A brief introduction to citation styles

These days we find sources for the essays online more and more often. It would be great if we could just hyperlink them, instead of using complicated quotation systems and different citation styles. This day may come sometime, which will be of help with essay writing, but so far all essay writers are still bound to comply with the rules of MLA, APA, Chicago and other less popular styles. Let us very briefly examine the ways these styles are different.

In different citation styles you should pay special attention to a couple of things. The first one is the title page. While in MLA there is no separate title page, you still need to mention your name and other addition information on top of the first page of your essay. There is also a header in the top right corner you need not to forget about. In APA and Chicago you need to format our separate title page according to the rules of each of the styles. And, don’t forget about the headers, too. Next goes the table of contents. Be sure to check style guidelines for formatting this page of your paper. Finally, the third important thing in the basic structure of your essay is how you format the titles of different parts of it. Each of the three styles has separate instructions on fonts and alignment for these.

The reason why different styles exist is not as much the different title pages, but the different way they approach citing sources. In each of the styles there are rules for in-text citation and for formatting the 'Works cited' or 'Reference list' page. It is very easy to remember the basic differences between the styles for in-text referencing. In MLA and APA in-text citations are placed in parentheses. MLA uses the author-page, while APA uses the author-year format. In Chicago, you put the detailed information on your source in the footnote. The formatting for citation in the footnotes is different from that on the bibliography page.

Even if you can’t find a reason for different citation styles to exist, we still need to know about them. Historically, there must have been a rationalization not to always quote the sources in the same way. For example, author-page and author-year styles for parenthetical referencing places different emphasis on your source in-text. Also, different styles are used for essays in different spheres – MLA for humanities and liberal arts, APA for social sciences and Chicago for both these spheres, while for spheres like chemistry or biology you would sometimes have separate guides to follow.

If you feel like memorizing all the details of most popular citation styles is overwhelming, you could always refer to the guidelines, use the software to format your reference list or ask us for essay writing help.

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