Which Citation Style Should I Use?
When preparing to write an academic paper, the question arises of which
citation style to use.
In principle almost any method that clearly establishes basic academic
citation requirements would work. If citations establish the
following details, they will have provided adequate scholarly citation
information regardless of the style in which it is given (Merriam-Webster
Often only three of the above categories are needed numbers 1, 2,
and 3 as in the sample MLA "Works Cited" listing below for a
book by a single author. The in-text citation for this book would
simply be (Brown xx), with "xx" indicating the page number of the
reference. (See In-Text
Citation Punctuation Format for other examples.)
- The author's name (lastname, firstname.)
- The title of the work, and
- The publication data (the city [and sometimes
state and country] where the publisher is located,
the name of the publisher, and the year of publication)
(and, where relevant, the)
- Editor, compiler or translator; the
- Edition, volume number or number of volumes; the
- Name of the series (if it is a 'serialized' publication), and
- Portion of the work which was used [add the relevant
page numbers if only part of a book was used, such as one chapter
from an anthology; or the volume number if only one volume in a series was
- (Electronic sources may require additional "locator" or
Additional categories would be used if the citation was for an article in
an anthology, or it was a translated work, or if only certain pages from
the complete work had been consulted.
- Brown, John. How to Cite Things. Tampere: Enlightenment
Styles for Different Languages, and Different University
University departments often have an established style their students are
expected to use. These provide consistency and easier comparability for
papers written within the department. PK6 will focus on the MLA
style, as used by English Translation, with mention of selected other
These include the APA style of the American Psychological
Association (see How Do They
Differ?), and the British "Harvard Referencing System"
(see PDF overview).
Harvard Style is used in the Tampere Journalism Department, and, as one
of the "author/date" citation styles, is similar to the Finnish SFS-5342 citation standard(s). There are also many
other profession-specific or "generic" styles, including the International
Organization For Standardization's ISO 690 (1987) (general text
citation) and ISO 690-2 (1997) (electronic citations)
recommendations, which are also part of SFS-5342.
"Professional" Styles vs "House Styles"
The MLA Style might be thought of as a "professional" style,
since it was designed particularly for the needs of academic professionals
in the Humanities. Likewise APA was designed for academic
professionals in the Social Sciences.
There are also so-called "house styles," which are
used to provide consistency within a university department, or publishing
house, or corporation, for instance. The English Section Text Layout and Usage Guidelines, along
with the English
Section Modified Style suggestions, are an example of a "house style."
The objective of the "house style" is to simplify student and staff work
by providing guidelines which meet scholarly requirements in a fashion
that is clear, consistent, and easily comparable.
So Which Style Should I Use?
For papers written in English within the Department of Translation
Studies, the conventions of the MLA in its current published
version will always be the "authoritative" style.
However, English Section students may also use the "Modified-MLA house
style" (cf. What's the Difference?). As the
modified procedure results in a quicker, simpler and clearer layout, it
may be used for all English Section papers (unless the instructor
specifies otherwise) even if it differs slightly from MLA conventions.
Papers Written for Other Departments, Organizations, Publishers ...
When writing papers outside the English Section, or if there is any
question even within the English Section whether some other style should
be used for the paper in question, it would be prudent to inquire about
which style (and which version of that style) is expected
before starting your paper, as the type of citation detail you will
need to collect in your research may differ according to the style which
With any "citation style," including MLA, there are several
- No citation style is an absolute, unchanging "standard": all published
style guides are regularly revised, as frequently as every 3-5 years, to
bring the guidelines up-to-date with changing technologies of how research
is being produced and published.
The objectives include both covering new modes of how scholarly
research material has been published (in recent years web and PDF files,
or archive databases which have been published in CD-ROM or DVD format, as
well as MP3 and streaming audio formats for interviews, etc., are all
examples of such new modes), and making it easier for scholars to produce
"standard" citations via newer word-processing capabilities or with an eye
toward the need to convert a digital text from its original format into
other publication modes.
Thus, one must determine which edition of which
citation style is expected for the paper in question. If there is a
"house style," use that. If one of the professional style guides, such as
MLA or APA, has been recommended, use its current
- There are different "standards" of citation style within different
languages as well. This is a common problem within multilingual
environments such as the Department of Translation Studies. Translation
students, for example, may be studying several different languages, each
of which may have its own "standard" citation styles which differ from
those used in English. Thus it may happen that an instructor expects
papers to be written according to the conventions of his or her own
language, and not necessarily be aware that the citation style would
differ in another language. It is up to the student in such cases to
determine the appropriate citation procedure for each language,
just as one must distinguish otherwise between the conventions of
- One must also be prepared for the possibility that an instructor
may not realize that a certain "standard" style has changed from what
(s)he had once learned or last used. In other words, an instructor may
"expect" students to use a citation style that is now obsolete according
to the currently-published guide for that style. Conversely, sometimes
there could be a reason to use an older version that the style publishers
themselves no longer consider current.
In any case, if an instructor requests a student to use a style other
than the current "house style" or current published "standard"
English-language (MLA, APA, etc.) style, the student should ask the
instructor why an older or differing style must be used, and the
instructor should be able to justify the reason(s) to the student's
satisfaction. Further, if an "older" standard style is expected that can
no longer easily be found in current bookstore or library editions of a
particular style guide, it should be the responsibility of the
instructor to supply the student with the relevant details of the
expected style. However, it is the responsibility of the student to
clarify all the background details concerning the paper before beginning
to research it.
Obviously, discussions between student and instructor in such a
situation may require tact. The point is not that awkward situations
would often arise, but rather that the nature of changing standards over
different languages may easily produce confusion even with the best of
intentions, and it is important in a scholarly undertaking that both
student and instructor are fully aware and agreed at the outset on the
"hows and whys" of citation procedure for the student's paper.
A Definition of "House Style"
The following three paragraphs have been paraphrased from the entry on
"House style" in the Oxford Companion to the English Language
"House style" is a term for rules adopted to bring uniformity and
consistency to printed material coming from one source, such as a
government department, publishing house, newspaper, professional
association, or commercial company. Such organizations usually find it
necessary to have a policy for points of style and usage that arise in
writing and printng, and occasionally in speaking.
House style will usually establish consistency in spelling, naming,
grammatical, punctuation, and other issues. Spelling examples would
include whether inquire or enquire, judgement or
judgment, or for example British or American variants should be
used. Naming issues include whether one refers to Moslem or
Muslim, Beijing or Peking, Holland or The
Netherlands, or whether the forms Myanmar and
Yangoon have superseded the previous Burma and
In such cases, individual writers may have their own preferred
solutions, but the house style rules establish a consistency of usage for
all writing associated with it. This makes quality assessment easier, at
the same time as it simplifies the writing and evaluation work of students
and instructors, respectively.
Works Cited (for a single-author book, an edited book, and a
book where no 'author' is identified)
- Brown, John. How to Cite Things. Tampere: Enlightenment
- McArthur, Tom, ed. The Oxford Companion to the English
Language. New York: Oxford U.P., 1992.
- Merriam-Webster Concise Handbook for Writers. Springfield,
MA: Merriam-Webster, 1991.
PK6 Class Schedule
Citation Examples Index
PK6 Reference Index
Last Updated 27 September 2011