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Types of Citation Styles and Their Features

When writing papers, students often worry about whether they have taken into consideration all the demands related to their assignment and done everything correctly. The question here is how not to overdo with preparation and, at the same time, meet all the requirements to come up with really perfectly done work. One of the ways to show that your paper is well-written and researched is to include relevant references.

A citation is what can make any of your writing more trustworthy and academic-looking. You can hardly surprise your audience with plain text, and it's the quotes and references that can make you more credible as a writer. Speaking of academic papers, you should not overlook the fact that many assignments have their own formatting rules and, accordingly, certain citation styles that must be adhered to. Generally, in-text citations are used when:

  • you speak about someone else's official written work;
  • you cite someone else's work directly to back your ideas;
  • you rephrase someone without rewriting the whole original text as it is.

Moreover, there are a lot of academic assignments imply relying on previously conducted studies and official information sources. And, when you use a book, document, or any other written work as a supporting background for your academic paper, you are to include all the sources in the reference section, which should be formatted according to the rules of the required style.

In this article, we are going to guide you through all these styles so that you can learn more about citation rules and use appropriate citation format for various types of writing.

We will take a closer look at the next citation styles and their basic points:

Maybe, you are already familiar with the most commonly used ones, but there are a lot more types that are applied in various academic circles.


APA is a citation style that has been used by probably almost every student. This style is often applying in essays, term papers, various case studies, etc. APA stands for the American Psychology Association and, what is quite obvious, originates from the area of psychology. Therefore, if you are studying any psychology course or social science, dealing with APA is unavoidable. Besides, APA can be required by various high school curriculums, being one of the most popular styles. It is usually used for different scientific papers as well. All the formatting peculiarities for this style citation can be easily found in our article about APA papers.


MLA (or Modern Language Association) style can be required for research papers. It is the most widely spread style for the humanities and other related courses. MLA is used in the United States, Canada, and other ENL countries to format written works in English, English literature, courses related to studying other modern languages or literature including comparative analysis, literary criticism, media studies, culturology, etc. MLA style aims to:

  • Help your target audience navigate the paper;
  • Reflect your competence in a particular issue;
  • Emphasize key-points of your paper so that it is interesting to read.

If you look for a more detailed explanation of the MLA rules, you can read the MLA Handbook (8th Edition).


Chicago citation style determines the peculiarities of preparing and publishing works regarding format and quotes. These rules are described in "The Chicago Manual of Style," which is also called the "Bible of Editors." It was published in 1906 by the University of Chicago Press. Frequently, Chicago style is used in some social and scientific publications and historical journals. Some guidebooks of the American Anthropological Association and the Organization of American Historians' are written on the basis of "The Chicago Manual of Style." You can also check our article about Chicago style papers with all rules and examples of citations. The style has also been adopted by many small publishers around the globe. Its area of application is usually confined to physical, natural, and social sciences.


The "Turabian Style" is named after Kate L. Turabian, who has written a special book for the University of Chicago. Turabian style citation is based on the Chicago style and can be met in papers related to various humanitarian studies. However, the Chicago style is a guide for publications in general, while the K. Turabian's book is an instruction for the formatting and preparation of the students' papers and dissertations.

Turabian format is distinguished from such styles as MLA and APA by the fact that it was created for papers that are used by a narrow audience and won't be published. Turabian can also be applied by candidates for master's and doctoral degrees and junior students.


Harvard style is always associated with Humanities and Social Sciences. It is easy to use, and it makes the process of organizing your findings and references more straightforward. Harvard citation style involves the use of references in the text of the paper each time you quote a source, whether it is a paraphrase, a quote inside a line or a block-quote. An in-text Harvard citation contains information about the author of the work cited, the date of publication, and the page number.


IEEE or Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is an organization that focuses on technical areas (electronics, computer science, telecommunications, etc.), and one of its features and purposes is creating various standards. As you can tell, the IEEE citation style is mostly used in those fields, and here are its three major features:

Unlike other styles, IEEE requires writing the author's name starting with the first name.

  • The title of your article should be put in quotation marks.
  • The name of the reference source is in italics (journal, book, etc.)

Those are the signs that can help to define the IEEE style at first sight.


ACS style was developed by the American Chemistry society and can be used in preparing various papers related to the chemistry and certain natural sciences.

  • Paraphrase - don't take it in the quotation marks.
  • Quote inside the line - take it in the quotation marks.
  • Block quotation (consists of more than 50 words) - start it with a new line indented on both sides and don't take it in the quotation marks.

Informative guidelines about how to apply ACS citation style appropriately can be found in the ACS Style Guide (3rd edition, Chapter 14). That handbook is accessible in some libraries and at the ACS website as well.


AMA style was created to format articles from the journals published by the American Medical Association, which AMA stands for. The editors of these journals regularly update the AMA citation style guide, and Oxford University released its latest version. There are 1000 pages dedicated to the requirements for the correct formatting. The AMA style sets writing and formatting standards for papers written in medical and related fields. AMA may also be partly used by other scientific journals, textbooks, and academic assignments. Along with the APA, it is one of the main stylistic modes for those types of writing.


Standing for the American Sociological Association, ASA is used for academic works in the field of sociology for foreign universities. Like other styles, this one has its different rules so that you organize your work according to certain standards. ASA style citation's key points are described in the ASA Style Guide that was written by the members of the American Association of Sociologists. The manual is continuously updated. There are many common points between ASA and APA. However, one of the ASA's peculiarities is the "author-year" reference - the date goes right after the source's author.


CSE (Council of Science Editors) style has three formatting systems that can be used in your paper:

  • Citation-name system;
  • Name-year system;
  • Citation-sequence system.

Each of these systems has unique requirements that should be followed by students who don't want their writing to be assessed unsatisfactory. If you write an assignment using a CSE citation style, at least one main rule should be followed: your list of reference should be at the very end of your paper.


The Bluebook style deserves special attention at least because of its name. The areas where you can find the Bluebook citation and its signs are legal-related. Therefore, if you are somehow interconnected with any legal professions or law courses, being aware of the formatting rules for that citation style is a must. Usually, Bluebook citation style is applied in legal documents to inform the officials about the sources the author has relied on. However, if you want to consult the Bluebook guide or order such formatting services online, you should be careful because there are Bluebook manuals that contain mistakes.


CBE can be easily confused with a CSE, but here, we deal with a Council of Biology Editors, which means you're probably going to use CBE while studying biology-related disciplines. CBE citation style is usually applied to:

  • Biology books, parts, and contributions;
  • Audiovisual Publications and Materials;
  • Legal, Government, and Agency Documents.

However, remember that, on the Web, there are a lot of examples of how to apply CBE, but not all of them might be 100% correct. Therefore, we suggest you read only their official CBE manual.


AP was created by Associated Press that was founded in 1848. AP citation style can be distinguished by its accuracy, clearness, brevity, and the fact that it is quite neutral. AP is a style of various publications like magazines or journals and is widely used by companies that work in journalism and public relations. All these factors make AP writings very easy to read and understand. Besides that, when working with AP, you must be even more attentive and make sure you avoid any spelling, grammar, or logical mistakes.


Vancouver is distinguished by its "numerical-endnote" approach to the paper formatting, and can slightly differ according to the type of source:

  • Print
  • Electronic

Therefore, the overall Vancouver consists of:

  • Direct citations of someone's work with an indication of a corresponding number;
  • A numbered list of references where you indicate all the documents, books, and other materials used.

The primary fields of the Vancouver citation style application are Medicine and Science disciplines.

That was our short and generalized overview of the most common citation styles you may encounter while preparing your academic papers. As you can see, each style has its particular scope of usage, and this aspect is precisely what can help you apply the appropriate one while working on your academic assignment. Never neglect the formatting requirements, especially if you are working on a term paper or thesis because such important papers require your utmost attention and thorough preparation.

In case you find your assignment too complicated or tedious to do it yourself, you can always entrust your paper to our experts and rest assured that it will be done according to your requirements. Our writers are familiar with most formatting and citation styles, so you won't have to worry about anything.

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