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Getting Started with Research: Citation Styles

A basic overview of how to get started on your research project.


A critical part of writing well researched, academic material is citing your sources. In addition to giving your ideas and original work supporting evidence that adds credibility, properly formatted citations are helpful for readers who may be interested in learning more about a particular topic. To this end, there are several common styles that tend to be utilized in academic research, some of which you have probably encountered before. Different professors or journals may prefer you cite your sources using different formats, but certain formats are more common for certain disciplines. Therefore it can be helpful to learn which of the styles you are most likely to need in your own research and learn those styles thoroughly. Always format your work based on the requirements of your professor or publisher. 

Most of these styles have extensive guidelines for grammar, usage, and spacing, but the two most important things to understand about any style are

1: How to format in-text citations

2. How to format your bibliography. 

Finally, many of the sections below include links to the official style manuals. This is for user reference and is not intended as a recommendation for purchase. Students should refer to online style guides to access style rules for free.


MLA stands for Modern Language Association, and is most common in Humanities such as Language Arts and Literature. We are currently in the 9th edition of MLA.

MLA Quick Reference:

Chicago (Turabian)

The Chicago citation style is published and maintained by the Chicago Manual of Style, sometimes abbreviated to CMOS. It is most commonly found in History and Fine Arts disciplines.

It's sister style, Turabian, is from Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, by Kate Turabian. Turabian is sometimes called "Chicago Light" because it is essentially following Chicago style, but with slightly fewer rules as it is intended more for student papers than professional publications. Nevertheless, you will often see Chicago and Turabian referred to as if they are the same thing.

For these reasons the citation style as a whole can be referred to as either Chicago, Turabian, or CMOS. If you are unclear about which rules you need to follow or not follow (i.e. Turabian Vs. Chicago) it is always a good idea to check in with your instructor and ask what they prefer.

Chicago Quick Reference:

a quick reference guide of chicago style

APA 7th Ed.

APA stands for American Psychology Association, which publishes and maintains this style. We are currently in the 7th edition of APA, so you may here it referenced as APA7 or APA 7th Ed. APA is (somewhat predictably) used heavily in Psychology research, but it also is an extremely common format for social science subjects and some humanities. 

APA Quick Reference:

apa style guide poster


IEEE is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, often said aloud as "I Triple E." This citation style is most commonly seen in Engineering, Computer Science, and other highly technical fields. In cases where IEEE does not have a specific rule, authors are often instructed to default to Chicago Style.


AMA is the American Medical Association, and is most often used in Nursing studies and other medical fields. 

Purdue OWL

Most of the content on this page is sourced from the Purdue Online Writing Lab, a renowned online resource for teaching students citations and writing skills. View the full page here: to find more information on the citation styles as well as other helpful resources.

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