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Research Skills Tutorial

This is a self-paced, non-credit course that covers research skills, critical thinking, media and internet literacy, and understanding the complexities of the modern information environment (including libraries.)

Citation Styles

Formatting Citations

While you conduct your research, you should collect all of the identifying pieces of information about your sources. To properly format that information in your paper, you will follow the organization guidelines laid out by the particular citation style you have been assigned to use.

All citation styles require similar information, and organize that information in similar ways. The difference is primarily what is included, order, capitalization, and punctuation. Learning how to use one citation style will make it easy to learn others.

The organization and formatting guidelines for each style are compiled in resources called style guides.

Commonly Used Citation Styles

The citation styles (also known as documentation styles or bibliographic styles) commonly used by college students are MLA, APA, Chicago and CSE.

Each citation style is associated with different disciplines (or areas of study):

  • MLA (Modern Languages Association) style is associated with the humanities: languages, literature, philosophy, religion and the arts.
  • APA (American Psychological Association) style is associated with the social sciences: psychology and behavioral science, education, sociology, anthropology, business, economics, political science and criminal justice.
  • Chicago is associated primarily with history, but is sometimes used in other humanities and social sciences fields. Turabian is a variation of Chicago style intended for student writers.
  • CSE (Council of Science Editors) style is associated with the natural sciences.


There are thousands of citation styles associated with different journals, publishing companies, and library databases, but you would only need to be concerned with these if your instructor required it, or you plan to publish your research with one of those journals.

Choosing a Citation Style

You can usually choose a citation style based on the discipline you are studying. If you are studying in an interdisciplinary field such as music or art therapy, you may have more than one option.

The decision ultimately lies with your instructor, so be sure to ask which style your instructor requires before you begin your research.

Once you know, which citation style you will be using, visit the Cite Your Sources guide in the library. The Cite Your Sources guide contains information about each style as well as links to style guides and sample papers for each.

Accessibility Note

Please note: If you need to request accommodations with content linked to on this guide, on the basis of a disability, please contact Disability Services by emailing them at Disability.Services@esc.edu.  Requests for accommodations should be submitted as early as possible to allow for sufficient planning. If you have questions, please visit the disability services website http://www.esc.edu/disabilityservices.