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The detailed rules of citation styles can seem arbitrary. It is helpful to remember that the point of citation is to become part of the scholarly conversation: this cycle of creation, dissemination, evaluation, critique, and exchange of ideas is an essential aspect of scholarship. Citation helps your reader to locate the materials you have used, and allows you to properly credit other researchers' ideas in your work.
You may be asked to use a specific citation style. Some disciplines have their own style. Part of developing mastery in your discipline will be becoming versed in the style you are expected to use.
Video Tutorial: Citation - A (Very) Brief Introduction
A helpful overview of citation, by librarians from North Carolina State University.
Video Tutorial: Schools of Citation
Duke University's Dr. Denise Comer discusses why there are different citation styles.
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
The website at http://www.apastyle.org/ offers some interactive tutorials and help with citing electronic sources. The 6th edition is the most recent, published in 2010.
MLA Handbook by The Modern Language Association of America
MLA style is widely used by universities, academic presses, and in the humanities subject areas. The association makes some information available through the style section on its site at http://www.mla.org/style. Be sure to look through the list of Frequently Asked Questions on their site to get the most pertinent example citations. The 8th edition is the most recent, published in 2016.
Note: access to the companion material at http://www.mlahandbook.org/ is available to individuals who have purchased the Handbook, but not to institutions.
Originally written in 1906, this tome has a rich history of providing quality guidelines for citing works and creating bibliographies. BU Libraries have a subscription to the full online version. The website also offers a citation quick guide that has many examples. The 17th edition is the most recent, published in 2017.
Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers by Council of Science Editors
"Now in its eighth edition, the indispensable reference for authors, editors, publishers, students, and translators in all areas of science and related fields has been fully revised by the Council of Science Editors to reflect today’s best practices in scientific publishing."
The official style manual for the National Library of Medicine (NLM), and suggested when citing documents from the associated databases MedLine and PubMed. The online edition supercedes the print edition as the most up to date.
Manage Your Citations
Citation Managers (aka Bibliographic Managers) are tools you can use to:
Save your references
Organize those references
Format works cited lists
Add in-text citations to the body of a document
Share references with others
For an overview of these tools, including how to select and use the best one for your needs, see the BU Libraries Research Guide: Create Bibliographies.
What's in a Citation?
All citation styles include the basic elements necessary to identify your sources. The order they go in and the level of detail you need may vary by citation style and the type of material you are citing.