no page numbers. How do I cite it?" and more.




CMS (Chicago Manual of Style)

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) is one of the standard styles of the publishing world.  In 2006 CMS  finally produced an online version.  Full access to the manual requires a yearly subscription. 

Because the online service is new, they are offering an introductory subscription price for a single user of $25 per year.  There is also a 30-day free trial.


The site does include some noteworthy free services. The Quick Guide section offers an overview of the Chicago Manual of Style and includes electronic source examples. The  Q&A section is a cornucopia of tidbits about CMS and could be very helpful to students because the questions are common issues and the answers are practical and applicable.  The only drawback to this section is that it is organized by the month the question was submitted and not by topic.



CSE (Council of Science Editors, formerly Council of Biology Editors)

This style is from the Council of Science Editors, formerly known as the Council of Biology Editors.  These resources come from the companion web sites of Online! A Reference Guide to Using Internet Sources by Andrew Harnack and Eugene Kleppinger.
A collection of links to writing guides, style manuals, and other resources for writing in the biological and health sciences.



IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)

This is the official online IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Style manual updated for 2007.




Electronic Sources


Ranked Choices (in relevance order)


Purdue's OWL (Online Writing Lab) was one of the first such online services and remains one of the most respected.  Electronic sources are some of the most confusing types of sources to cite because the changing and expanding nature of new media means it often does not fit neatly into the traditional citation format structure.  This resource is really a conduit to links to specific resources on documenting electronic sources and is made up of three sections.  The first section is an overview of the issues concerning online sources.  The second section links to resources that examine the issues and intricacies of electronic sources in MLA, APA, and discipline-specific styles from Chicago Manual of Style to Biology/CBE style.  The final section is a list of links to online guides to citing electronic sources.


This is the companion web site for the book The Columbia Guide to Online Style and provides samples from the book on how to cite electronically accessed sources in MLA, Chicago, APA and CBE.


This companion web site includes a section on how to cite electronic sources from web sites to email messages in MLA, APA, Chicago, CBE, and other styles.  The book was published in 2003 and the website has not been updated since then making some of the most recent electronic source types such as blogs absent from the list.


The Library of Congress has a “Learning Page” that explains how to cite sources accessed electronically such as cartoons, films, maps, photographs, sound recordings, presentations, texts, legal documents, and newspapers.






Comments (7)

Anonymous said

at 12:10 pm on Apr 19, 2007

What other citation styles should be featured?

Anonymous said

at 12:11 pm on Apr 19, 2007

What order should the citation styles be in: alphabetical, popularity, something else?

Anonymous said

at 12:43 pm on May 6, 2007

You have plenty of styles already. I was glad to see science and engineering represented.

Anonymous said

at 12:57 pm on May 6, 2007

Maybe because it's such a nice feature in the APA style manual, I'm wondering if a (really) short "sample paper" would be a good idea. It could, for example, have a "Comment" box showing what the original source said next to what the student wrote as the paraphrase. Another segment could show a quote, another a summary. The Bedford quiz/example material might provide the needed material. It would also show citation of the source and a bibliography with the source in it. The example could be made up, of course, and you would need to say that it is using one example of an acceptable citiation style. This might really help make some of the key messages on researching and citing concrete. It might also motivate students to look into the citation tools more.

Anonymous said

at 8:39 pm on May 10, 2007

The "quick quide" to Chicago is working right now--but maybe I'm not doing it correctly.

Anonymous said

at 8:44 pm on May 10, 2007

One thing I'd like to see somewhere, and it could be on the linked sites, would be a set of references for major types of sources in each of the styles; for example, a book in MLA, APA, Chicago, etc., as a reference for students. Students don't know why one style calls what they think is a generic bibliography, Works Cited or References or whatever, depending on the style.

Anonymous said

at 8:44 pm on May 10, 2007

I might also suggest including "Old MLA" style, as there are journals who still use it, and it's similar to Chicago.

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