6.4 Citation & Documentation Basics

APA, MLA, and Chicago

The Basics of Citing and Documenting Source Material

Research papers at the college level (and some workplace documents) require some kind of documentation style. Documentation styles provide students, teachers, and researchers standards and specifications to follow for paper set up, in-text documentation, and references. They also have recommendations for writing style, word choice, and, in some cases, organization.

The most common documentation styles are APA (from the American Psychological Association) and MLA (from the Modern Language Association). Some fields and publications require Chicago Style (from the University of Chicago Press).

While it may feel tedious learning the different aspects of a documentation style, it’s important to remember that following style guidelines helps add credibility to your writing by providing you with a structured method for sharing your research with your audience.

Watch this short video, “What is Citing?,” from Cathy Cox at the College of the Redwoods to learn what citing is, when, where, and how to cite, and why it’s important:

Additional Resources

The following resources will help you learn more about the three different documentation styles so that you may properly cite your sources and correctly format your paper:


      • These websites can help you format your sources:


"Citation & Documentation." OER Commons Excelsior Online Writing Lab. [License: CC BY 4.0]
Cox, Cathy. "What is Citing?" Uploaded by SCCCLibrary, 16 Apr. 2016. Youtube.com.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Technical Writing at LBCC Copyright © 2020 by Will Fleming is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.