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Academic Formatting Styles

Posted on: 2017-08-18 09:20

You have to complete loads of different assignments during your education process: PowerPoint presentations, projects, laboratory works, etc. But most papers are to be written using one of the academic formatting styles. The most troubles are caused by the question how sources that you used in your essay, article or term paper are to be referenced and cited.

Why Academic Formatting Styles are Important

By providing the original source you show that you have read it widely and deeply, understand the topic and who are contributors to its development. You help your professor to locate where you obtained each idea.

Finally, a reference list is always required when you cite someone else's work within your assignment if you do not want to be charged with plagiarism.

Main World Formatting Styles

Four main citation styles are generally accepted in the world: Harvard, APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), and Chicago. The style you need to follow usually depends on the discipline involved. For example:

  • Harvard style is used in Chemistry, Environmental Studies, Economics, etc.
  • APA style is common in Sociology, Medicine, Psychology, etc.
  • MLA style is generally accepted in English Studies, Literature, Cultural Studies, etc.
  • Chicago style is used in Business, Fine Arts, History, etc.

There are lots of other referencing styles in the world, so you should consult your professor to determine precisely which one you are to use. Let’s examine and compare these four academic formatting styles.


In-text citation

If you cite a source directly, it should be shown in quotation marks and/or in italics. Include the author’s last name and page number in round brackets after it. You can use a number of a paragraph if there is not a page number. If both options are not available, use 'n.p' or 'n. pag.' to indicate this. Here is an example: “Harvard is a widespread referencing style” (Brown 2017, p.16).

If you use an author’s idea without quoting it directly, a page number is not necessary. Take note, if you use the author’s last name in a sentence, only a year of publication will be in parentheses, e.g.: Brown noticed that Harvard is considered to be a widespread referencing style (2017).

Reference list

The key point of a reference list in the Harvard style is listing sources alphabetically by the author's last name. Generally, each reference in the cited works list includes the following components: Last name, First Initial. (Year published). Title. City: Publisher, Page(s).

But the structure of the reference differs depending on the type of a cited work. Look at our infographic to learn how to cite 10 most common types of work.

10 Harvard style reference structures

If you cite a broadcast, court case, patent or anything else specific, you can find the structures and examples here.


The APA citation style has more similarities to the Harvard style than differences. Look at our comparative infographic to know all dissimilarities of these two styles.

Differences between Harvard and APA referencing styles

Follow the link to find more details of the APA style.


In-text citation

Parenthetical citations in MLA do not contain the year of publication like in Harvard or APA. The template includes the author’s name and page number in round brackets, for example “(Brown, 25)”. If you write the author’s last name in a sentence, for example: “Brown thought that”, you should include only the page number in parentheses.

Reference list

Although this is not compulsory, the reference list is usually called “List of works cited”. The list also has specific features that differ MLA from a lot of other academic citation styles. For example, the year of publication is given in the end of the reference and the author’s first name is written in full (instead of the first initial in Harvard and APA).

8 MLA citation style templates

You can find more information about the MLA referencing style on this website.


A writer has two options while citing sources in the paper written in the Chicago style. You can put the author’s last name followed by the year of publication and the page number from which you took this particular idea in round brackets. All the works cited through the text should be listed in the reference list in the end of the paper.

Instead of this, you may use footnotes: mark an idea or quotation in the text with a number, give details at the bottom of the page, and include bibliographies, which should consist of all works you have examined or/and cited directly in your paper. Take note, the author’s name should go first in the footnote, but the author’s last name should be given first in the bibliography.The rules of citing in the reference list or bibliography is similar to the MLA style. Find the subtle differences here

Reference Generators

Making a reference list or a bibliography takes a lot of time. Fortunately, there are services intended to relieve your suffering. Here are some helpful reference generators:

Such services are easy to use: choose a citation style, follow the hints what information needs to be included, and get a well-structured reference list.

When you order a paper, don’t forget to specify according to which citation style it should be structurized. Meeting customers’ requirements and following writing standards tell a lot about a writer’s qualification level and trustworthiness of a company. Pay attention to these aspects while reading custom writing agencies reviews on our website.