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Cite Right: A Quick Guide to Citation Styles--MLA, APA, Chicago, the Sciences, Professions, and More

Cite Right: A Quick Guide to Citation Styles--MLA, APA, Chicago, the Sciences, Professions, and More

by Charles Lipson

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In his bestselling guide, Doing Honest Work in College: How to Prepare Citations, Avoid Plagiarism, and Achieve Real Academic Success, veteran teacher Charles Lipson brought welcome clarity to the principles of academic honesty as well as to the often murky issues surrounding plagiarism in the digital age.  Thousands of students have turned to


In his bestselling guide, Doing Honest Work in College: How to Prepare Citations, Avoid Plagiarism, and Achieve Real Academic Success, veteran teacher Charles Lipson brought welcome clarity to the principles of academic honesty as well as to the often murky issues surrounding plagiarism in the digital age.  Thousands of students have turned to Lipson for no-nonsense advice on how to cite sources properly—and avoid plagiarism—when writing their research papers. With his latest book, Cite Right, Lipson once again provides much-needed counsel in a concise and affordable handbook for students and researchers. Building on Doing Honest Work in College, Lipson’s new book offers a wealth of information on an even greater range of citation styles and details the intricacies of many additional kinds of sources. 

Lipson’s introductory essay, “Why Cite,” explains the reasons it is so important to use citations—and to present them accurately—in research writing.  In subsequent chapters, Lipson explains the main citation styles students and researchers are likely to encounter in their academic work:  Chicago; MLA; APA; CSE (biological sciences); AMA (medical sciences); ACS (chemistry, mathematics, and computer science); physics, astrophysics, and astronomy; Bluebook and ALWD (law); and AAA (anthropology and ethnography). His discussions of these styles are presented simply and clearly with examples drawn from a wide range of source types crossing all disciplines, from the arts and humanities to science, law, and medicine.

Based on deep experience in the academic trenches, Cite Right is an accessible, one-stop resource—a must-have guide for students and researchers alike who need to prepare citations in any of the major disciplines and professional studies. 

Editorial Reviews

Technical Communication - Tom Warren
"What makes this book especially useful for technical commuinicators as well as for students is that Lipson provides lots of examples for each system. . . . This $10 book is a real bargain and an excellent addition to the libraries of editors, proofreaders, and technical communicators, as well as students."
Technical Communication

"What makes this book especially useful for technical commuinicators as well as for students is that Lipson provides lots of examples for each system. . . . This $10 book is a real bargain and an excellent addition to the libraries of editors, proofreaders, and technical communicators, as well as students."

— Tom Warren

Product Details

University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing Series
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

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Cite Right

A Quick Guide to Citation Styles-MLA, APA, Chicago, the Sciences, Professions, and More

By Charles Lipson The University of Chicago Press

Copyright © 2006 Charles Lipson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-226-48475-4

Chapter One


There are three reasons to cite the materials you use:

To give credit to others' work and ideas, whether you agree with them or not. When you use their words, you must give them credit by using both quotation marks and citations.

To show readers the materials on which you base your analysis, your narrative, or your conclusions.

To guide readers to the materials you have used so they can examine it for themselves. Their interest might be to confirm your work, to challenge it, or simply to explore it further.

Taken together, these citations fully disclose your sources. That's important for academic integrity in several ways.

First, good citations parcel out credit. Some belongs to you for the original work you did; you need to take full responsibility for it. Some belongs to others for their words, ideas, data, drawings, or other work. You need to acknowledge it, openly and explicitly.

Second, if you relied on others' work in order to tell your story, explain your topic, or document your conclusions, you need to say exactly what you used. Take a simple paper about World War I. No one writingtoday learned about it first hand. What we know, we learned by reading books and articles, by examining original documents and news reports, by listening to oral histories, by reviewing data compiled by military historians, and perhaps by viewing photographs or movies. When we write about the war, then, we should say how we acquired our information. The only exception is "commonly known information," something that everyone in the field clearly understands and that does not require any substantiation. There's no need for a footnote to prove Woodrow Wilson was actually president of the United States. But if you referred to his speech declaring war, you would need a proper citation. If you used his words, you'd need quotation marks, too.

Third, your readers may want to pursue a particular issue you cover. Citations should lead them to the right sources, whether those are books, interviews, archival documents, Web sites, poems, or paintings. That guidance serves several purposes. Skeptical readers may doubt the basis for your work or your conclusions. Others may simply want to double-check them or do more research on the topic. Your citations should point the way.

What citations should not do is prance about, showing off your knowledge without adding to the reader's. That's just bragging.

Beyond this question of style (and good manners), there is the basic issue of honesty. Citations should never mislead your readers. There are lots of ways to mislead or misdirect your readers; accurate citations avoid them. For example, they should not imply you read books or articles when you really didn't. They should not imply you spent days in the archives deciphering original documents when you actually read them in an edited book or, worse, when you "borrowed" the citation from a scholar who did study the originals. Of course, it's fine to cite that author or an edited collection. That's accurate. It's fine to burrow into the archives and read the original yourself. It's dishonest, though, to write citations that only pretend you did.

Good citations should reveal your sources, not conceal them. They should honestly show the research you conducted. That means they should give credit where credit is due, disclose the materials on which you base your work, and guide readers to that material so they can explore it further. Citations like these accurately reflect your work and that of others. They show the ground on which you stand.

Chapter Two


Acknowledging your sources is crucial to doing honest academic work. That means citing them properly, using one of several styles. The one you choose depends on your field, your professor's advice if you are a student, and your own preferences.

There are three major citation styles:

Chicago (or Turabian), used in many fields

MLA, used in the humanities

APA, used in social sciences, education, engineering, and business

Several sciences have also developed their own distinctive styles:

CSE for the biological sciences

AMA for the biomedical sciences, medicine, and nursing

ACS for chemistry

AIP for physics, plus other styles for astrophysics and astronomy

AMS for mathematics and computer sciences

Legal citations are different from any of these. So are anthropology citations.

I will cover each one, providing clear directions and plenty of examples so you won't have any trouble writing correct citations. That way, you can concentrate on your paper, not on the type of citation you're using. I'll cover each style separately so you can turn directly to the one you need. Using this information, you'll be able to cite books, articles, Web sites, films, musical performances, government documents-whatever you use in your papers.

Why would you ever want to use different citation styles? Why can't you just pick one and stick with it? Because different fields won't let you. They have designed citation styles to meet their special needs, whether it's genetics or German, and you'll just have to use them. In some sciences, for instance, proper citations list only the author, journal, and pages. They omit the article's title. If you did that in the humanities or social sciences, you'd be incorrect because proper citations for those fields require the title. Go figure.

Compare these bibliographic citations for an article of mine:

Chicago Lipson, Charles. "Why Are Some International Agreements Informal?" International Organization 45 (Autumn 1991): 495-538.

APA Lipson, C. (1991). Why are some international agreements informal? International Organization, 45, 495-538.

ACS Lipson, C. Int. Org. 1991, 45, 495.

None of these is complicated, but they are different. When you leave the chemistry lab to take a course on Shakespeare, you'll leave behind your citation style as well as your beakers. Not to worry. For chemistry papers, just turn to chapter 9. For Shakespeare, turn to chapter 4, which covers MLA citations for the humanities. Both chapters include lots of examples, presented in simple tables, so it won't be "double, double toil and trouble."

Despite their differences, all these citation styles have the same basic goals:

to identify and credit the sources you use; and

to give readers specific information so they can go to these sources themselves, if they wish.

Fortunately, the different styles include a lot of the same information. That means you can write down the same things as you take notes, without worrying about what kind of citations you will ultimately use. You should write down that information as soon as you start taking notes on a new book or article. If you photocopy an article, write all the reference information on the first page. If you do it first, you won't forget. You'll need it later for citations.

How these citations will ultimately look depends on which style you use. Chicago notes are either complete citations or shortened versions plus a complete description in the bibliography or in a previous note. Their name comes from their original source, The Chicago Manual of Style, published by the University of Chicago Press. This format is sometimes called "Turabian" after a popular book based on that style, Kate Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.

If you use complete-citation notes, you might not need a bibliography at all since the first note for each item includes all the necessary data. If you use the shortened form, though, you definitely need a bibliography since the notes skip vital information.

Whether you use complete-citation notes or the shortened version, you can place them either at the bottom of each page or at the end of the document. Footnotes and endnotes are identical, except for their placement. Footnotes appear on the same page as the citation in the text. Endnotes are bunched together at the end of the paper, article, chapter, or book. Word processors give you an easy choice between the two.

MLA, APA, and the science citation styles were developed to provide alternative ways of referencing materials. They use in-text citations such as (Stewart 154) or (Stewart, 2004) with full information provided only in a reference list at the end. Because these in-text citations are brief, they require a full bibliography. I'll describe each style in detail and provide lots of examples, just as I will for Chicago citations.

In case you are wondering about the initials: APA stands for the American Psychological Association, which uses this style in its professional journals. MLA stands for the Modern Language Association. Both styles have been adopted well beyond their original fields. APA is widely used in the social sciences, MLA in the humanities. Chicago citations are widely used in both. I will discuss the science styles (and what their initials mean) a little later.

Your department, school, or publisher may prefer one style or even require it, or they might leave it up to you. Check on that as soon as you begin handing in papers with citations. Why not do it consistently from the beginning?

Tip on selecting a citation style: Check with your teachers in each class to find out what style citations they prefer. Then use that style consistently.

Speaking of consistency ... it's an important aspect of footnoting. Stick with the same abbreviations, capitalizations, and don't mix styles within a paper. It's easy to write "Volume" in one footnote, "Vol." in another, and "vol." in a third. We all do it, and then we have to correct it. We all abbreviate "chapter" as both "chap." and "ch." Just try your best the first time around and then go back and fix the mistakes when you revise. That's why they invented the search-and-replace function.

My goal here is to provide a one-stop reference so that you can handle nearly all citation issues you'll face, regardless of which style you use and what kinds of items you cite. For each style, I'll show you how to cite books, articles, unpublished papers, Web sites, and lots more. For specialized documents, such as musical scores or scientific preprints, I show citations only in the fields that actually use them. Physicists often cite preprints, but they don't cite Beethoven. The physics chapter reflects those needs. Students in the humanities not only cite Beethoven; they cite dance performances, plays, and poems. I have included MLA citations for all of them. In case you need to cite something well off the beaten path, I'll explain where to find additional information for each style.


One final point about shared bibliographic style. Most bibliographies-Chicago, MLA, APA, and some of the sciences-use a special style known as "hanging indents." This applies only to the bibliography and not to footnotes or endnotes. It is the opposite of regular paragraph indention, where the first line is indented and the rest are regular length. In a hanging indent, the first line of each citation is regular length and the rest are indented. For example:

Rothenberg, Gunther E. "Maurice of Nassau, Gustavus Adolphus, Raimondo Montecuccoli, and the 'Military Revolution' of the Seventeenth Century." In Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, edited by Peter Paret, 32-63. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986.

Spooner, Frank C. Risks at Sea: Amsterdam Insurance and Maritime Europe, 1766-1780. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

There's a good reason for this unusual format. Hanging indents are designed to make it easy to skim down the list of references and see the authors' names. To remind you to use this format, I'll use it myself when I illustrate references in the citation styles that use it. (The only ones that don't use hanging indents are science styles with numbered citations and legal citations. It's actually not complicated, and I'll explain it later.)

To make the authors' names stand out further, most bibliographies list their last names first. If an author's name is repeated, however, the styles differ. APA repeats the full name for each citation. MLA uses three hyphens, followed by a period. Chicago uses three em dashes (that is, long dashes), followed by a period.

Lipson, Charles. Barbecue, Cole Slaw, and Extra Hot Sauce. Midnight, MS: Hushpuppy, 2006.

--. More Gumbo, Please. Thibodeaux, LA: Andouille Press, 2005.

You can arrange hanging indents easily on your word processor. Go to the format feature and, within it, the section on paragraphs. Choose hanging indentation instead of regular or none.


So far, we have covered some basic issues that apply to most citation styles. There are, of course, lots more questions, some that apply to all styles and some that apply only to one or two. Rather than cover these questions now, I'll handle them in the chapters on individual citation styles and in a final chapter on Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

If you have questions that aren't covered in the chapter on your citation style, be sure to check the FAQ chapter. If you still have questions, you can always go to the reference books for each style. Most styles have them (but not all). I'll list them in the chapters for individual styles.


I have organized the references so they are most convenient for you, putting all the documentation for each style in its own chapter.

Chapter 3: Chicago (or Turabian) citations

Chapter 4: MLA citations for the humanities

Chapter 5: APA citations for the social sciences, education, engineering, and business

Chapter 6: AAA citations for anthropology and ethnography

Chapter 7: CSE citations for the biological sciences

Chapter 8: AMA citations for the biomedical sciences, medicine, and nursing

Chapter 9: ACS citations for chemistry

Chapter 10: Physics, astrophysics, and astronomy citations

Chapter 11: Mathematics and computer science citations

Chapter 12: Bluebook legal citations

Chapter 13: ALWD legal citations

Fortunately, they're very straightforward. They're mostly examples, showing you how to cite specific kinds of sources, such as the third edition of a popular book or a chapter in an edited volume. I've included lots of examples of electronic documents, too, from Weblogs and databases to electronic versions of print documents.

Don't bother trying to memorize any of these styles. There are simply too many minor details. Just follow the tables, and you'll be able to handle different sources-from journal articles to Web pages-in whichever style you need to use. Later, as you write more papers, you'll become familiar with the style you use most.

After explaining each style, I'll answer some common questions that apply to all of them. That's in chapter 14. Now, let's see how to do citations and bibliographies in the specific style you want to use.


Excerpted from Cite Right by Charles Lipson Copyright © 2006 by Charles Lipson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Charles Lipson is professor and director of undergraduate studies in political science at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Doing Honest Work in College: How to PRepare Citations, Avoid Plagiarism, and Achieve Real Academic Success and How to Write a BA Thesis, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

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