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Citation and Documentation Styles

Find resources on Citation and Documentation Styles. APA, MLA, and Chicago Manual of Style have resources you can find at Forsyth Library and online, as well as a quick guide to the types of sources most often cited.

About this Guide

Welcome. Use this Guide to find resources on Citation and Documentation Styles. Each style has resources you can find at Forsyth Library and online, as well as a quick guide to the types of sources most often cited. APA, MLA, and Chicago Manual of Style are covered, with additional styles, writing help, and how to use and manage your resources responsibly. 

Always check your assignment instructors and with your instructor about which citation style format and edition to use. 

Citation Questions

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a citation?

A citation is a reference to a source of information used in your research. Using a citation tells your readers that certain material in your work came from another source. It also gives your readers the information necessary to find that source again.


Why are citations important?

Besides just following directions for an assignment, citing allows you to give credit to the writers and researchers who've come before you while sharing information about the sources you used with future writers and researchers who are reading your work. This allows your readers to differentiate between what parts of your work are your original ideas and what parts are information and ideas from others.


What sources need to be cited?

Any source you quote, summarize, or paraphrase. Even if you put the information into your own words, the ideas are not yours, and you need to give credit to those writer's hard work and research. However, sources your read for background information and your own knowledge, like encyclopedias, do not need to be cited unless you incorporate them into your work.


What information do I need to make a citation?

Most styles need these basic elements of a source:

  • Author(s): the creator of an information resource
  • Date: the date the resource was created or published
  • Resource Title: the name given to the resource, such as a web page or article title.
  • Book or Journal Title: A book is a relatively lengthy work, often on a single topic. A journal is issued on a regular basis, which contains the information resource, such as a scholarly article. 
  • Volume and/or Issue: a source of information that is part of a series such as a journal or magazine
  • Publisher Name: An entity or company that produces and issues books, journals, newspapers, or other publications.
  • URL, permalink, or DOI: A URl is the location or address of an online resource. A permalink is A link that will return you to the same page every time you click the link.. A DOI is Digital Object Identifier. It is a unique alphanumeric string assigned by the publisher to a digital object. DOIs are preferred for most information resources. 

Why can't I just use the citation in the database?

Citations provided by databases and catalogs are computer generated, and will OFTEN have mistakes in them. Common mistakes include author names, capitalization, italics, volume numbers, and others. While computer generated citations may seem convenient, always check the information given with the citation style manual or a trusted resource.


What is the difference between an in-text citation and a reference citation? 

An in-text citation is the "tag" that you put immediately after the information you use in your paper or presentation (whether it is a quote, paraphrase, or summary).  They are "in-text" because they are in the text of your paper or presentation. They point the reader towards the relevant resource in your Works Cited, References, or Bibliography page at the end of your work. 

A reference citation is the complete information about a resource you use in your paper or presentation. They point the reader to where they can find the resource and its information. 


Why are there different citation styles?

Using a set citation style shows you are part of a  particular disciplinary community and speak the "language of the group". Each style has different information it finds important to include, and using that shows you are part of that group and discipline. 


What citation style should I use?

Always check with your assignment, course syllabus, and/or instructor about which citation style and edition to use. 

In general, course and topics in these disciplines use the following citation styles:

  • American Psychological Association (APA): Agriculture, Allied health, Business, Criminal Justice, Communication Studies, Communication Science and Disorders, Education, Health and Human Performance, Leadership Studies, Nursing, Psychology, Sociology, Social Work, and other social sciences
  • Modern Language Association (MLA): English language and literature,  Modern Languages, Philosophy, Theatre, and other humanities
  • Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS): Art & Design, History
  • American Chemical Society Style (ACS): Chemistry