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Choosing a Style

  • Ask your professor which style is preferred for the course.
  • Consult a style guide for examples of using various citation styles to create in-text citations, bibliographies and reference lists, or use citation software to assist you in tracking sources used and building in-text citations and bibliographies. 
  • Use a standard style, such as APA, and be consistent with it throughout your paper.   
  • Ask for citation and paper-writing assistance at the LETU Writing Center.

Style Guides to Consult

Academic organizations and some disciplines outline their own styles of how to cite sources and format research papers.  You may have heard of or used some of the styles before.   

Consult these print and online style guides for examples of citing sources in the text of your paper and in a bibliography or reference list.  See also information about citation software supported by LETU Library.

MLA: Modern Language Association [Humanities]

APA: American Psychological Association [Social Sciences] 

CMS: Chicago Manual of Style [Theology and Various Subjects]

ACS: American Chemical Society

IEEE: Institute of Electronics & Electrical Engineers 


"The purpose of a research paper is to synthesize previous research and scholarship with your ideas on the subject. Therefore, you should feel free to use other persons' words, facts, and thoughts in your research paper, but the material you borrow must not be presented as if it were your own creation."

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 7th Edition. New York: MLA. 55. Print.


It's important to cite sources you used in your research for several reasons:

  • To show your reader you've done proper research by listing sources you used to get your information
  • To be a responsible scholar by giving credit to other researchers and acknowledging their ideas
  • To avoid plagiarism by quoting words and ideas used by other authors
  • To allow your reader to track down the sources you used by citing them accurately in your paper by way of footnotes, a bibliography or reference list

Citing a source means that you show, within the body of your text, that you took words, ideas, figures, images, etc. from another place.

Citations are a short way to uniquely identify a published work (e.g. book, article, chapter, web site).  They are found in bibliographies and reference lists and are also collected in article and book databases. 

Citations consist of standard elements, and contain all the information necessary to identify and track down publications, including:

  • author name(s)
  • titles of books, articles, and journals
  • date of publication
  • page numbers
  • volume and issue numbers (for articles)

Citations may look different, depending on what is being cited and which style was used to create them. Choose an appropriate style guide for your needs.  Here is an example of an article citation using four different citation styles.  Notice the common elements as mentioned above:

Author - R. Langer

Article Title - New Methods of Drug Delivery

Source Title - Science

Volume and issue - Vol 249, issue 4976

Publication Date - 1990

Page numbers - 1527-1533


American Chemical Society (ACS) style:

     Langer, RNew Methods of Drug DeliveryScience 19902491527-1533.

IEEE Style:

     R. Langer, "New Methods of Drug Delivery," Sciencevol. 249pp. 1527-1533SEP 28, 1990.

American Psychological Association  (APA) style:

     Langer, R(1990)New methods of drug delivery. Science,249(4976), 1527-1533.

Modern Language Association (MLA) style:

     Langer, R"New Methods of Drug Delivery." Science 249.4976(1990): 1527-33.

You should cite when...

  • Ideas, words, theories, or exact language that another person used in other publications
  • Using an image or media file that you did not create
  • Facts, figures, ideas, or other information that is not common knowledge

When in doubt, cite it

When referring to a source, you have three options for using it...

  1. Directly Quoting 
  2. Summarizing 
  3. Paraphrasing

"Which option you should choose depends on how much of a source you are using, how you are using it, and what kind of paper you are writing, since different fields use sources in different ways." Grounds for Argument. When to Quote, Paraphrase, or Summarize a Source. Used under CC BY NC SA


You do not need to cite...

  • Your thoughts and your interpretations
  • Common knowledge​

What is a Citation Generator?

Many different tools exist to assist you in the process of creating a citation entry. Many credible websites and library databases include citation generators for each source.  Examples include the following:

There are advantages and challenges to working with these tools. 

Common mistakes include:

  • Selecting the wrong type of information source
  • Inputting information incorrectly or leaving information out
  • Misplaced or incorrect punctuation
  • Improper capitalization

The biggest mistake is in completely trusting a citation generator to make no errors. Make sure you closely review all citations created in this way. You'll also still want to refer to your citation style guide to learn how to format your works cited/reference page.


How to Avoid Plagiairism

Citation Management