What are Citations? MLA, APA, & Chicago

Citations are the way scholars reference outside sources and ideas that are not their own. They include the name of the author(s), the date of publication, the title, journal title or publisher, and other relevant information like page numbers, version, issue, DOI or how the source was accessed. Citations consist of two parts: (1) In-text citations which reference the author(s), date of publication, or page numbers, and (2) the Works Cited, References, or Bibliography page consisting of the complete citation. 


  • To credit the author
  • To enable the reader to find the material


Citing orally during an oral presentation or panel presentation occurs when you verbally tell the audience who or where the information originates. For instance, when using a statistic from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, introduce the source during your speech by saying “According to a 2015 survery from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,...” If you plan to use visual aids, in-text citations should be added to each slide using the author(s) last name and year of publication (e.g. Smith 2019) and a References page included after your conclusion.


Use the following tips on basic MLA and APA formatting from the Purdue Online Writing Lab (Purdue OWL) and from Chicago Manual of Style on basic Chicago style tips.

MLA (Modern Language Association)

  • Follow the author-page method of in-text citations (Jones 365) with a complete citation in the Works Cited list at the end of the paper.
  • Use “qtd. in” for indirect sources (a source cited in a source) (qtd. in Jones 365).
  • Capitalize the title of a source in your paper and on the Works Cited page (MLA Handbook by The Modern Language Association).
  • Use hanging indentation and alphabetize resources on the Works Cited page.
  • Include a DOI or URL for online sources and end the citation with a period.

APA (American Psychological Association)

  • Follow the author-date method of in-text citations (Jones, 2019) with a complete citation in the References list at the end of the paper.
  • Capitalize the title of a source in your paper (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association), but only the first word and nouns on the References page (Publication manual of the American Psychological Association).
  • After a direct quote, include the author, year of publication, and page number for the reference in the in-text citation (Jones, 2019, p. 23).
  • When paraphrasing an idea that is not your own, include the author and year of publication in the in-text citation (Jones, 2019).
  • Use hanging indentation and alphabetize references on the References page

Chicago or CMOS (The Chicago Manual of Style)

  • Chicago style citations can be formatted using either the (1) notes and bibliographies or (2) author-date method.

Notes and Bibliographies: Sources are cited in numbered footnotes or endnotes, each corresponding to a raised (superscript) number in the text, with a list of sources in a bibliography. Commonly used in the humanities. 

Author-Date: Sources are briefly cited using in-text citations (Jones 2019) with a list of sources in a bibliography. Commonly used in the sciences and social sciences. 

This information is adapted from the GVSU Citing Sources Subject Guide.

NOTE: This guide provides general guidelines to follow when compiling citations, however there may be differences between discipline and class/professor requirement. 


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