Citation styles

Citation styles differ mostly in the location, order, and syntax of information about references. The number and diversity of citation styles reflect different priorities with respect to concision, readability, dates, authors, publications, and, of course, style.

There are also two major divisions within most citation styles: documentary-note style and parenthetical style. Documentary-note style is the standard form in some disciplines for documenting sources. It involves using either footnotes or endnotes, so that information about your sources is readily available to your readers but does not interfere with their reading of your work. Parenthetical style, the standard form in many disciplines in college, is shown below:

Professor Scott asserts that “environmental reform in Alaska in the 1970s accelerated rapidly as a pipeline expansion” (Scott 1999, 23).

This is generally considered an abbreviated form of citation, and it does not require footnotes or endnotes, although it does require the equivalent of a "Works Cited" page at the end of the paper. It is easier to write, but might interfere with how smoothly your work reads.

With so many different citation styles, how do you know which one is right for your paper? First, we strongly recommend asking your instructor. There are several factors which go into determining the appropriate citation style, including discipline (priorities in an English class might differ from those of a Psychology class, for example), academic expectations (papers intended for publication might be subject to different standards than mid-term papers), the research aims of an assignment, and the individual preference of your instructor.

If you want to learn more about using a particular citation style, we have provided links to more specific resources below. Just choose the appropriate discipline and scroll down until you find the style that interests you.


MLA (Modern Language Association)


ACS (American Chemical Society)

CBE (Council of Biology Editors)IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)NLM (National Library of Medicine)
Vancouver (Biological Sciences)
Social Sciences

AAA (American Anthropological Association)

  • Citations and Bibliographic Style for Anthropology Papers
  • Download PDF
  • [Note: the AAA style is based on the Chicago style, so for specific questions not addressed in any of the AAA style guides, please use the links above or consult The Chicago Manual of Style (14th edition, 1993)]
APA (American Psychological Association)
APA Style Electronic Format

APSA (American Political Science Association)

Legal Style

Legal Citation: Using and Understanding Legal Abbreviations
Legal Research and Citation Style in the USA


General info on citing web documents
Recommended Multi-Style Links
IU South Bend First Year Writing 
University of Richmond Writing Center
Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)