Which Citation Format Should I Use?

So, you’re writing a paper and want to make sure that you’re citing your sources correctly. Great! Ensuring that you properly cite and reference your sources will prevent lost marksor even a failed paper, or worsefor accidental plagiarism. However, in order to correctly cite your sources, you first need to know which citation format to use.

There are numerous citation styles, although MLA format, APA format and Chicago/Turabian are the most commonly used.

The bottom line, when deciding which citation format to use, ask your teacher or professor. They’re the person best placed to advise you, as the preferred style often depends on the subject in question. Therefore, you shouldn’t expect a university or college to ask for the same citation format across the board. You should also be careful not to assume that assignments for your major and minor subjects require you to use the same style of citations. If in any doubt, ask!

To give you a general idea, here’s a breakdown of citation formats and the subjects that they’re usually used for:

Popular Formats

APA Format (American Psychological Association) – Used for social science subjects such as psychology, criminology, business and journalism.

MLA Format (Modern Languages Association) – Used for literature and humanities subjects such as literature, philosophy, religion, theater and communications.

Chicago Manual of Style – Used in humanities and social sciences such as anthropology, art history, business, computing, criminology, history, philosophy and religion.

Turabian Style – A variation of Chicago Manual of Style used across humanities, social sciences and natural science subjects such as art history, history and music.

Less-Commonly Used Formats (single subject specific)

Harvard Business School — business

ACS (American Chemical Society) — chemistry

AIP (American Institute of Physics) — physics

ALWD (Association of Legal Writing Directors) — law

AMA (American Medical Association) — medicine

AMS (American Mathematical Society) — math

APSA (American Political Science Association) — politics, international studies

ASA (American Sociological Association) — sociology

AP (Associated Press) — journalism, PR

Bluebook — legal studies

CSE (Council of Science Editors) — biology

LSA (Linguistics Society of America) — linguistics

Maroonbook — legal studies

NLM (National Library of Medicine) — medicine

As you’ll note from the above list, there’s some subject crossover with the popular citation formats. Others are very subject specific. Whichever subject you’re studying at your college or university, check your teacher’s preference before undertaking the task of creating your citations — time is precious as a busy student, and the last thing you want is to have to complete the same task twice, or lose marks unnecessarily.

Once you know which citation style you need to select, head over to the BibMe’s citation generator for help with their creation.