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Different styles? Why??!??

Help in constructing citations in the different styles can be found at our Citing Sources page, but why are there so many anyway?  Different citation styles have evolved over time to meet the needs of the different disciplines.  All use similar elements, but there may be more emphasis on different formats in the different styles.  So humanities styles may have clear directions on how to cite correspondence, while science styles could provide more coverage on how to cite datasets. 

There are reasons why these styles are entrenched. 

  • The professionals in these disciplines have learned to read and write their style of citation quickly - for example, it is clear to them which numbers are the volume and which are the pages. 
  • More significantly, computers have been programmed to both create AND to harvest the elements in citations.  Electronically reading a citation requires that the period or semicolan be in a particular place to know which element is which.   

In any case, as a student creating citations it is valuable to ASK your teacher:

  • Which style they want you to use
  • How much value they place on the perfection of the citations you produce.

What are the names of the citation styles?

Well, actually, there are dozens and you will only likely need to know a few.  The main styles which are used by many different disciplines are:

  • MLA - the Modern Language Association, used by humanities disciplines.
  • APA - the American Psychological Association, used in many social sciences.
  • Chicago/Turabian - principally used in History.

Other styles may be quite unique to the discipline (ACS - American Chemical Society), or variations on one of the above three (ASA - American Sociological Association). 

Remember, to get help constructing citations in the different styles, use our Citing Sources page.


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