“Remember to include a Works Cited page with your paper.” Those famous, horrid words of every student’s writing history. Briefly, citations are the bane of our existence. Nobody seems to agree one way or another how something should be cited, a common citing method, or what method to use.
I think writers eventually develop a favorite, based on ease and familiarity throughout their writing career (academic or otherwise), and stick with it. The most common is MLA (Modern Language Association), with the probable runner-up being Chicago style. APA (American Psychological Association) is likely next, followed by AP (Associated Press).
These may be prominent types of citation styles, but they reflect particular compositional outlets. MLA is often used for academic papers. Chicago is used by writers, editors, and publishers. APA is used for psychology and other social science papers. AP is used for news. From my work with the Missouri Archaeological Society (MAS), I can also include SAA (Society for American Archaeology) style, which is used in archaeological manuscripts.
The difference between the citation methods I have mentioned is their arrangement, sometimes the information they include. However, MLA is the basic citation method I will cover in this post. It is the most popular method for students in academia, from high school composition to doctorate-level coursework. (I know Microsoft Word has a handy-dandy auto-cite feature, but I learned to cite manually.) This format is often used for single-author book citations.
… General outline: Author’s last name, Author’s first name. Title and subtitle of work (underlined). Place of publication: Publisher, Date.
… Looks like: McHetts, Fargo. Bookwyrm. Internet: Blogger, 2010.
Your source page should be double-spaced throughout, and citations should each begin left-aligned with subsequent lines indented.
To indent your citations in Word:
- To highlight the text you want to cite, left-click and drag.
- Right-click inside the selected text, and then select Paragraph.
- Find Indentation. On the Special drop-down box, select Hanging.
- Find Spacing. On the Line Spacing drop-down box, select Double.
- In the bottom-right corner of the Paragraph box, click OK.
A few useful references
New editions appear every year, so find the most recent publication from the following list. I have included author and title, so they should still be easy for you to find. I have included the edition number for those I have on my writing resource shelf.
- Hacker, Diana. A Writer’s Reference. 6th ed, 2003.
- The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers. 15th ed, 2007.
- The Associated Press Stylebook. 42nd ed, 2007.
The source book you need to correctly list your sources will vary according to your field of study or profession, your writing or publication needs, and what makes the most sense to you. Those three books are what I used most.