Reference Styles: A Brief Introduction

Reference Styles: A Brief Introduction

Writing an academic essay is a challenging task. Even after you have framed the entire document, there are a lot of risks to be taken care of. While writing research essay or a college essay, a large amount of information and evidence is included. This might lead to copyright infringement, which is called plagiarism. To avoid it, the names of quoted authors are mentioned as ‘references’. There are various styles of referencing which can be broadly divided into three categories: Documentary Note Style, Parenthetical Style and Numbered Style.

Documentary Note Style

In this referential system, the references are given in form of footnotes at the bottom of every page. Notes are indicated by a digit placed after the full stop ending the sentence to which the reference belongs. This is called the ‘note identifier’ and is usually a superscript. These then point to the footnote, which is written by putting the same number followed by the citation of the given source. At the end of the text, a list of all references is produced in the alphabetical order, called Bibliography. This style can be further divided into three categories, separated by subtle differences.

  • Oxford Style: In the Oxford style of referencing, the name of the author is written first. The first name is written as initials while the surname is written in full form. This is followed by the title of the cited work, with minimum capitalization of the words. Then comes volume number or page number. This is followed by the location of publication and year of publication.
  • MHRA Style: The MHRA style is similar to the Oxford style, but has one different feature. In the footnotes, the name of the editor of collection of articles appears after the title of the book followed by abbreviation ‘ed.’ (single editor) or ‘eds’ (multiple editors). However, in the bibliography, the name appears before the title of work.
  • Chicago Humanities Style: As the name suggests, this style is widely used in the field of humanities. This is slightly different from the other two. The name of the authors appears as given in the title of the work, be it full name or initials. The title of the work is capitalized in sentence style, that is, only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized. This is followed by date, in the order month, day, year, with the month spelled out. The subsequent lines bear an indent of 1/2 inch.

Parenthetical Style

This style is also known as the Author-Date Style and it is used widely in the field of science. It is characterized by in-text references. The citations are noted down within parentheses before the full stop ending the sentence, which bears the reference. This provides the reader with immediate information, without the need to look for footnotes or end-notes. In addition, at the end of the entire text, a list containing all the works cited is produced in the alphabetical order of the author name.

  • APA Style: This style was developed by the American Psychological Association and is used for research papers. In this style, the author’s name is cited first, with first and middle name in initials and surname in full form. This is followed by the title of the work with only the first word capitalized. This is followed by the publication date in the order of year, month, day.
  • Chicago Author-Date Style: In this style, the name of the author appears as given in the title page. This can be initialized or spelled out. Then follows the title name, with sentence like capitalization. Then the date is given in the order month, day, year. The month is completely spelled out. The subsequent lines are indented by 1/2 inch.
  • Harvard Style: This style is one of the most popular referential styles. The name comes first, with the first name initialized. In case of multiple authors, the names appear with last name followed by first initials separated by commas. The title comes next, with sentence style capitalization. This is followed by the date in the order of day, month, year with no punctuation.
  • MLA Style: This style was put forward by the Modern Language Association. The name of the author comes first, written as in the title page. In case of multiple authors, for the first author, last name comes first. For the rest, the normal rule is followed. It is preceded by ‘Ed.’ in case of editor or compiler. Then the title follows, with capitalization of first, last and principal words. Date is then mentioned in the day, month, year format. For month, the 3-4 abbreviation is used. All citations are double-spaced.

Numbered Style

In this style, citations are indicated with Arabic numbers within square brackets, which are usually in superscript. The references are then listed in a numbered reference list after the text. References are numbered in the order in which they first appear in the text. Same numbers are used to indicate references to the same author.

  • Vancouver Style: This is a popular form of the numbered style. The name of the author comes first, with initials for first and middle names. Then comes the title with capitalization of first word, proper nouns and abbreviations, which are generally capitalized. The date is then mentioned in the year, month, day format. For the month, the 3-letter abbreviation is used.
  • AMA Style: This style was introduced by the American Medical Association and is used for all medical research papers and journals. It follows the same format as Vancouver for name of author and title of work. However, the date is written differently. The month, day, year format is followed and the month is spelled out.
  • IEEE Style: Given by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, it is followed in the field of technology. The author’s name is mentioned by giving the first name before the surname. Then the title of the article is mentioned in quotation marks. The title of the book or journal is given in Italics. This is followed by the year of publication.

This introduction to the basic features of referential styles should be enough to help an academic essay writer differentiate between them. One should inquire the respective institution regarding the accepted referential style before starting the work. It is also necessary to stick to a single style throughout the essay; styles should not be mixed up. With these tips, one will successfully escape charges of plagiarism.