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American Studies

Why do we cite?

There are many reasons why it is so important to cite the sources you use in your research.

  • You demonstrate to your reader you've done proper research by listing sources you used to get your information.
  • You avoid plagiarism by quoting the words and ideas of other scholars.
  • You are being a responsible scholar by giving credit to other researchers and acknowledging their ideas.
  • You allow your reader to find the sources you used by citing them accurately in your paper by using in-text citations or footnotes in combination with a bibliography or works cited list.

Citing Your Sources

MLA 9th Handbook APA Style Book Cover Chicago Manual of Style Book Cover

There are many different "styles" you may choose from when citing sources. Your professor will probably tell you which "style" is preferred for your class. MLA (Modern Language Association), Chicago, and APA (American Psychological Association) are three of the most commonly used citation styles, but there are hundreds.

Recent editions of style manuals, which include detailed information and examples, are available at the Services & Information Desk at the University Library. If you need help on your research project, please contact a subject specialist librarian.

We have the Chicago Manual of Style available online as well as in print. For quick reference, there are many online sources. One of the best is the Purdue OWL. But be aware that the manual is always the most authoritative source.

Citation Management Tools

Citation management tools allow you to keep citations, full-text articles, and other research resources organized in one place. These tools can also be used to format your bibliographies and the citations in your papers according to the appropriate style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) To use these tools, you should be familiar with the target citation style in order to input information correctly and notice any errors in your bibliography. Please contact a subject librarian for further assistance.

End Note

EndNote is software that helps manage citations for bibliographies. Includes an add-in for Microsoft Word. For questions about EndNote, please contact your subject librarian.


Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network that can help you organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research. It includes a Microsoft Word plug-in and web importer. For questions about Mendeley, please contact Rachel Hinrichs, the Mendeley specialist librarian, or your subject librarian.


Zotero is a free Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, cite, and share your research sources. It includes an add-in for Microsoft Word. For questions, please contact your subject librarian.

Style Manuals at University Library

Major Citation Styles

Format Discipline
Modern Language Association
American Psychological Association
Social Science
Council of Science Editors
Life Sciences
Physical Sciences
Chicago Manual of Style
Social Sciences

APA Style

APA 7th ManualAPA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used in the social sciences.

The style uses in-text citations in the author-date style. For example, (Jones 1998) or if you are using a direct quote (Jones, 1998, p. 199).


Reference List example of a citation from a journal article:

Harlow, H. F. (1983). Fundamentals for preparing psychology journal articles. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 55, 893-896.

Chicago Citation Style

Cover of Chicago Manual of StyleThe Chicago style is often used in the humanities and has two ways of citing:

(1) notes and bibliography and

(2) author-date.

Notes and Bibliography has sources cited through footnotes or endnotes in their writing and through bibliography pages. Author-date is similar to APA style, with in-text citations referencing the author and date. For example, (Jones, 1998).


Bibliography example of a citation from a journal article (notes & bibliography style):

MacDonald, Susan Peck. “The Erasure of Language.” College Composition and Communication 58, no. 4 (2007): 585-625.

Bibliography example of a citation from a journal article (author-date style):

Pape, Robert A. 2013. "The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism." American Political Science Review 97 (3):343-361.

MLA Citation Style

MLA 9th HandbookMLA (Modern Language Association) style is frequently used in arts and humanities disciplines. MLA uses an author-page method of in-text citations. For example, (Steinbeck 250).

MLA uses a style of documentation that is based on a general method that may be applied to every possible source. This is intended to be a flexible method that is universally applicable.

When deciding how to cite your source, refer to  the list of core elements (see chart below). These are the general pieces of information that MLA suggests including in each Works Cited entry. In your citation, the elements should be listed in the following order followed by the punctuation mark indicated in the chart.

MLA Citation Elements: 1) Author. 2) Title of source. 3) Title of container, 4) Other contributors, 5) Version, 6) Number, 7) Publisher, 8) Publication date, 9) Location.

Works Cited example of a citation from a journal article:

Duvall, John N. "The (Super)Marketplace of Images: Television as Unmediated Mediation in DeLillo's White Noise." Arizona Quarterly, vol. 50, no. 3, 1994, pp. 127-53.

The following is a video from Kyle Stedman, an assistant professor of English at Rockford University, that discusses the various changes in MLA style in the new, 8th edition. He talks quickly, so put on the Closed Captioning by clicking the "CC" button on the video when it starts playing. 

How to Cite in Presentations

head with gears imageHave to give a presentation? Don't forget you still have to cite your sources. The presentation, below, is an overview of how to do that.