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Information Literacy Tutorial

Our Library's tutorial covers: research skills, critical thinking and information literacy.

Citation Styles

Commonly Used Citation Styles

The citation styles (also known as documentation styles or bibliographic styles) commonly used by NCC students are MLA and APA. Each style is associated with different disciplines (or areas of study):

  • MLA (Modern Language Association) style is associated with the humanities: languages, literature, philosophy, religion and the arts.
  • APA (American Psychological Association) style is associated with the social sciences: psychology and behavioral science, education, sociology, anthropology, business, economics, political science and criminal justice.

Citation Tips

Formatting Citations

While you conduct your research, you should collect all of the identifying pieces of information about your sources. To properly format that information in your paper, you will follow the organization guidelines laid out by the particular citation style you have been assigned to use.

All citation styles require similar information, and organize that information in similar ways. The difference is primarily what is included, order, capitalization, and punctuation. Learning how to use one citation style will make it easy to learn others. The organization and formatting guidelines for each style are compiled in resources called style guides.

Citing Tips

Citations consist of identifying information about the sources you are using in your research. To cite properly, you need to be able to distinguish between different types of information sources. For example, there are different rules for citing print versus online sources, and individual online articles versus articles from library databases. If you cannot find a certain piece of information (for example, many websites do not list an author or page numbers) most style guides will tell you how to handle these situations.

Before you start your research:

  • Find out which citation style is commonly used in your field.
  • Ask your Professor which citation style to use. Your Professor is ultimately grading you, so the decision rests with that person, not the librarians.
  • If you know in advance that you are required to use only articles from scholarly journals found in the library's databases (or another particular type of source), use the style guide to note the required citation information for that type of source.

As you research:

For every information source you identify, decide what kind of information source it is, and use the style guide to note the information you will need to include to cite that source properly. Keep a running list of that information as you search.
Often, we begin researching one topic and that research leads us to a more interesting topic. Keep track of citation information for all related sources, so you can easily find them again, if needed.

MLA 8 Format

There is more information available today, in more formats, than ever before, so the way we cite sources needs to evolve to keep pace. MLA 8 was designed to simplify the process, helping writers accurately and intuitively cite sources more easily, requiring that every source type follow the same format. This means that books, websites, periodicals, videos, photographs, and all other types of sources now use this same standard format.

MLA 8 requires researchers to locate the same “core elements” from their sources and place them in a standard order in order to create their citations.

The “Core Elements” of an MLA 8 citation, along with their corresponding punctuation marks,  include the following (in this order):

Title of the source.
Title of container,
Other contributors,
Publication date,

The appropriate punctuation mark will follow each core element, unless it is the final piece.  In this case, the punctuation mark would be a period.  

APA Format

APA (which stands for American Psychological Association) format is a standardized method for giving credit to those whose work you use.   It is important to let your readers know where you got your information. This style is used in courses such as History, Allied Health, Education, Nursing, Psychology and Sociology.

 Every research paper or project that uses outside sources must include a list of those sources at the end of the paper. This is called References and should list all sources in proper APA format alphabetically by the authors' last names.

APA format has specific forms for each type of resource you use: books, magazine articles, journal articles etc. It even differentiates between online and print materials. It may require inclusion of a D.O.I. or Digital Object Identifier number.

Every source you used must be included in your References page at the end of your paper.

Parts of an APA Citation

Each source format has its own citation format. In addition to the author(last name, first initial) and title:

  • a book will require the city of publication, the publisher and copyright date.
  • a magazine article will require the date of publication, volume, issue number and page numbers. 
  • Online articles require the DOI or digital object identifier, if available. If not, the URL must be included.
  • Articles from databases do not require the name of the database.
  • Titles of books and journals are italicized.
  • Capitalize only the first letter of the first word of an article or chapter title.


Citation Tools

In addition to citation style guides, there are numerous tools -- from basic to advanced -- to help you format, organize, and share your citations.