Citing resources enables us to leverage existing literature in our work while avoiding plagiarism. There are various ways to cite sources, with APA, MLA, and Chicago being the three most commonly used styles. In this article, we will discuss what it means to use APA, MLA, and Chicago citation styles.

What Is a Citation and Citation Style?

A citation is a way to give people due credit for their intellectual and creative works. A research citation contains the author’s name, location of the publishing company, journal title, and date.

With that said, there is more than one way to cite sources. A citation style is a standard that dictates what information needs to be included in a citation and how it’s going to be formatted, ordered, and punctuated.

Why Is It Necessary to Cite Sources?

Citing resources allows us to avoid plagiarism. Keeping track of where we learned certain things helps us avoid unintentionally claiming someone else’s work. Likewise, citing sources helps us establish our credibility as writers and emerge as plausible academics.

Citations draw\ readers to the source of an idea and tells them where they must go to learn more. Every citation style is distinctive, quoting sources differently both in text (within the essay) and reference pages (at the end of the paper).

Understanding the Relationship between Discipline Preferences and Citation Styles

Each citation style focuses on pieces of information a particular field of study values. Learning these preferences helps you understand the priorities of different fields or disciplines and the benefits of using a particular citation style.

Citation StyleUsed by Disciplines
APA (American Psychological Association)Education, Psychology, and Sciences
MLA (Modern Language Association)Humanities, such as English and Philosophy
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS)Business, History, and the Fine Arts

American Psychological Association (APA)

The American Psychological Association (APA) citation style is mostly used in Social Sciences such as Sociology, Psychology, Criminal Justice, and Education. The citation style encourages researchers to include specific subheadings and use formal structure.

Researchers who follow APA must include an abstract and cover page. However, they should avoid including too many paraphrased ideas and quotations. The APA style places more emphasis on general ideas than exact words.

In the citation, the author’s first name is not written out. Research work and ideas are given greater importance than researchers. Researchers must include dates in the reference list and in-text citations. Current research is considered more important than old research.

APA Style Example
FormatAuthor last name, Initials. (Year). Title: Subtitle [Unpublished type of thesis or dissertation]. University Name. URL or DOI
Reference entryTurner, R. (2022). The power of social media: The effect of social media marketing channels on the buying behavior of online consumers [Unpublished master’s thesis]. University of London.
In-text citation(Turner, 2022)

Modern Language Association (MLA)

The Modern Language Association (MLA) citation style is used mostly in Humanities fields such as English and Philosophy. Researchers are encouraged to cite the exact words of other writers and quotes are considered important.

The style dictates users to use page numbers in in-text citations to easily identify ideas and quotes. Researchers must write the full name of cited researchers in the Works Cited list. However, the style doesn’t require writers to include an abstract or cover pages.

MLA Style Example
FormatAuthor last name, First name. TitleSubtitle. Year. University Name, type of thesis or dissertation.
Works Cited entryTurner, Robert. The Power of Social Media: The Effect of Social Media Marketing Channels on the Buying Behavior of Online Consumers. University of London, master’s thesis.
In-text citation(Turner, 15)

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS)

The Chicago Manual of Style is mostly used in history, business, and fine arts and follows two distinctive citation types: Notes and Bibliography, and Author and Date. In Notes and Bibliography, the writer uses endnotes and/or footnotes to explain source material. Researchers can use title pages and subheadings, but they are not required.

Chicago Style Example
BibliographyLast name, First name. “Title: Subtitle.” Type of thesis or diss., University Name, Year.

Turner, Robert. “The Power of Social Media: The Effect of Social Media Marketing Channels on the Buying Behavior of Online Consumers.” Master’s thesis, University of London, 2022.

Full noteAuthor first name Last name, “Title: Subtitle” (type of thesis or diss., University Name, Year), Page number(s).

1. Robert Turner, “The Power of Social Media: The Effect of Social Media Marketing Channels on the Buying Behavior of Online Consumers” (master’s thesis, University of London, 2022), 15.

Short noteAuthor last name, “Shortened Title,” Page number(s).

2. Turner, “Power of Social Media,” 21.


While all three citation styles follow a structure similar to what we have described above, some universities and professors may have different preferences on how to cite resources. It’s best if you follow what your own university requires instead of what you find online.

If you want to find inconsistencies in research citation style or aren’t sure which citation style fits your paper, consider our professional thesis editing services.