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2.2.1: Citation Styles

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    The Ethical and Legal Use of Information chapter covered why you need to cite, and how citations allow you to use other people’s ideas in an ethical way. As the video in that chapter(opens in new window) discussed, there are many different citation styles and the one you will use depends on your specific course, instructor, and assignment instructions.

    Two Connected Parts

    All citation styles include two parts that work together:

    1. An in-text citation, which is a brief notation (usually within a paragraph, at the end of a sentence) acknowledging that information came from another source. In MLA and APA style, an in-text citation is contained inside parentheses (and sometimes called a “parenthetical citation”). Citation styles that use footnotes or endnotes (such as Chicago or Turabian) may use a superscript in the same way.
    2. At the end of the paper or assignment, there will be a list of more detailed bibliographic information that enables the reader to find the sources that were used. Every in-text citation must have a matching entry in this list. Depending on what citation style you are using, his list may be called “works cited,” “references,” or “bibliography.” Different citation styles will require you to format these citations in different ways, but they all include similar information, like the author’s name, title of the publication, date, URL, and/or page numbers.
      • Generally, whether that list is called a "works cited", "references", or "bibliography", the individual citations within that list will often be called "references".

    Why Two Different Citations?

    There are two overall purposes for providing ctiations:

    1. To provide credit to the original authors/creators who came up with an idea or information.
    2. To provide evidence to your reader. This evidence lends credibility to your statements and provides them with options for reading further on the topic.

    The in-text citation provides direct evidence for your statements. The reader can see your statement and that it is immediately followed by a source, which they can then read more about if they want. However, in-text citations are often much too short for your reader to reliably find the original source based on that information below. An in-text citation will often only include the author's last name(s), a date, and a page number. That would make it very difficult to actually find the source! And hyperlinking doesn't always help because hyperlinks can change over time.

    This is why you need the full reference (usually located at the end of the paper)!

    The next section on When to Cite Sources addresses how to incorporate in-text citations and the MLA and APA sections will focus on how to create the full citations for various information source types.

    This page titled 2.2.1: Citation Styles is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Daniel Wilson via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.