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Citing sources: Citation styles

When and how to cite (and avoid accidental plagiarism!)

Citation and publication style rules and discipline values

If you are new to research-based writing and citation, you may feel overwhelmed by the rules you need to follow in order to format a paper according to MLA style requirements, or to write a correct APA References page citation. Not only are there plenty of rules, many of them may seem pretty arbitrary, and this contributes to making them difficult to follow.

Where the date goes and how to format it; whether to type in italics or not; when to capitalize each word in a title, when to use lower case; when to use a period versus a comma; when to use an author's first name, when to use their initials;... some of these seemingly pointless rules carry some meaning, some of them dependent on the fields of study that typically use each citation style. Knowing the values of the field and the impact these values may have on citation rules can help us remember, or at least accept, certain rules, and may even feel less anxious about them. Below are just two examples to consider about where the date is placed in APA versus MLA.

What to know more about the "method versus the madness" of publication style? Ask a Research Librarian!

APA and currency (how recent the information is)

APA publication style was created by the American Psychological Association. It is applied to the field of Psychology. It is also used in Anthropology, some sciences, and health sciences including Nursing. Currency, or how recently something was published, is critical in those fields - while older information is valuable, keeping up-to-date is vital. So, in an APA References citation, notice that the date of publication is prominent, immediately after the authors' names. standing alone, through the use of parentheses and a period following.

Dunne, L., Perich, T., & Meade, T. (2019). The relationship between social support and personal recovery in bipolar disorder. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 42(1), 100–103. https://doi-org.tacomacc.idm.oclc.org/10.1037/prj0000319

MLA and currency (how recent the information is)

MLA publication style is from the Modern Language Association. It is most often applied to the humanities including the study of Literature. Generally speaking, the date of the author's work has less impact on the value of the author's work, so date is featured later in the citation and does not receive special focus; it is lumped together, using commas, with other information about the publication, which may include journal name, volume and issue number, page-range, and perhaps publisher (in the case of a book).

Thompson, Corey Evan. “Herman Melville’s Short Story ‘Cock-A-Doodle-Doo!’: A Case Study in Bipolar Disorder.” ATQuarterly, vol. 17, no. 1, 2003, pp. 43-54. Literary Reference Center, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lfh&AN=9320262&site=lrc-live.

For information about specific citation styles, see the drop down list just below the tab for this page, "Citation styles"

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