12 – Avoiding Plagiarism and Citing Sources Properly

Citations

Deborah Bernnard; Greg Bobish; Jenna Hecker; Irina Holden; Allison Hosier; Trudi Jacobson; Tor Loney; Daryl Bullis; Sarah LeMire; Matt McKinney; Nicole Hagstrom-Schmidt; and Kalani Pattison

Citations can be confusing. There are many different citation styles and not many concrete rules about when to use a particular style. Your professor may indicate which citation style you should use. Generally, certain citation styles correspond with certain fields of study, though sometimes specific areas within a discipline or field will choose differently—linguistics, commonly grouped with English departments, for instance, will often use APA, despite most English literature and rhetoric journals using MLA or Chicago styles. Table 12.3 provides some general guidelines for correlation between citation styles and disciplines.

Table 12.3. Citation styles commonly used in disciplines.

Citation Style Associated Disciplines
American Medical Association (AMA) Biomedical sciences
American Psychological Association (APA) Social sciences and education
Chicago Humanities and arts
Council of Science Editors (CSE) Science
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Engineering
Modern Language Association (MLA) Humanities and arts

The formatting of these citation styles is not arbitrary; each format reflects the values and priorities of their corresponding fields. For example, the year of publication is emphasized much more heavily in APA because that indicates how current the research is. For instance, research on treating cancer from the 1970s may not hold up today. MLA, by contrast, does not emphasize the year, because this is not as important a concern as the text’s title for fields like literature. The final arbiter of the citation style to use is the target audience: check with your professor or your intended publisher.

Note

Citation Tip: You can find detailed information about how to format a citation in these styles by consulting the latest Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, for APA citations, the most recent copy of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, or the current Chicago Manual of Style. You should be able to find copies of these publications in the reference section of your library. You can also obtain guidance on formatting citations from the Texas A&M University Libraries’ “Citing and Writing” guides.[1]

However, just knowing what citation style is used doesn’t always clear up the confusion. Each different form of information is cited differently. The most common forms that you will encounter are books, chapters in books, journal articles, and websites.

Take a look at the citations on the following pages. You can see that there are differences between citation styles. You can also see that each information format contains different elements. When you try to determine whether a citation is for a book, book chapter, or journal, think about the elements inherent in each of these formats. For example, a journal article appears in a journal that is published in a volume and issue. If you see volume and issue numbers in the citation, you can assume that the citation is for a journal article. A book chapter in a volume of collected essays is usually written by a different author from the editors of the whole book. Finally, a single-authored book is often the easiest citation to decipher because it contains the fewest elements.

This text was derived from

Deborah Bernnard, Greg Bobish, Jenna Hecker, Irina Holden, Allison Hosier, Trudi Jacobson, Tor Loney, and Daryl Bullis. The Information Literacy User’s Guide: An Open, Online Textbook, edited by Greg Bobish and Trudi Jacobson. Geneseo, NY: Open SUNY Textbooks, Milne Library, 2014. http://textbooks.opensuny.org/the-information-literacy-users-guide-an-open-online-textbook/. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Pantuso, Terri, and Sarah LeMire and Kathy Anders, eds. Informed Arguments: A Guide to Writing and Research. 2nd ed. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University, 2021. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


  1. “Citing and Writing,” Texas A&M University Libraries: Research Guides, https://tamu.libguides.com/citingandwriting?b=g&d=a&group_id=12426.

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Howdy or Hello? Technical and Professional Communication by Deborah Bernnard; Greg Bobish; Jenna Hecker; Irina Holden; Allison Hosier; Trudi Jacobson; Tor Loney; Daryl Bullis; Sarah LeMire; Matt McKinney; Nicole Hagstrom-Schmidt; and Kalani Pattison is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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