Skip to Main Content

How to Read a Citation: Citation Manuals

Citation Manuals

There are a number of citation manuals, which are used by the various academic disciplines. Some of the common citation manuals are:


Different style manual guidelines may arrange the elements of a citation in different ways. This is because each discipline places a different value on the different elements in a citation. When in doubt about how to create your citation, check your style manual. If you are not sure of which style manual to use, ask your professor which one he or she prefers.


In the following sections, you will see examples of the different types of citations you may encounter.

Why are citation styles so different?

Different citation styles are mainly used by distinct academic disciplines.  Each organization that has created a citation style guide for their academic discipline or profession tends to emphasize different elements of a citation in order to make it easier to both create and interpret what is being cited.  

One example: humanities researchers aren't often concerned with the date something was published.  A book or article about Homer, for example, published in the 1950s can be just as valuable as one created today.  The MLA citation style doesn't put the date near the front of the citation, because it's not as important.  However, in the sciences, date can be very important, as knowledge about new biomedical techniques or research into curing a disease, for example, can supercede previous research.  Therefore, dates are placed near the front of the citation in scientific citation styles.

The differences between citation styles may seem overly picky, but if you dig a bit deeper, there is usually a reason for why they are structured the way they are.

Citation Manuals

Where to find citation manuals

The most commonly used citation manuals can be found behind the Help Desk in Coe Library on Level 2.