From the moment you enroll in your first introductory class to the moment you’re finishing up the last class of your degree, the most consistent element of the entire journey will be the need to become intimately familiar with citation formats. While each department has its own preferences, here are the best and worst formats to use.
This is a controversial take but it must be said — Chicago is vastly inferior to every other citation style. People argue that the footnotes make the text look cleaner and don’t break up the flow of the page, but arguably the footnotes break up the flow by taking up valuable page space. There are far too many quotation marks in the bibliography and the word “bibliography” doesn’t make sense for a research paper. Chicago pays more attention to the people who wrote the work cited, but don’t think you’ll be calling any authors by their first names any time soon.
MLA deserves some bullying. At surface level it looks easy and nice, but it makes your life harder for no reason with its unnecessary complications. If you’re in English (boohoo) you’re gonna be stuck with this format for the rest of your life. Have fun writing like you’re in middle school. It’s only marginally better than Chicago, but its greatest folly is how unoriginal it is. It’s basic and bland with nothing exciting, which makes it more forgettable than anything else.
APA can do no wrong. It’s clean and simple without all the bells and whistles of the sillier citations. It conveys all the necessary information needed to make sure you’re giving credit where credit is due without needing to be on a first-name basis with the authors. It’s pleasing to look at with clean in-text citations and reference lists.
These are the three citation formats you’ll come into contact with the most throughout your degree. Your professor will likely have a preference and specify which one to use, but on those rare occasions you’re free to decide which one to use, remember this list.
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