Top 3 Common Referencing Styles

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References/citations are a big part of carrying out academic activities including term papers, dissertations and theses. Considering how big of a deal plagiarism is in the academic society, one can easily tell how important references are to literary pieces.

This post contains the top three common referencing styles and examples for each one so you can get started with your own references!

Top 3 Common Referencing Styles And Examples

  1. American Psychological Association(APA):

American Psychological Association(APA) style is the most commonly used referencing styles. It’s used in the social sciences and humanities, including psychology, sociology and anthropology. Organizations such as universities and colleges often require that students use APA when submitting assignments or papers written by them. Professional organizations like the American Chemical Society also use this style of referencing because it reflects their expertise in their field of study.

APA also has an advantage over MLA when it comes to scientific journals: it allows for more details about what you’re citing (e.g., page number or paragraph number).

For example:

Sapolsky, R. M. (2017). Behave: The biology of humans at our best and worst. Penguin Books.

  1. Modern Language Association(MLA):

The second most commonly used reference style is MLA, which uses the author-date method. This method involves using an author’s last name and year of publication as the first line of text, followed by a comma and then their first name.

The next step is to add your own annotations about what you think about them: Is it still relevant? Are there any new insights from this work that have come up since it was written? Does anything need correcting? What research needs doing/has already been done on this topic (if any)?

Basically, the format for this referencing style is: 

Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Edition used(if applicable). Place of publication: Publisher, Year of publication. Medium of publication.

Example of MLA style:

Book with one author: Aprilson, Andy. The Emergency Budget Task Force Handbook. Mississippi: Haberdasher, 2001. Print.

Book with three authors: Christopherson, Charles, Ronald Swanson, and Roger Koltz. Fog Pirates: On Board the USS Hammerhead. Pickleton: Putters, 2001. Print.

Book with more than three authors: Niderbacher, Leslie A., et al. Penne and the Jets: A Love Story. Albuquerque: Partridge, 2003. Print.

  1. Chicago/Turabian Style:

Chicago Style is the third most common style used in referencing/citation. It’s also sometimes called Turabian, after its designer William Strunk Jr., who was a professor at Cornell University.

It’s worth noting that Chicago Style doesn’t use footnotes like APA does; instead, it uses parenthetical notes (which are in italics) or endnotes (not italicized). The bibliography usually appears at the end of your paper or article rather than before it like many other referencing systems do.

The other thing you’ll notice about this style is that there’s no need for you to have any kind of special program on your computer because all of these things have been done for you automatically by Word!

Example of Chicago style:

Note: Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (New York: Penguin, 2006), 99–100.

Bibliography: Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin, 2006.

In-text citation: (Pollan 2006, 99–100)

Author-date style: Pollan, Michael. 2006. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin.

How To Choose A Citation Style

There are many citation styles for academic papers, but these are the most common. However, the citation style usually depends on the academic discipline involved. Otherwise, the course professor can decide on the reference style he/she prefers for that course.


  • APA style is most commonly used by Education, Psychology, and Sciences.
  • MLA is the style most commonly used by the Humanities.
  • The Chicago Style is generally used by Business, History, and the Fine Arts.

Final Thoughts on Top 3 Common Referencing Styles

References are a vital part of your academic activities and they help you to get the right credit for your work. We hope that this article has given you a better understanding of what references look like and how to use them.

This is not an exhaustive list of all possible referencing styles but rather it should give you some information on what different styles may be like from each other so that when you go through this process yourself, you’ll know how to distinguish between them.

The most important thing is to make sure that whatever style you choose will be clear enough for the reader, but not too long or complicated either.

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