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Workshop: Citation Basics: Home

Tips and Links to accompany the Collins Library 30-minute workshop

Sound Writing


Sound Writing is the official writing handbook on campus, written by student writing advisors and specifically tailored to the needs of Puget Sound students and their faculty.

In addition to supporting the development of successful academic writing skills, Sound Writing also includes sections on research methods, writing in the disciplines, and more.

The preliminary edition of Sound Writing provides help with three citation styles: MLA, APA, and Chicago (notes & bibliography).

Current Edition: August 2017

Disciplinary Differences

Frustrated by the plethora of citation styles?  The differences start to make sense when we look at things from a disciplinary perspective!


In the behavioral sciences, research is often done in teams, so a published research article may have multiple authors.  Because it would become tedious and costly to include the full names of all authors, the APA citation style asks for the last name and just the initials for the first and middle names.  Likewise, currency (how recent work was done) is hugely important.  Therefore, in the APA citation style, the date of the publication comes close to the front of the citation. 

An APA example:

Diessner, R., Solom, R.C., Frost, N.K., Parsons, L., & Davidson, J.  (2008).  Engagement with beauty: Appreciating natural, artistic, and moral beauty.  The Journal of Psychology, 142, 303-329.

When writing about literature, most scholars tend to work alone.  The focus of their work is on a literary text written by specific authors.  For this reason, the MLA style requires the full name of all authors.  Because currency is defined much more generously in the humanities than in the sciences or social sciences, the date of publication comes toward the end of the citation.

An MLA example:

Frye, Northrup.  Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays.  New York: Atheneum, 1957.  Print.

Citation Basics Q&A

Why do we cite our sources?

In academic work, we cite our sources for three main reasons:

  • To acknowledge the work and ideas of others
  • To demonstrate the amount of research we've done in support of our projects
  • To help others track down especially helpful or intriguing sources

Which sources do we cite?

In academic work, we cite ALL sources that we use in any way.  Sources can include:

  • Texts, whether formally published (as in books or journal articles), informally published (as in webpages), or unpublished (as in notes or manuscripts)
  • Images (art, diagrams, or other graphics)
  • Music (compositions, recordings, performances)
  • Videos, films, live performances
  • Computer code or solved mathematical problems
  • Interviews or other important conversations
  • Architectural or engineering designs, whether formally patented or not

When do we cite our sources?

We cite our sources whenever we use them in any way or fashion:

  • As background to our argument
  • As an example of an argument we are agreeing with, arguing against, or something in between
  • When we borrow language
    • Word for word (a quotation)
    • Paraphrase
    • "Apt phrase"
  • When we use ideas or structures

How do we cite our sources?

The set of rules or guidelines that governs how we cite our sources is called a "citation style."  There are several different citation styles that typically are used in academic writing.  The differences that have evolved between these citation styles reflect key differences in disciplinary values and methods.

  • MLA (Modern Language Association):  typically is used when writing about literary works.  The individual work of an author is highlighted.
  • APA (American Psychological Association): typcially is used when writing in the social sciences and some sciences.  The currency of the work and the multiplicity of researchers on a project are highlighted.
  • Chicago:  The notes and bibliography system typically is used in the humanities, especially history, religion, Classics, and philosophy, because it allows for "content" footnotes or endnotes in addition to plain citation footnotes.  The "author and date" system is sometimes used in some social sciences such as anthropology, sociology, and political science.

Which citation style should I use?

  • In general, use the citation style recommended by your professor. 
  • When your professor says, "Just pick one style and use it consistently," you have two choices:
    • Use the citation style you're most familiar with, although sometimes this can lead to difficulties because of disciplinary differences in the types of sources that are used; or
    • Use the citation style common to the discipline of the course you're taking, even if you need to spend more time learning it.

Need help with citations?

If you have any questions about when or how to cite the sources you are using, please don't hesitate to ask any librarian! We're here to help you!

The Library's main Citation Tools page also offers many tips and examples.

Academic Integrity

Citation of sources is just one aspect of academic integrity.  Learn more about academic integrity: