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Citation Formats

What Are Citation Formats?

Citation formats are rules and guidelines that make writing styles uniform within a specific work or publication. They cover the following:

  • Layout of paper. Includes margins, spaces between lines, font size, etc.
  • Full documentation of source used. Added to end-of-paper list named Works Cited for MLA and References for APA.
  • In-Text documentation of sources. Small part of full documentation that goes near used information.

There are many citation formats. Some of the more commonly used ones are MLA format, APA format and Chicago format.


Why Cite Sources?

There are several reasons why you would want to cite your sources:

  • Lend authority and credibility to your work
  • Allow readers (including your instructor) to cross‐reference sources easily
  • Provide consistent format
  • Acknowledge academic debts and avoid plagiarism

What Is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is giving the impression that you wrote or thought something that you borrowed from someone else.

  • Even accidental plagiarism can lead to failing your class or being expelled.
  • Plagiarism in your professional career can result in being sued, fired, and publicly embarrassed.

How Can You Avoid Plagiarism? Cite your sources using a citation format.


What Must Be Cited?

  • Directly Quoted Information – Info straight from a source, which goes in quotation marks
  • Paraphrased Information – Ideas from source but phrasing changed to your words
  • Summarized Information – Ideas from large passage of source condensed using your words
  • Factual Information – Factual information that is NOT common knowledge

Material is probably common knowledge if:

  • Same info is undocumented in at least five other sources
  • Your readers probably already know the info
  • Facts found in many places and likely known by a lot of people

From: The Online Writing Lab. Purdue University


Frequently Used Formats

  • MLA Format – Created by the Modern Language Association. Used for research papers in many college and academic classes, including English classes.
  • APA Format – Created by the American Psychological Association.
  • Chicago Format – Published by the University of Chicago Press in The Chicago Manual of Style.
  • AMA Format – Made by the American Medical Association for writing medical research.

How do you know which format to use? Your instructor will let you know the required format for your class and assignments.

MLA Format


APA Format


Citation Management Tools

Citation management tools can help you create citations in various formats. Click on the links below for more information about the two citation management tools available through the library.