Cathy Aranda
Cathy Aranda

What Are the Different Citation Styles?

12 min read

Published on: Mar 28, 2024

Last updated on: Apr 5, 2024

Common Citation Styles

Academic papers are characterized by proper research that is backed by accurate citations. 

However, the citations must be provided according to specific guidelines so writers and editors can ensure uniformity and avoid plagiarism. These guidelines about citing sources are provided by the standardized citation styles.

The different types of citation styles are developed by academic institutions and publishers to standardize academic writing for particular disciplines. 

So what are the major styles, and how can you use them? This blog introduces you to various citation styles through examples, including APA, MLA, Chicago, and many others. Let’s read on!

Examples of Common Citation Styles

You may be wondering, how many citation styles are there? There are tens of them, but don’t worry; you will only encounter one or two citation styles in your academic career. That’s because, most of the time, each academic discipline uses a single or a few citation standards across the board.

Read on to see examples of the most common citation styles at work:

APA 7th Edition

Developed by the American Psychological Association, the APA style uses the author-date format of parenthetical citations. The 7th edition of the APA manual of style is the latest, with updated guidelines. It is used across social sciences.

Here’s how to cite in the APA style:

In-Text Citation Example:

According to Smith (2020), the phenomenon can be explained by...

Reference Entry Example:

Smith, John. Unraveling the Mind: Exploring Human Behavior. PsychPress, 2020.

MLA 9th Edition

The manual of style developed by the Modern Language Association is commonly used in the humanities disciplines. The 9th edition of the MLA style is the latest edition of the guidelines. 

Let's take a look:

In-Text Citation Example:

The protagonist's journey is a universal theme in literature (Smith 45).

Works Cited Entry Example:

Smith, Mary. Echoes of Eternity. LitScape, 2020.

Expert Tip

Check out our blog on APA vs MLA to learn the differences between these two most used citation formats. 


Chicago manual of style, is a common style used in various disciplines, from social sciences to business and management. It offers two documentation systems: notes and bibliography, and author-date. 

Here's a glimpse of both formats:

In-Text Citation Example (Author-Date):

The Renaissance period witnessed a profound cultural transformation (Smith 2020, 72).

In-Text Citation Example (Note-Bibliography):

The Renaissance period witnessed a profound cultural transformation.3

Bibliography Entry Example:

Smith, James. Artistic Flourish: The Renaissance Reimagined. ArtHub, 2020.

Expert Tip

Did you know that the Chicago Style of referencing is also sometimes referred to as the Turabian Style? However, they are actually different! Check out our blog on Turabian style to learn more. 


The Harvard referencing style is a general term that is used for a variety of custom styles that use the author-date format for in-text citations. Universities and institutions that use Harvard often define the formatting and citation guidelines themselves, so specific instructions can vary. 

Let's see how it works in general: 

In-Text Citation Example:

Smith's study (2020) illuminates the intricacies of...

Reference List Entry Example:

Smith, J. Navigating Societal Shifts. AcademiaPress, 2020.


The AAA style was developed by the American Anthropological Association, and created specifically for use in anthropological writing. It uses the author-date format of parenthetical citations and is closely based on the Chicago style.

The example below demonstrates how it works:

In-Text Citation Example:

Cultural diversity is a key aspect of human societies (Smith 2018).

Reference Entry Example:

Smith, John. Evolving Traditions: A Global Perspective. AnthroInsights, 2018.


Some political science journals adhere to the citation style established by the American Political Science Association, the APSA style

Here's how to cite your political science papers in the APSA format:

In-Text Citation Example:

Political ideologies shape governance structures (Smith 2016).

Reference Entry Example:

Smith, J. Power Dynamics: Shaping Political Landscapes. PoliPulse, 2016.


The ASA style is a citation format set by the American Sociological Association (ASA) to be used for academic writing in sociology. Following the common author-date format for in-text citations, it is easy to use and adapt. 

Here is an example:

In-Text Citation Example:

Social stratification is a persistent societal issue (Smith 2015).

Reference Entry Example:

Smith, John. Society's Labyrinth: Navigating Class Divides. SocioScribe, 2015.


Scientific writing needs to adhere to strict academic standards. The most common citation format in scientific disciplines is the CSE citation style, developed by the Council of Science Editors (CSE). 

It uses numerical citations, as shown in the example below:

In-Text Citation Example:

Results were consistent across multiple trials (1).

Reference Entry Example:

  1. Smith J. Unlocking Genetic Codes. SciTechJ, 2020.


In the field of electrical and electronics engineering, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) citation style is the norm. It is also used in other technical fields such as IT. 

Here's how to cite using IEEE format:

In-Text Citation Example:

The circuit design demonstrated promising results [1].

Reference Entry Example:

[1] J. Smith, Advancements in Circuit Design, IEEE Transactions on Electronics, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 123-145, 2021.


The American Chemical Society developed the ACS citation style to fulfill the specific needs of academic writing in chemistry. Researchers in the field of chemistry rely on the American Chemical Society (ACS) citation style.

It uses the numerical format, where the source is numbered between brackets:

In-Text Citation Example:

The chemical reaction exhibited a high yield (2).

Reference Entry Example:

2. Smith, J. Breaking Bonds: A Chemical Exploration. J Chem, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 67-89, 2021.

Vancouver Style

Commonly used in medical and health sciences, the Vancouver style uses numerical format for citing sources. 

Here's an example:

In-Text Citation Example:

Recent studies suggest a correlation between lifestyle and health outcomes [3].

Reference Entry Example:

[3] Smith J. Healthy Living for a Balanced Life. MedJourney, 2021.


The National Library of Medicine NLM citation style is prevalent in medical research. It is specifically designed to cater the citation requirements for medical writers. 

The example below shows how it works:

In-Text Citation Example:

Genetic factors play a significant role in disease susceptibility (4).

Reference Entry Example:

4. Smith, John. Genetic Predisposition to Diseases. NLMJ, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 45-67, 2021.


Along with the NLM, the American Medical Association AMA citation style is another style that is used across medical and health sciences. 

Here's how to cite using AMA format:

In-Text Citation Example:

Clinical trials indicated a positive outcome (5).

Reference Entry Example:

5. Smith J. Efficacy of New Treatment Modalities. JAMA, 2021.


Bluebook citation style is a common format for writing papers related to law. It is used across law departments and journals across the United States and other regions. It provides specific guidelines for citing legal documents, cases, and statutes. 

Here’s an example of its in-text citation:

In-Text Citation Example:

The case of Smith v. Jones (Title, § 123) set a legal precedent.

Reference Entry Example:

Smith v. Jones, § 123 (2021).


Along with the Bluebook, the OSCOLA is another citation style for legal writing. Used across the UK, the Oxford University Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities offers guidelines that are tailored to the needs of academic writing in law.

Below is an example:

In-Text Citation Example

In legal matters, the principle of stare decisis holds significant weight, requiring courts to adhere to precedent decisions (Smith 2020).

Reference Entry Example

John Smith, Precedent in Legal Decision-Making (Oxford: LegalPublishers, 2020) 45.

Types of In-Text Citation Styles

In-text citations indicate that a specific idea, fact, or information within the text of the paper is taken from another source. It also presents brief information about that source, while a corresponding full citation is presented in the reference list with detailed information. 

There are three main types of in-text citation formats:

  • Parenthetical Citations

Parenthetical citations are the most common and widely used citation formats. These citations provide basic information about the source, such as the author, year published, and/or page numbers, within brackets after the relevant text. 

Most common styles, such as APA, MLA, Chicago, and Harvard, among others, employ this format.


The role of artificial intelligence is expanding rapidly in various industries (Smith & Johnson, 2019).

  • Numerical Citations

Numerical citation formats involve assigning a number to each reference within the text, corresponding to a detailed citation in the bibliography. 

This style is common in scientific citation styles, including CSE, IEEE, NLM, ACS, and AMA.


The scientific community continues to debate this phenomenon [3].

  • Note-Bibliography Citations

Utilizing footnotes, the note-bibliography system provides brief information about a source used in the text at the bottom of the page. It contains a comprehensive bibliography at the end of the paper. This format is prominent in Chicago (note-bibliography) style.


The Renaissance period witnessed a profound cultural transformation.3


3 Smith, James. Artistic Flourish: The Renaissance Reimagined. ArtHub, 2020.

Which Citation Style to Use?

The choice of citation style is not the writers’ to make; in most cases, you are provided a specific format to follow by your institution or journal. Here are some factors you should consider when looking for a citation style to follow:

  • Conventions of Different Fields: 

Writing standards in various academic disciplines are defined by universities, institutions, and top-tier journals. The differences in style conventions are a result of differing standards.

The table below shows the common citation styles for different fields:


Conventional Citation Style(s)

Literature, Arts


Political Science

APA, APSA, Harvard, Chicago


APA, ASA, Harvard




NLM, AMA, Vancouver


Bluebook, OSCOLA

Science, Physics







CSE, Vancouver

Computer Science






Business & Management Sciences

Chicago, Harvard

  • Specific Instructions by Journals and Institutions:

When you write for a particular journal or publisher, you need to adhere to their citation style guidelines. Most journals and publishers clearly provide the specific citation styles and rules that writers need to follow.

So before setting out to write a paper, always check the requirements of your target journal, institution, or instructor. 

Summing up, the citation style examples provided above will help you get started with any format. Remember that each citation style recommends certain rules for in-text citations and formats for reference list entries. 

So whenever you are writing a paper, you should choose the citation style that suits your discipline and fulfills the requirements. You should follow the citation style guidelines consistently and accurately throughout your paper. By doing so, you will demonstrate your academic integrity, credibility, and professionalism.

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Cathy Aranda


Cathy Aranda (Marketing, Mass communication)

Cathy is a highly dedicated author who has been writing for the platform for over five years. With a Master's degree in Mass Communication, she is well-versed in various forms of writing such as articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As an essay writing guide author at, she has been helping students and professionals improve their writing skills by offering practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style.

Cathy is a highly dedicated author who has been writing for the platform for over five years. With a Master's degree in Mass Communication, she is well-versed in various forms of writing such as articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As an essay writing guide author at, she has been helping students and professionals improve their writing skills by offering practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style.

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