Applying citation styles

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Duration: 4 minutes

What should a reference look like? Which information is needed and where should it be placed? Get to know the most common citation styles.

What’s most important:
  • A citation style is a guideline to the style of references in a scientific paper.
  • Use the citation style which your lecturer or department suggests.
  • Use the same citation style consistently within a paper and always apply it properly.

What is a citation style?

A citation style defines the standard for your references. It determines where you give the information about the corresponding source – e.g. in brackets in your text or in a footnote. The citation style also defines what information is needed for a citation as well as for the list of references. According to some citation styles, you only need to give author and year of publication as a reference in your text. For others the page number is required, too.

Before you start with your paper, you should ask your lecturer which citation style they prefer. Universities or departments also often define a standard citation style to which you should stick in every paper.

What are the most common citation styles?

The number of citation styles is huge which is why we cannot cover them all. But we have compiled the world’s top 5 citation styles for you:

APA (American Psychological Association)

This citation style is commonly used in arts and humanities. It consists of a short reference directly within your text. Add a bracket listing the author(s) and publication year to paraphrased text passages or quotes. Place the publication year directly after the authors’ names in the list of references.

Reference in your textReference in your list of references
„Lorem ipsum” (Doe, 2022)Doe, J. (2022). Example article title. (J. Doe, Ed.), Example book title. Munich: GRIN Publishing.

MLA (Modern Language Association)

This is a citation style which often is used in language and literature studies. Here, too, you include a short reference within the text, but this time it contains authors and page number. The list of references first gives the names and last names of the authors as well as the editors.

Reference in your textReference in your list of references
„Lorem ipsum” (Doe 7)Doe, John. „Example article title.“ Ed. Jane Doe. Example book title. Munich: GRIN Publishing, 2022.

Harvard

This citation style is used mainly in economic disciplines. The reference in the text is similar to APA, but the list of references requires the page numbers of an article.

Reference in your textReference in your list of references
„Lorem ipsum” (Doe, 2022)Doe, J (2022) „Example article title“, Example book title. Edited by J. Doe. Munich: GRIN Publishing, pp. 7-16.

Chicago (Chicago Manual of Style)

This is another citation style which is used in the humanities. In-text citations are added as footnotes and should include author, title, place of publication, publishing company, year of publication and page number. The list of references gives the same information.

Reference in a footnoteReference in your list of references
John Doe, Example article title, (Munich: GRIN Publishing, 2022), 7.Doe, John. „Example article title.“ Edited by J. Doe. Example book title. Munich: GRIN Publishing, 2022.

Vancouver (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE))

This citation style is very common in the field of medicine. It uses numbers instead of in-text citations. Accordingly, the list of references includes the numbered sources. The reader will find the correct reference by searching the number from the text in your list of references.

Reference in your textReference in your list of references
„Lorem ipsum” [1] [1] Doe J. Example article title. Doe J, editor. Example book title. Munich: GRIN Publishing, 2022. p. 7-16.

Making citation styles easy: referencing tools

Applying a citation style properly may be complicated and sometimes it is hard to keep track. This is when a referencing tool may help. Tools like Citavi or EndNote offer a huge range of standard citation styles. You only have to import information about a source and the tool will create a list of references from them.

⚠ Don’ts
  • Don’t make up new citation styles.
  • Don’t use several citation styles in one paper.
  • Don’t use a different citation style than suggested by your lecturer or department.

Test yourself: Do you know everything about citation styles?

What is a citation style?

  1. A default on whether to use direct or indirect quotes
  2. A set of guidelines to the style of my references
  3. A style sheet which I can use for my layout
    Solution:

   B – A set of guidelines to the style of my references

What is special about the Vancouver style?

  1. The reference in the text only consists of a number which can be found in full in the list of references
  2. It also defines a font type
  3. The reference consists of a symbol which can be found at the bottom of the page
    Solution:

   A – The reference in the text only consists of a number which can be found in full in the list of references

Which information is needed for in-text citation in APA style?

  1. The author’s first name and the title
  2. The publishing house and the publication year
  3. The authors’ last name and the publication year
    Solution:

   C – The authors’ last name and the publication year

Where do you find the in-text citations if an author uses Chicago A as citation style?

  1. In a footnote or endnote
  2. Within the text
  3. At the end of each chapter
    Solution:

   A – In a footnote or endnote

How can referencing tools help you with citation?

  1. They can find all sorts of information about citing correctly
  2. They have all common citation styles and apply them consistently
  3. They can tell you which citation style to apply
    Solution:

   B – They have all common citation styles and apply them consistently.

Did you enjoy?
So check out these modules:

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    Module 7
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    Creating a list of references or a bibliography

    A scientific paper should always include a list of references or a bibliography. Learn how to create it with Microsoft Word or a referencing tool.