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Citation styles

Rules for citing sources and citation formats can get complicated. A number of style guides have been developed that provide consistency in how information is cited. Some of the most common styles are APA, Chicago, and MLA. Citation styles are often associated with certain professional groups and disciplines. For instance, APA, American Psychological Association, is often used in the sciences while MLA, Modern Language Association, is popular in the literature and humanities area. Some professors don’t care which citation style you use as long as you are consistent.

The following lists the major style guides and an Internet site which outlines the style. Note that while the Internet sites are convenient they usually only have the most basic information. For all the rules and exceptions, look at the official manual published by the style’s sponsor. Rules for citation styles change over time, particularly recently with the Internet, so it is important to use the latest edition. Any library will have some, if not all, of these style guides.


Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. (2009). Washington, DC : American Psychological Association.

The basic format for citing Web sources in APA style is:
s name (last name, first and any middle initials). (Date of Internet posting or revision). Title of page. Title of complete work [if applicable]. Retrieval statement.

Neyhart, D. & Karper, E. (2008). APA formatting and style guide. Purdue University Online Writing Lab. Retrieved Aug. 29, 2011, from: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/

American Psychological Association. (2011). "Basics of APA Style". APAStyle.org. Retrieved Aug. 29, 2011, from: <http://www.apastyle.org/learn/tutorials/basics-tutorial.aspx>
For more examples, see citations in the What is Plagiarism? section of this site.


University of Chicago Press, The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2010.

The basic format for citing Web sources in Chicago style is:
Authors name (in normal order), name of page, date of Internet posting or revision, <URL> or other retrieval information (date of access), text division (if applicable).

"Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide" The Chicago Manual of Style Onlineaccessed August 29, 2011,<http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html>.

For more examples, see citations in the How to Credit Sources section of this site.


Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 5th ed. New York, Modern Language Association of America, 1999.

The basic format for citing Web sources in MLA style is:
Author or editor
s name (last name first). Name of site. Name of institution/organization affiliated with the site (sponsor or publisher), date of resource creation (if available, use n.d. of no publishing date given). Medium of publication. Date of access.

Kunka, Jennifer Liethen and Joe Barbato. MLA Works Cited: Electronic Sources. Purdue University Online Writing Lab, June 2011. Web. 29 Aug. 2011 

For more examples, see citations in the How to Avoid It section of this site.

More information on citing online sources (including Web pages, full-text articles in journal databases, e-mail, live chat, etc.) for these styles and others can be found in:

California State University San Marcos, Citation Style Guides, 2011,  <http://library.csusm.edu/finding/more/style_guides/>

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Last updated 08/29/2011 by Sue Thompson
Cal State San Marcos Library