For specific formatting questions, we recommend that you use another website: OWL at Purdue.
If you haven’t been there in a while, it can be confusing, so we have instructions on how to find what you need at the OWL site: How to Use OWL at Purdue
If you want to stay here, we offer the simplified basic principles as well as example pages on APA, MLA, Engineering Styles, and Comparing Styles.
Basics on Citation Styles
Citation formats are designed to be the most efficient way to convey source information. There are In-text Citation and Reference/Works Cited formats. The most common styles sheets are listed below. The main differences between the styles include:
- Authors’ names: use full first name or only first initial?
- Location of date: near the beginning or the end.
- Titles: Capitalized or not? Italicized or not? Use of quotations or not?
What Should You Cite?
- Don’t confuse citing and quoting. Use of quotes should be limited. There is no limit to citations.
- Cite any text you paraphrase, summarize or quote. If you got it from somewhere besides your imagination or general facts everyone knows, cite it. The more citations you have the better.
- Cite the source for both text and images.
- Cite the source of a concept, principle, interpretation, design, or technique, etc.
- If you are referring to class texts, you may not need to cite. Citations are not for ‘common knowledge;’ and class texts can be considered common knowledge for your class and class assignments. However, the instructor may be expecting you to write for an outside reader. Check with the instructor.
Where can You find Examples or Instructions for Style Formats?
Citation formats differ by disciplines. NOTE: Before you choose a format, check with your professor or a journal from your field. For example:
- APA is commonly used in the social sciences & business and includes in-text and references. See The Writer’s Handbook.
- MLA is commonly used when working with literature and includes in-text and references. See MLA 8th edition Citation Guide.
- Chicago is commonly used when writing about history and political science.
- CSE (formerly CBE) is commonly used in the sciences and engineering and includes in-text and references.
- IEEE, ACS is commonly used in engineering.
- AMA (see section 4) is required by some professors in the Physical Therapy program.
Why Should You Cite Your Sources?
- It’s plagiarism if you don’t. More on that below.
- Your readers can check whether you are up-to-date in the information you are using and whether you value the same sources as the reader does. These readers are peers and teachers.
- Knowledge is cumulative, and we build new knowledge based on the work of others. Citing your sources enables your readers to access information. These readers are peers or students.
- Carefully documenting your sources prevents you from plagiarizing, a serious ethical offense.
- Different countries have different laws about intellectual property. The US is perhaps the most strict. Here, research and other creative work is considered intellectual property; its originators must be credited for their work.
Bibliography and Citation Software
There are some great software options out there that make it easy to both organize and cite resources, which can be incredibly valuable especially with lengthy, research-intensive papers like thesis work and dissertations. The additional value of these options include the ability to maintain a bibliography of works you will use across numerous papers. The Clarkson Writing Center does encourage students to understand the basics of the citation formats used in their disciplines before and during the use of citation software, because sometimes, software is not perfect. Self-editing is important when utilizing these citation software options in your papers to ensure accuracy.
- The Clarkson Libraries recommend and provide support for Zotero.
- The Clarkson University libraries has produced a very resourceful online guide to citation software options, many of which are linked to online and video tutorials.
- As of December, 2016, Clarkson discontinued its paid subscription of RefWorks. Individuals can continue to subscribe to RefWorks on their own if desired, or export records to another software.
- In Microsoft Word, under the References tab, writers can find the tools to create a list of references and to insert in-text citations. Writers can select from several common citation formats.