Getting Help with Citation Style

Graduate Student Resource Center

What’s the difference between MLA and Chicago? What citation style does my field use? Listed below are resources for the major styles (MLA, Chicago, APA) and an A-Z list of different fields’ citation styles.

MLA (Modern Language Association)

This style is most commonly used in the humanities, particularly by fields that study literature and/or critical theory, such as English or comparative literature. The fields of art history, film/TV studies, and philosophy may use either MLA or Chicago.

MLA publishes two guides for writing and documenting research: the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, written for high school and undergraduate students, and the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, for graduate students, scholars, and professional writers.

  • Official Website: The site provides links to both MLA style books. The only free resource is a brief FAQ page.
  • MLA Formatting and Style Guide — Information from Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab
  • Understanding MLA Style (11 min): A video guide to MLA that includes the 2016 updates, produced by Kyle Stedman, a professor of English at Rockford University.

Chicago Manual of Style

The Chicago Manual of Style comprises two systems of citation: (1) the “humanities style” (notes and bibliography) and (2) the author-date system Chicago is used by a wide assortment of fields, such as history, information science, and communications. However, fields that use Chicago may also use APA or MLA. Art history, classics, film/TV, and philosophy may employ either style.

The Chicago Manual of Style publishes a heavy hardcover book, The Chicago Manual of Style, as well as an online version (you will need institutional access, e.g., through a UCLA computer).

  • Official website: The Chicago Manual of Style’s website has an online version that is free to those with institutional access.

APA (American Psychological Association)

The APA style is commonly used by fields in the social sciences such as psychology, linguistics, and education. APA publishes the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, a pocket guide, and instructor and student manuals.

  • Official website — APA’s website has a number of free resources, such as tutorials about the newest edition and about APA style basics. The Style and Grammar Guidelines provide details of APA documentation style.
  • Read more about it:
  • APA Formatting and Style Guide: Information about APA formatting and citation from Purdue University's Online Writing Lab, with multiple examples and sample papers.
  • Watch video tutorials:
  • APA Formatting, The Basics (5 min)—A movie with voice-over and PowerPoint slides from OWL Purdue. (Note: The most recent APA updates are not included.)
  • Basics of APA Style Tutorial (20 min)—A tutorial from APA that covers not only documentation style but also manuscript format and reducing bias in language. (Note: The most recent APA updates are not included.)

Other Citation Styles by Field


Anthropology uses the style of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), which is based on the Chicago Manual of Style.


Biology uses the CSE stylebook, as published by the Council of Scientific Editors. CSE may also be called the CBE style (Council of Biology Editors).


Chemists use the guidelines set forth by the American Chemical Society (ACS).


Dentistry uses the National Library of Medicine style, or the American Medical Association style (see listing for medicine).


Civil Engineers often use the style set by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).


The Association of American Geographers' publication refers to a citation style based on the Chicago Manual of Style.


Law uses the Bluebook style for citation.


American Mathematical Society (AMS) style. Other styles are acceptable so long as one style is consistent.


Various styles are used, including APA or Chicago, but the American Management Association also publishes a guidebook:


The main resource is the guide published by the American Medical Association (AMA).


The American Institute of Physics (AIP) offers this free online style guide:

Political Science

Political Science may use Chicago or the American Political Science Association (APSA) style.


The American Sociological Association (ASA) publishes a stylebook.

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