Whether you’re writing a research paper for Biology class or putting together a presentation, it’s important to do your research and cite your sources. Never know which works cited style to use? Learn more about MLA, APA, Chicago, and other helpful hints.
Works Cited Page Example for MLA, APA, Chicago, and More
Research projects are a lot of work, but it’s worth all the hard work when your instructor gives you rave reviews, and you’ve earned top marks. You’re able to be successful on your research paper or presentation because you spent time reading dozens of articles and journals written by scholars and scientist.
Since they spent years of research to provide you with essential information, it only seems fair to give them credit, right? Citing your sources properly might be a little confusing, but we’ll discuss some of the different citation styles, share a works cited page example for each style, and give you all the information you need to give proper credit where it’s due.
Why Citing Is Important
Few people will argue with the fact that citing your sources is important, but you might be curious if it’s truly necessary. The answer is yes, and there are a few reasons why it’s so crucial. Not only does it give researchers, scholars, and other writers appropriate credit, but citing is a “must” for the following reasons:
- Avoiding confusion or “alternative facts”
- You won’t be accused of plagiarism
- It shows your professors, classmates, and readers that you know how to conduct research
- You learn more as a researcher
- You become a better writer
- It shows that you’re respectful and responsible
What To Cite and What Not To Cite
Depending on the citation style you use, there may be come different rules but if you’re wondering what should be cited in your work and what’s not necessary, here are some general rules.
- Books and journal articles
- Newspaper, magazines, brochures, and pamphlets
- Film, television, ads
- Websites and other electronic resources
- Letter, email, forums
- Personal interviews
- Diagrams, charts, photos, and other graphics
You Shouldn’t Need To Cite (But Double-Check)
- Your own collected data in a field study
- Your notes
- Your own journaling
- Your opinions
- When you use “common knowledge”
- Well-known facts
An In-Depth Look At Citation Styles
Now that we’ve briefly discussed the importance of citing sources and the do’s and don’t, let’s take an in-depth look at some of the most common citation styles you may use throughout your academic career.
While you already know what a citation is, you may not understand what a citation style is or how one works. Citation style is the rules for formatting, how the information you cite in an article or project is ordered, and how to punctuate; each style has specific rules for citing information.
If you’re unsure of what type of citation style you should use, always ask your professor. It’s best to double-check rather than assuming. Citing information incorrectly can take up a lot of your valuable time, and it can also negatively affect your grade.
APA is also known as the American Psychological Association, and this style is frequently used in the social sciences. Some general highlights of this style include an essay with a title page, abstract, main body, and references.
It should also be typed and double-spaced on standard 8.5 x 11” paper (with 1” margins on all sides). The recommended font is 12 pt. Times New Roman and page headers are a must.
When you create your works cited page, you should have References centered at the top, double-space the list, and the first line of your citation should be indented one half-inch from the left margin. The list should also be alphabetized. For more information on APA style and a works cited page example, click here.
MLA, also known as Modern Language Association, is a citation style commonly used by the Humanities. There are many similarities between APA and MLA, but rather than References and the end of your essay; you should have the words “Works Cited.”
A works cited page example will show you that you should have an alphabetized list and the second line of the citation should be indented.
The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) is a citation style that is used in the social sciences and the humanities. Rather than a works cited page, a note and bibliography or author-date is needed at the end of the paper. Notes and bibliography are often requested for arts, literature, and history while author-date style is better suited for science and social sciences..
As you explore CMS, you may also come across the Turabian Style, which is a variation of CMS and may be used in social or natural sciences and in the humanities.
Now that we’ve given you some of the most commonly used citation styles, let’s take a look at some other styles that you might be asked to use at some point in your academic or professional career.
If you continue to study the sciences, you may be asked to use the following citation styles:
- American Chemical Society (ACS) for Chemistry
- American Institute of Physics (AIP) for Physics
- American Medical Association (AMA) for Medical Sciences
- American Mathematical Society (AMS) for Mathematics
- Council of Science Editors (CSE) for Biology
- National Library of Medicine (NLM) for Medicine
If you study the social sciences or law, you may be asked to use the following styles:
- Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) for Legal Studies
- American Political Science Association (APSA) for Political Science and International Studies
- American Sociological Association (ASA) for Sociology
- Bluebook for Legal Studies
- Maroonbook for Legal Studies
Finding Citation Style Resources
It would take a long time to explain each citation style in detail; thankfully, there are several resources available (and a majority of them are online). Depending on your coursework, you may have instructors that require you to purchase a citation style manual.
Even if it’s not a course requirement, it’s great to have on hand, and you may be surprised how often you use the manual. Although many people shy away from hard copy resources and would instead use the convenience of the internet, owning an official citation style guide may be more accurate and easier to use than finding all the information you need online.
While there are plenty of online resources that are legitimate, convenient, and helpful, don’t be afraid to utilize a writing or academic center if one is available; the people who work in these centers are knowledgeable in all citation styles and can help you make sure that you know which style to use.
If you don’t have a center nearby, head to your public library; a librarian should be able to assist you.
A writing or academic center can also be a great resource if you need someone to proofread an essay before you submit it to your professor. If you have any doubts about how your project or paper is formatted, you should get the feedback you need.
What About Citation Software?
Making sure you cite your sources correctly is definitely important and some people will go so far as to use citation software. Citation management software is also known as bibliographic software, and it helps you organize, store, and retrieve information from the sources you use (like books, articles, journals, online resources, and websites).
Depending on the software you use, you might be able to import records or PDFs from databases and add abstracts and keywords to your paper or project. Once you’re ready to cite your sources, the software helps you create a bibliography.
While citation software can be a helpful tool, it should not be your “go to” solution for the proper citing of sources. The software is not flawless, and you still need to know the basic guidelines of the citation style that you’re using (such as MLA or APA).
Another option to try, when you need a little extra help with citing your sources, is an online citation builder. These are often free and can help you do citations quickly. Builders do not work the same as software.
Some Final Words On Citation Styles
As you can see, there are many different citation styles to choose from, and while some are specific, you might have a few style options (depending on your paper or project). If you’re unsure of what style to use, always ask.
If you use a couple of different citation styles on a regular basis, it’s a wise investment to purchase a hard-copy of the style guide; these are relatively inexpensive and easy to find. If you’re buying a used copy of a style guide, make sure that it has all the up-to-date information and if not, be sure to gather the right info to make it a current guide.
Citations are important, and while it may feel like an overwhelming part of writing a paper, it can be easy as long as you know the basics of the citation style and how to create the appropriate works cited page.