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This guide shows you how, when and why you should cite your information sources and includes examples of citation styles most commonly used by students at Bristol Community College. You will also find links to handy online citation tools such as citation generators and reference management programs. For additional information or assistance, ask a librarian or visit your local BCC campus Writing Center.
Why are there different citation styles?
Entries in a bibliography - regardless of style - will be sorted alphabetically by author/creator of a work (or by title, if there is no author identified). Quailty scholarship relies on credible authors; however various disciplines emphasize value of additional components by where and how each is featured in a citation.
The social sciences are often concerned with currency of information; hence, researchers place emphasis on the date a work was created. APA style observes this by featuring the date immediately after the author’s name in the “References” page. Dates are also required for in-text citations. The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers confirms this important distinction between APA and MLA styles: "In the sciences, where timeliness of research is crucial, the date of publication is usually given prominence" (Gibaldi, 143).
This is in contrast to MLA style, which places the date towards the end of the citation. MLA serves scholars in the humanities (especially literature), many of whom work with texts from all time periods. Emphasis is on authorship, therefore, MLA citations require the author’s name within the physical text (i.e. in-text citation).
Scholars focused on history are very concerned with origins of sources, hence the Chicago style format is preferred; in place of in-text citations, it calls for more detailed footnotes and endnotes to identify the source from which a particular piece of information was derived.
How do I know which style to use?
Use the style recommended by your instructor; if none is recommended, choose one style and stick with it for consistency's sake. Both the Library and the Writing Center have access to style manuals for the major citation styles. Below is a useful video explaining four citation styles: