Skip to Main Content
Go to Penn Libraries homepage   Go to Guides homepage

Citation Best Practices: How to Cite

Using citation management to support ethical, high quality research

Writing Your Paper

Citing as you write: 

  • In-text citation 
  • Footnotes 
  • Bibliography/Works Cited/ Reference List

The method and format you choose for citation will depend on your professor's preferences. They may require you to use a particular "citation style." They may also say, "use what you like, but be consistent." 

Being consistent means choosing a style and staying with it through the whole paper. Don't guess or improvise. It seems tedious, but remind yourself, that you are participating in a scholarly process and taking part in a conversation. This comes with a set of practices and expectations. 

What matters: 

  • Proper elements and order (author, title, source (book or journal?), page numbers, date 
    • if book: publisher
    • if journal: volume, issue, date
    • the form the content takes Smith, A. or Smith, Alfreda E. 
  • Punctuation 
  • Underlining or italics

Citation Styles

Each discipline has a citation style. Common styles include: 

  • MLA style -- usually used in the humanities 
  • Chicago style -- used in the social sciences and humanities 
  • APA style -- used in multiple disciplines including psychology and other social science majors

There are hundreds of styles.

If you are choosing your own style, choosing one of these three will ensure that you have all of the documentation you need to provide in-text citations and to create your bibliography using the right elements and formatting. 


The Excelsior Online Writing Lab is an option for finding examples  for the most up-to-date guidelines  for these citation styles

Penn Libraries Home Franklin Home
(215) 898-7555