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The Significance of Citation Style Guides in Academics

Written by CB Community

Wondering why a specific citation style guide is recommended when conducting academic research? Along with using some of the other tips on how to write a great paper in the previous blog post, there is no better way of showing that you have actually conducted the research and your work is authentic other than using the preferred citation style by your instructor. The most commonly used citation styles include the following: American Psychological Association (APA), Chicago, Modern Language Association (MLA), Turabian and Harvard.

the significance of citation style guides in the academic field



Improve the credibility of your paper with a different citation guide

Academic papers are characterized by factual details and they significantly differ from other creative papers that may be comprised of fiction and are solely meant for entertainment. It is for this reason that all the information that have been obtained from other sources should be properly substantiated to enhance the credibility of the paper. The other issue that should be taken into account when using a certain citation guide is to check the quality of the source of information. For instance, official documents, peer reviewed sources like journals, academic textbooks as well as official websites are largely viewed as authentic and recommended for papers earmarked to score good grades.

When carrying out researches in particular, it can be observed that almost all topics have somehow been covered previously by other authors. It is therefore, important to show that you have researched the information in your paper by supporting it with details drawn from other authentic publications related to your area of study using any of the listed citation style guide. On top of that, this approach to academic work helps you to avoid plagiarism. This is a serious offence in academic writing that often results in offenders being penalized and such scenario is not encouraged. Information that has been obtained from other people’s work and ideas should be properly acknowledged.

In-text citation: The basics

The basic rule that should always be observed is that in-text citations in different citation style guides are either comprised of direct quotations or paraphrased details obtained from a specific source. The author of the work and date of publication of the work should be identified. For instance, common in-text citation rule for different styles like APA and Harvard is author- date format in parenthesis such as: (Harvard, 2018). The last name of the author and last date the publication was updated are included in the parenthesis. In cases of a direct quote, quotation marks should be used and the page number where it has been obtained should also be included in the parenthesis in from of the year of publication. Other citation styles like MLA and Chicago should be comprised of full name of the author and page number when the same author is listed for the first time in the passage. Later on, only the last name and page number should be listed.

Proper citation style improves the presentation of your paper

The other important aspect about using any of the citation styles mentioned above when writing a scholarly paper is that they enhance readability. This typical kind of work is different from fiction hence all the sources of information should be properly acknowledged in such a manner that the paper smoothly flows. Readers need to understand the difference between an academic and non-paper paper from the onset to appeal to their interests to continue reading. An academic paper is comprised of in-text citations to make it different from other forms of ordinary papers.

Significance of a reference list

At the end of each academic paper, a reference list should be drawn and there are different rules to be followed depending on the citation style guide that has been used. The reference list provides finer details about each particular source that that has been used in the paper. Last names and initials of authors’ first names are provided in citation style such as APA and Harvard while full names are listed in styles like MLA, Chicago and Turabian. The other important details about the publication that are listed in the reference list include its full title, year of publication, place of publication and publisher. Other details like edition of the publication and editors if any should also be included. In case of online sources, the universal resource locator (URL) should also be provided. This list helps the reader to look for the original source listed should he or she be interested in obtaining more details about a particular topic covered in the main paper presented. Other citation styles like Chicago use footnotes in listing the references used in the paper.


Over and above, it can be observed that adherence to a particular citation style guide is a basic rule that should never be underestimated when writing an academic or scholarly piece of work. This enhances the credibility of the paper through supporting the claims made with factual information from credible sources. It is also important to stick to one type of citation style in the same paper to maintain quality and consistency. Above all, the writer should know the basics of a particular citation style guide so as to ensure that the paper smoothly flows. For more college tips, make sure you check out the other great blogs at College Basics.

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CB Community

Passionate members of the College Basics community that include students, essay writers, consultants and beyond. Please note, while community content has passed our editorial guidelines, we do not endorse any product or service contained in these articles which may also include links for which College Basics is compensated.