You are exploring: VU > Home > Research > Topic Guides > Citation Styles: A Primer with Resources

Citation Styles: A Primer with Resources


When writing a research paper, citing your sources can seem like a daunting task. But don’t worry—although the rules for citation are quite specific, the Library has a number of great resources available to help you through the process.

Depending on your discipline and the kind of paper you’re writing, your professor may ask you to adopt a certain citation “style.” “Style,” in this instance, refers to a set of guidelines for listing your sources and formatting your paper so that your reader can easily identify the texts you reference throughout your piece. There are literally thousands of citation styles, but luckily a select few are regarded as standard in each discipline. Be sure to ask your professor which style your paper should follow before you get started. 

Here’s a run-down of the major citation styles along with some resources to put you on the path towards building that perfect paper:


The MLA (or Modern Language Association) citation style is common to most disciplines in the Humanities. If you’re writing a paper for your class in English or Theatre chances are you’ll be using the MLA style. In the MLA style, one embeds references within the text itself, and then lists more specifically the location of those references at the end of the piece. The rules for how to list a source are specific and vary depending on the kind of source you reference.

Here's a great web resource which delves into the specifics of MLA citation:

Or, if you’re looking for a more in depth guide, check out the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers available in print at the front desk of the Library. 


APA stands for American Psychological Association. This style is the preferred format of the Social Science disciplines, so if your paper dives into the technical details of human behavior, it’s very likely you’ll be using this style. Many disciplines fall under the umbrella of the APA, including Anthropology, Political Science and even Business.  

Here are some online resources about APA style:

You can also check out the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association available in Falvey for circulation.  



The “Chicago Style” is outlined and developed in the Chicago Manual of Style, available in its 16th edition both in print and in its entirety online for Villanova University students and scholars. This style is utilized in History, as well as Economics and Philosophy. It's important to note that within the Chicago style, there are different ways to cite sources depending on your field. As you learn more about this style, be aware of whether you'll be citing using the "author-date" system or the "notes and bibliography" system.

In addition to the online version, we have a print version of the Chicago Manual of Style avaialble for behind the reference desk, and even a web tutorial about working in this style you can find here:


Finding the right style for a paper written in a scientific discipline can be particularly tricky. In general, Science papers follow the preferred style of the journal to which the piece will be submitted. As undergraduates, however, you may not be doing a lot of submission, so it’s best to just ask your professor which style he or she requires.   Here are a few of the more common citation styles in the sciences, and links to guides for those styles:

In addition to these web resources, we have copies of the CSE Manual of Authors behind the information desk at the library. 


The Associated Press style is a set of format and usage guidelines for journalism. Many blogs and websites are also written in the AP style, so it’s good to be familiar with these guidelines if you find yourself doing any kind of public writing and publishing.

You can also grab the print version of the AP Stylebook behind the reference desk.


Finally, we also have two database programs available to the Villanova University community which help automate much of the heavy lifting behind documentation. These programs, called Refworks and Endnote, are ideal for someone working on papers, a thesis or a dissertation, and are available online through the library website. Remember that librarians are available to assist with these programs, and will occasionally give workshops if you're interested in learning how to use these valuable tools.

Again, this list is by no means exhaustive. If you find yourself working in a more obscure style, be sure to search the library website for guides, or ask a librarian what resources we have available to help you out. Remember you can also visit The Writing Center, located in the Learning Commons in Falvey, for help with citation styles including yearly workshops and daily tutoring.

Happy writing!

Contributed by Corey Waite Arnold 

jseibert Jutta Seibert
Director of Academic Integration
Falvey Library, Villanova University
800 Lancaster Avenue
Villanova , PA , 19085
Room 228


Last Modified: 2017-06-05 11:37:43