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Academic Style Guidelines: Finding Your Way Around Style Guides

21st February 2019 blog

If you’re submitting an academic paper, then you’ve probably been instructed to follow a style guide. A style guide dictates how to format your paper, how your references should appear, and many other details, such as how to handle abbreviations, spelling and punctuation when there is more than one “right” way.

In other words, it sets a standard for you to follow, and this, in turn, helps your readers understand your meaning.

The three most frequently used style guides are the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA), the Modern Language Association’s MLA Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). These are the style guides you’re most likely to encounter, and they’re all big books, ranging in length from over 300 pages for the MLA to over 1000 pages for the CMOS.

Not to worry, though: you don’t have to navigate them alone – there’s plenty of help on the web. Below, we’ve listed where you can go to get clear answers quickly.

APA Style

APA Style website

APA Style blog

The Purdue OWL – APA Style

MLA Style

MLA Style website

MLA Citation Style Cornell University Library

The Purdue OWL – MLA Style

Chicago Style

Chicago Manual of Style online (one-month free subscription)

Chicago Style Q&A

The Purdue OWL – Chicago Style

Citation Comparison Chart

Also from The Purdue OWL website, this comparison chart will help keep all the styles straight if you have to write using a variety of styles for different papers.

How to Learn a Style Guide in 10 Days

Finally, if you want to get to know a style guide in depth, this self-guided tutorial will take you through the process in a logical sequence.

It’s worth your while to spend some time with these resources – especially those you’ll be required to use on a regular basis. Soon you’ll find that you remember details of what information goes where, whether it’s capitalized or not, and how it should be punctuated – in short, you’ll be navigating the style guides like a pro.

Gabriella Mangialardi.

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