WordBird Tips: Citation Styles

WordBird Tips: Citation Styles

You’re sitting in class, going over the syllabus, when you notice you’ve got a ten-page research essay due at the end of the semester. Or maybe you’ve reached the end of the novel study, and your teacher is now passing around the essay assignment details.

Either which way, you know you’ve got a paper to write. And in the instructions, the teacher’s told you which citation style you must use. If you don’t cite your sources, you’ll be accused of plagiarism. If you do it wrong, you’ll lose marks.

A typewriter.

Most students feel the essay should go the way of the typewriter.

There are so many different citation styles, however, and it probably seems like each teacher wants you to use a different one. Throughout your student career, you’ve probably become familiar with one or another, but now you’ve got a prof telling you to use a style you’ve never heard of.

What to do?

All the Different Styles

As you already know, there’s plenty of citation styles: APA, ASA, AAA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, Vancouver, Oxford–the list goes on and on. Worse, some schools and even some teachers expect you to use their own custom styles.

Here’s some good news: Most citation styles in the arts are based on APA or Chicago. MLA is common for English literature, but not many other styles adopt it as the basis.

An example: Chicago forms the basis for Turabian, ASA, and AAA style.

Most of these style guides will tell you which guide you can fall back on should there be a question you can’t answer. For example, the AAA style guide specifically says readers should look to the Chicago Manual of Style for issues not addressed.


The citation style used in psychology is the American Psychological Association’s (APA). APA recommends use for the other social sciences (anthropology, sociology), but those disciplines have their own style guides (AAA and ASA, respectively). Since ASA and AAA are based on Chicago, you could in theory use Chicago style for papers in the social sciences, as well as the other arts.

APA is very rarely recommended for other disciplines in the arts, although some professors may prefer it. APA is often considered “more scientific” than Chicago and MLA, but it’s not usually considered acceptable for the sciences. (They have their own citation styles.)

A book reference in APA looks like this:

Pickett, C. (2016). A Year Without Summer. Toronto, ON: Ink & Bleed Press.

An article in a journal might look like this:

Pickett, C. (2017). Why the romance novel is not dead. Journal of Romance Novel Studies 2(1): 52-53.

A website reference:

Pickett, C. (2017). Bad spirits. Ficsation. https://www.cherrypickett.com/2017/08/21/badspirits.

Note you should include web addresses when they’re available. It’s not longer necessary to include “accessed on” dates, but if you suspect a link might go dead, it’s sometimes good practice.

In-text citations in APA appear in parentheses in the text, with the author’s last name and the date:

(Pickett, 2017)

More than one author:

(Pickett & Parker, 2012)

And if there were more than one Pickett with the same date:

(C. Pickett, 2017)

(K. Pickett, 2017)


The Chicago Manual of Style has been kicking around forever and a day. It’s now in its seventeenth edition, with the first published in the early 1900s. Originally, it served as a publication manual of the University of Chicago Press. Over time, it’s evolved into something of a grammar and publishing bible for many people. Most of the publishers I worked with in-house referenced CMS as their style guide of choice.

CMS originally had one citation style: notes and bibliography. As citation styles like MLA and APA became more popular, however, CMS developed a second style–an author-date system, similar to APA and MLA. These are Chicago I and Chicago II.

Chicago serves as the base for other styles, including Turabian, AAA, and ASA. It’s most popular for history, but commonly used in almost every other arts discipline, except psychology and English.

Chicago I

A book reference in Chicago I:

Pickett, Cherry. A Year Without Summer. Toronto: Ink & Bleed Press, 2016.

A journal reference:

Pickett. Cherry. "Why the Romance Novel Is Not Dead." Journal of Romance Novel Studies, vol. 2, no. 1, 52-53.
And the web reference:

Pickett, Cherry. "Bad Spirits." Ficsation. Accessed October 29, 2017. https://www.cherrypickett.com/2017/08/21/badspirits.

Note that Chicago I does recommend access dates for web addresses.

Now, Chicago I uses footnotes/endnotes for its in-text citations. These are almost identical to your bibliography entries.

Cherry Pickett, A Year Without Summer (Ink & Bleed Press, Toronto, 2017), 134.

The difference? The name is no longer inverted. Most of the periods are now commas. The publication information is in parentheses, and a page number has been included. After you’ve introduced the source once, you can later use a short form in the notes:

Pickett, A Year Without, 199.

Also note Chicago I uses a bibliography, meaning you cite every work you looked at, not just the ones you cite in your paper.

Chicago II

Chicago II is an author-date system, and it looks very similar to APA. Here’s what it looks like:

Pickett, C. 2016. A Year Without Summer. Toronto: Ink & Bleed Press.

The in-text citations look similar to APA:

(Pickett, 2016)


MLA is probably the least popular of the citation styles discussed here. It’s used mostly in English, and not many other disciplines have adopted it. Nonetheless, if you’re taking an English class, you might encounter MLA.

It’s pretty easy:

Pickett, Cherry. A Year Without Summer. Ink & Bleed Press, 2016.

A journal article:

Pickett, Cherry. "Why the Romance Novel Is Not Dead." Journal of Romance Novel Studies, vol. 2, no. 1, 2017, pp. 52-53.

A website:

Pickett, Cherry. "Bad Spirits." Ficsation, https://www.cherrypickett.com/2017/08/21/badspirits. Accessed October 29, 2017.

MLA’s in-text citations are probably the more difficult part of this citation style. It’s easy enough for a single author:

(Pickett 6)

But if you have multiple works by the same author, you can see how this isn’t going to work. MLA recommends that, instead of including the year or other information, you include the title of the work.

(Pickett, A Year Without Summer 6)

(Pickett, "Why Romance Is Not Dead" 52)

Where to Get Help with Citation Styles

Obviously, this is a quick and dirty primer on citation styles. If you follow what’s laid out here, you’ll likely do okay. But citation can be tricky, especially when you have sources like movies or podcasts.

The best resource is a copy of the style guide you’re using. The APA, MLA, and Chicago all issue specific style guides you can reference. Your library should have a copy, or you can sign up for web access. AAA and ASA have downloadable PDFs, and other styles may have their own references for you to access.

Another great resource is Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (OWL). While it’s not perfect and doesn’t cover every intricacy the style guide does, it provides a great reference for students writing papers.

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