Referencing Styles

Today, there are various referencing (citation) styles that are in use. Different academic disciplines have differing priorities of what is important for the subsequent reader of an academic paper; different colleges, universities and publishers have differing rules about the citation of sources and referencing styles. For the purpose of this guide, APA style which is used mainly in the social sciences in various institutions is briefly discussed. The discussion is based on the APA manual, 6th edition, second printing resources by Angeli, et al. (2010). A few other referencing styles, namely Harvard, MLA, and Chicago/ Turabian are also briefly described.


Harvard Style

Harvard came originally from “The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation” published by the Harvard Law Review Association. The Harvard style and its many variations are used in law, natural sciences, social and behavioural sciences, and medicine.


MLA Style

MLA is an abbreviation for Modern Language Association. This style of writing is used mainly in English and the Humanities. To read more about MLA style, visit the official site at The MLA publishes two handbooks of MLA style, namely the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers and the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. Online Writing Lab (OWL) Purdue University Portal [] offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited.



Chicago Style/ Turabian

Chicago is sometimes referred to as Turabian or Chicago/Turabian. It comes from the “Chicago Manual of Style” and the simplified version of it, “A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations”, which Kate Turabian wrote. Chicago is used mainly in the social sciences, including history, political studies, and theology.


American Psychological Association (APA)

The American Psychological Association (APA) publication style started way back in 1928 as a writing style among the psychologist scholars and professionals. Over the years, the APA style gained acceptance in other scientific and non-scientific fields such as business and economics as a standard format for writing scholarly papers. Today, there are numerous scholarly journals, magazines, publishers and institutions that require authors to use APA style. APA style uses the author-date method of citation.


APA is an author/date referencing system common in the social sciences; it uses parenthetical in-text citations to refer readers to the list of references at the end of the paper. The date of the research is important in scientific disciplines, since it conveys how recent or indeed historical the material is, thus the author/’s last name and the year of publication appear within the text. Page numbers are used in the text only in the case of direct quotations, not for paraphrased material.


To read more about APA style, visit the official site at There are also simplified online resources of APA formatting and style at Purdue University Online Writing Lab at This proposal guide however outlines the most basic APA referencing guidelines that are commonly used.