Choose a Citation Style

Secondary schools in the U.S. most commonly teach the MLA style  for citing sources and formatting papers.  However there are many, many other citation styles used by scholars across disciplines.  Villanova University leaves the choice of which style to use up to scholars.  These tips should help you choose an appropriate style guide.

  • Consult your syllabus or research assignment to find out if a style guide is specified.
  • Ask your professor which citation style is required or recommended.
  • If your professor leaves the style up to you, use a style you are familiar with or adopt a style commonly used by the discipline. (See Top Style Guides)
  • Whichever style you choose use it consistently throughout your paper.
  • Always check citations against authoritative examples.
  • Ask your librarian or the Writing Center for assistance with citations.


What to Cite

All citation styles agree that is it is essential to credit the ideas, theories and research relied upon.  Thorough citation practice ensures the avoidance of plagiarism, the appropriation of another authors work as your own, and is important for maintaining academic integrity.  Good citations make it easy for readers to find your sources. Take care to cite:

  • Direct quotations
  • Paraphased materials
  • Facts, ideas, and theories that are not common knowledge for your intended audience
  • Data, images and visualizations compiled by others
  • Your own words previously published or submitted (to avoid self plagiarism)


Parts of Citations

Information and ideas are conveyed through an array of formats.  Depending on the research area, books, journal articles, online news sources, magazines, audio files, videos, web sites, blogs, statistics, data sets, visualizations, reports, archival materials, legal materials, poems or classical texts such as the Bible or Qur'an may be used.  Each citation style treats these formats differently, but the following list of reference components are common.

  • Author, editor or creator
  • Publication date
  • Titles
  • Publishers
  • Volumes, issues and pages
  • Uniform Resource Locators (URL) or Digial Object Identifiers (DOI)


Top Citation Style Manuals

The Purdue OWL offers reliable, but not authoritative, guidance on how to use APA, MLA & the Chicago styles.

Chicago Style

Commonly used in history, philosopy & theology

Chicago Manual of Style is the authoritative & preferred style for history classes.

Falvey Library History Style Guide & Citation Management lists additional aids for Chicago Style

APA Style

Commonly used in social sciences, business & nursing

Publication Manual of the American Pscyhological Association is the authoritative & preferred style.  It is only available in PRINT in the library and is not online.

APA Style Guide to Electronic References is an authoritative ebook that only covers how to cite digital references.

APA Style Blog is an authoritative source for finding out how to cite unusual materials

Falvey Library Nursing Style Guides lists additional aids for APA style

MLA Style

Commonly used in English, philosophy, ACS, theology and humanities

MLA Handbook is the authoritative and perferred style for humanities.  It is only available in PRINT in the library and it not online.

MLA Style Center offers tutorials on how to create citations in MLA stye and has a FAQ center.


Citation Generators and Managers

Library databases, software like Word and free citation generators such as NoodleTools Express, Bibme or ZoteroBib can be used to quickly and easily make citations.  Keep in mind these tools are not perfect and it is your responsibility to check the citations generated against authoritative examples.

Citation management tools listed below are useful for saving,organizing and sharing extensive bibliographies. These recommended tools require you to download and run the software on your machine.  They have plugins for Word and browser extensions.