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Style Manuals

What are style manuals and why do you use them?

Style manuals are books that illustrate how to correctly format and record information. They are most frequently consulted for information on formatting citations, but they also include a variety of other information that is useful for research, including where to find information for the bibliography, general rules of punctuation, formatting footnotes, spacing, indention, form of author's name, etc.

When your professors publish an article, they follow a style manual, too. Using the right citation style is an important part of learning to do research in your field.

There are several different styles used in research with style manuals for each style. Only three of the styles are shown here. The three that are shown below are styles which are frequently used in colleges and universities.

Where do you find style manuals?

Cover of The Essentials of MLA Style:  A Guide to Documentation for Writers of Research Papers by Joseph F. Trimmer. MLA
Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th ed., NY: Modern Language Association, 1999.

Used for literature, arts, and humanities papers.

Cover of Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) APA
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. 6th ed. Washington: American Psychological Association, 1994.

Used for psychology, education, and other social sciences papers.

The APA guide was published too early to provide formats for electronic sources. They have a Web site which provides this information: Electronic Reference Formats Recommended by the American Psychological Association (link will open in a pop-up window)

Cover of A Manual for Writers of Terms papers, Theses and Dissertations by Kate Turabian Turabian
Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. 7th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Designed for college students to be used in various subjects.

How do you know which style manual to use?
The instructor for a course will usually indicate the style you should use to write the paper and prepare your bibliography.

The style used is also determined by the subject area in which you are conducting research and writing a paper. If you don't know, then ask.

Keep in mind that style manuals are updated as it becomes necessary to add or modify information in them. Therefore, at some point in time, the style manuals shown above will be updated as later editions (and have different covers).

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