Referencing Styles: 11 Simple Comparisons to Help You - Custom Scholars

Referencing Styles: 11 Simple Comparisons to Help You

Why Compare Referencing Styles?

Referencing styles are different each with different formats and designs. Some of them have very subtle differences while others have glaring distinctions. If you are prone to using different referencing styles then it helps to know where the differences are. It helps to know how you know that you have cited appropriately.

Each was developed by a different group of people with different intentions. But then, over time these intentions have almost become irrelevant as people choose their preferred referencing styles based on factors like ease of use among others. Therefore, it becomes a little difficult to choose a referencing style to apply when you do not have instructions.

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The only way to pick a referencing style that best suits your needs is to compare them. Knowing the differences can help you determine which style is the least tedious.

There is no easy or simple style. You do not usually have a say in the style you use, as most educationalComparison of referencing styles institutions adhere to a certain style, which can also vary depending on the faculty. As with anything, you will become accustomed to the style required or stipulate for your academic writing purposes.

Academic journals usually have their own specific citation style guidelines. In general, most humanities journals use APA or MLA format, while most journals in the sciences use a variation of the Chicago style author-date system.

Again, see the Guide for Authors page on your target journal’s website to determine which citation style to use. A key difference between citation styles in journals is how they handle citing sources with multiple authors. Some journals prescribe using “et al.” for more than one author or more than three authors.

For these reasons, the table below compares three of the most common referencing styles.

Modern Language Association American Psychological Association Chicago Manual of Style
  1. In-text citation
MLA referencing style uses an author-page format APA referencing style uses an author-date format CMOS referencing style uses notes but may also use author-date.
2. Conjunction used for multiple authors The word ‘and’ Ampersand ‘&’ The word ‘and’
3. Citing books Book citations in MLA referencing style generally requires the author name, work title, publisher, and year published.Provide a publication city if the book was published before 1900 or there are two versions of a book (i.e. British and US edition). Book citations in APA referencing style generally requires author name, publication year, work title, publication city, and publisher. Book citations in CMOS referencing style generally require the author name, work title, publication city, publisher, and publication year.
4. Citing books with more than 3 authors Include the first author’s name, followed by et al. For 3 to 7 authors, include every author.

List by last names and initials. Commas separate author names. An ampersand should come before the last author’s name.

For 3 to 10 authors, include all names in bibliography, but only the first author’s name in notes, followed by et al with no comma before et al.
5. Citing multiple sources by the same author Use the author’s name in the first entry.

Use three hyphens followed by a period (in place of the name) for subsequent entries.

Order entries alphabetically by title.

Include the author’s name for each entry.

Order according to year (earliest first).

Use the author’s name in the first entry.

Use three hyphens followed by a period (in place of the name) for subsequent entries.

Organize in alphabetical order of the titles.

6. Citing articles in periodicals Although periodicals are cited similarly to most book sources, MLA referencing style makes exceptions for some periodicals. In APA referencing style periodical citation, authors are named by their last name initials; the publication year goes between parentheses and is followed by a period.

Only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized for article titles. Periodical titles are written in title case and followed by the volume number, which, with the title, is also italicized.

CMOS referencing styles periodical citations include author name, article title, publication title publication date, and issue information.

CMOS also requires citation of a URL if the journal was accessed online.

7. Internet sources For most online sources, the MLA referencing style asks for author/editor, title, website title, publisher/organization, publication date, volume/issue number, page numbers, and URL.

However, the URL should omit http:// or https://.

Whenever possible, use a permalink or DOI (digital object identifier) instead of a URL.

A date of access can also be helpful, especially if the source does not have a publication date.

In APA referencing style citation, online sources often include DOIs (digital object identifiers).

If a DOI is available, it is used in place of a URL.

The DOI is frequently found on the first page of an online source.

APA generally cites author, date, page title, site title, available page numbers, and a URL or DOI.

CMOS citation requires the URL or DOI to be listed at the end of the citation.

The date of access should also be included if there is no publication or modification date.

Citations for websites should be included in the notes, and only included in the bibliography if there are no notes.

Titles of websites are usually set in roman (i.e., no formatting).

However, titles of blogs, books, journals, shows, movies, and similar sources should be italicized.

8. Citing video and audio MLA referencing style format for multimedia sources considers if the entry is highlighting the contribution of a particular person, such as performer, director, or creator.

MLA also considers if a film or television show was watched online.

Electronic sources in APA referencing style format may include a digital object identifier (DOI) number.

When a DOI is evident, it may be used in place of a URL address.

An online source should include either a DOI or a URL.

When citing media sources in CMOS referencing style format, include as much information as is available regarding author, producer, sponsor, publication, medium, dates, site title, and any available URL.

An access date is not always needed in CMOS formatting.

9. Reference list Works cited Reference list Bibliography
10. Referencing style is suitable for English and humanities Social sciences and sciences Humanities and social sciences
11. Order of reference list Alphabetical order of the first last name


Alphabetical order of the title for sources with no known authors

Alphabetical In order of appearance by the footnotes numbers

Comparing referencing styles. Photo by Jason Dent on Unsplash


There is no cookie cutter solution to choosing a referencing style to use. This means that the right answer depends on what you need. Whichever one you choose, you should be able to apply it properly without mixing up the formats. As an academic writing service, we encounter all these different styles every day.

Therefore, our knowledge of the referencing styles is based on habitual usage. You can be assured that whichever referencing style you want to apply will be done perfectly. So reach out to us with all your referencing needs.

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