Skip to Main Content

Tutor Guide: Citations

Using APA, MLA, and Chicago Style


When in doubt about citations, ask the O.W.L.  Photo courtesy of Phil Reed

One of the most reliable online resources for MLA, APA, and Chicago style citations is The Purdue Online Writing Lab (affectionately dubbed "The O.W.L."), where you and your students will find detailed style guides for all three of these styles, along with American Medical Association Style.

The library also has an online guide that provides guidance in the major citation styles. We also have copies of the major style guides shelved right near the reference desk.

Citing Archival Material

Citing archival material, such as a primary source letter or another print document, is different than citing other library material such as books, journals, or articles.  See the library's guide to archival citations for information on how to cite archival material in APA, MLA, and Chicago Style.

Why Cite Sources?

There many reasons writers cite their sources:

  • To demonstrate how they're drawing on and contributing to the existing scholarly conversation on a particular topic 
  • To provide readers with the information and experts they need to delve further into the topic
  • To give credit where it's due and avoid plagiarism

When you and/or your students are preparing a document, ask these questions to be sure your citations are complete.

  • Did I provide a reference for every idea that came from a source? Cite all of your sources, even if you rephrase the information in your own words. You do not have to cite sources for "common knowledge" - factual information that can be found in multiple sources such as dates or widely-known information.
  • Do all of my in-text references have a complete citation in my list of sources and can the reader easily move from an in-text reference to the full citation in the list?
  • Does my reader have all the information needed to find each source? 

Because scholars in different disciplines emphasize different things when they read citations, there are many different styles. The MLA style, used for literary studies, makes sure page numbers are provided in an in-text citation because the exactness of a quotation matters; the APA style used in psychology and other social sciences include the year of publication, because when research was conducted is considered particularly significant. The Chicago Style is used by disciplines such as history and religion, which value sources so much it is common to put all the information about a source in a footnote as well as in a bibliography at the end of a paper.

Whatever style you use, citations typically include author, title of the work, and publication information (for books, place, publisher, and year published; for articles, the journal, volume, date, and page numbers; for websites, a URL may be needed).

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License