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Citation Styles: Home

A general introduction to three of the most commonly used citation styles for academic research papers


Nghiem Thai's picture
Nghiem Thai
Merritt College
Room L-302
12500 Campus Drive
Oakland, CA 94619
(510) 436-2461


What is a citation?

A citation is a brief reference to a specific information source such as a book, a journal article, or a website, which acknowledges an original idea expressed therein and provides a means of locating the original source. In general, a citation includes both a notation in the body of a text and an entry in a list of sources following the text.

What is a citation style?

A citation style is a set of guidelines for formatting and organizing citations. Although there exist many different citation styles to suit different purposes, most academic research papers adhere to one of three major styles: American Psychological Association (APA), Chicago, or Modern Language Association (MLA).

Which citation style should you use?

Use the style recommended or required by your instructor. If your instructor does not specify a style, choose one based on the discipline or field about which you are writing:

  • APA Style for behavioral and social sciences, especially psychology
  • Chicago Style for either humanities or sciences
  • MLA Style for humanities, especially language and literature


APA Style

APA manual

Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). (2019). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Chicago Style

Chicago Style Manual

The Chicago Manual of Style. 17th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017.

MLA Style

MLA Style Manual

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 8th ed. New York: Modern Language Association, 2016.