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Research Guides

INFO 2010: Information Literacy in the Disciplines

This guide contains some of the readings for INFO 2010: Information Literacy in the Disciplines.

Citation Styles and the Disciplines

Research in scholarly and professional fields is a social process that involves many voices, past and present, discussing topics and negotiating meaning to build a shared understanding. New interpretations and discoveries can add to, and even replace, knowledge about established topics. Knowledge in any discipline builds on what came before. Entry into a scholarly or professional conversation involves learning what has been said, and offering new insights and perspectives while giving credit to the work of others by citing the words, data, images, etc. that you use in your own work.


Common Citation Styles

There are several citation styles* out there, but the big three are APA (American Psychological Association), Chicago Manual of Style, and MLA (Modern Language Association). Whatever your major, you will likely use one of these styles, and possibly more than one. We'll look at these more closely later in this reading. For now, let's focus on why we cite and what kinds of information are common to different citation styles.

Citation provides a way for readers to locate the sources an author uses. This usually includes in-text citations that correspond to a full citation listed at the end of the book, article, etc. In order for citations to be useful, they need to provide enough information that a reader can track down the cited source if they want to. This requires certain pieces of publication information that vary depending on the source. The order and formatting of these pieces vary by style, but citations typically include:

  • Author or creator name
  • Date of publication
  • Title of the object (chapter, article, video, etc.)
  • Title of the publication (Book, journal, newspaper, etc.)
  • Publisher name (Publishing house, website, etc.), if applicable
  • City and state of publisher, if applicable
  • Page number range, if applicable
  • Web address (URL or DOI), if applicable

Here are examples of citation formatting (note: the purpose here is not to be a citation guide, but rather to show the subtle differences in formatting of these styles):

Book Citation

  • APA: Author, A. A. (Year of publication). Title of work: Capital letter also for subtitle. Publisher Name. DOI (if available)
  • Chicago: Last name, First name. Title of Book. Place of publication: Publisher, Year of publication.
  • MLA Book: Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. City of Publication, Publisher, Publication Date.

Journal Article Citation:

  • APA: Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, volume number(issue number), pages.
  • Chicago: Last name, First name. “Title of Article.” Title of Journal, Volume, Issue (Year): Pages. DOI
  • MLA: Author(s). "Title of Article." Title of Journal, Volume, Issue, Year, pages. DOI

(*"Citation style" is a bit of a misnomer because these "styles" cover many other things besides citations, like writing style, publishing format, word usage, etc. For our purposes, we will focus on citations, but keep in mind that when you present information for school assignments, work presentations, or for scholarship, the broader elements of style will likely apply to your product.) 


Citation in the Disciplines

As we learned in Module 2, different disciplines study different things using different methods. The knowledge produced from these activities is held to epistemological standards (e.g., what counts as valid evidence). This is reflected in citation styles. For example, a biologist might cite a data set that has some uncommon publication information, while an art historian might cite a painting. Each discipline adapts its citation style to the materials unique to them. this can get extremely technical and require research just to find the formatting guidelines. To further complicate matters, some publications, like journals, have their own unique citation guidelines.  Still, most citation styles vary only slightly, and are similar to one of the big three shown above. Ultimately, it's a matter of paying attention and adapting. 

The sciences (social, natural, formal, applied) usually use APA Style, or something similar. So, for students in the sciences, APA will likely be the citation required for research assignments. Perhaps you've used it already. For more information about APA Style, you can visit the official APA style website. Other, more specialized styles used in the sciences include:

Those in the humanities may use Chicago or MLA Style, depending on the discipline. Disciplines related to the arts, literature, and languages usually use MLA. Diciplines like history and journalism use Chicago. Anthropology also uses Chicago Style. 

See the table below for citation styles commonly used by students in different majors.

***One free online resource for citation is the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL). This resource covers most common citation styles***

One of the challenges of being a student, and eventually entering a discipline professionally is knowing the conventions that apply to the way knowledge is shared. In many fields this is know as "the literature" (journals and books). This might also take the form of trade magazines, blogs, association publications, or conferences. Whatever it ends up being for you, do your best to learn how to enter the scholarly and professional conversations as a student. One of the best ways to do this is to ask your professors what kind of research they do and what citation styles are relevant to the discipline.


Major Citation Style
Accounting APA
Agricultural Science APA
Anthropology/Archeology Chicago
Biology APA
Business Management APA
Chemistry ACS
Communication Chicago
Criminal Justice APA
Elementary Education APA
English MLA
English Education MLA/APA
Exercise Science APA
Family Life and Human Development APA
Geology APA (GSA?)
Graphic Design MLA
Nursing APA
Political Science Chicago
Psychology APA