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Reference styles

Reference styles give standardised rules for how to present the information about the sources you use. Typically, a style will describe how to represent information about author, publication year, title and page numbers.

There are many different ways of referring to the literature list from the text. For example, a style can use either author-year, footnotes or numbered references in the text. Which style you should use depends on your discipline, and the choice should be discussed with your supervisor. If there is no preferred style in your discipline, you should choose one style and be consistent. Harvard, is one of the most used author-year styles, and is used in the examples in Søk & Skriv.

The following are some of the most commonly used reference styles in academic writing:

  • American Psychological Association (APA6th) – author-year, commonly used in psychology, economics, educational sciences and health sciences
  • The Chicago styles (see the free guide at Purdue University or the licensed Quick guide)
    • Chicago 16 A – footnote system
    • Chicago 16 B – author-year, commonly used in the humanities
  • Harvard – author-year, a generally applicable system used in many disciplines (and used here in Søk & Skriv). (See for example Quote, Unquote).
  • Modern Language Association (MLA) – author -page number, widely used in linguistics and literature. (See for example the description at Cornell University).
  • Vancouver – numbered system, commonly used in medicine, health sciences and natural sciences.
  • IEEE (Institue of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) – engineering. (See the Citation Compass).

Reference styles also vary between different academic journals. If you are planning to publish in a specific journal, you should find out which reference style it requires.

Last updated: December 4, 2013

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