Ok! Let’s perform a worldwide, collective eye roll. You are also allowed to blurt out an inappropriate comment or two. Hopefully, everyone feels better. Other than a few of our freelance writers, is there actually anyone, anywhere who loves academic writing guides? No. Yet, they are an integral part of the writing life of any academician, and those involved in formal writing, such as research papers, dissertations, theses, or conference presentations. The following essay has been submitted to showcase the level of writing and research that goes into every custom written order completed from Ultius.
History of academic style guides
There are a number of style guides across the gamut of industries, including general writing, such as:
- The well-known, Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E. B. White
- Legal writing, which has The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation
- Journalism, which references The Associated Press Stylebook
- Publishers who make use of The Chicago Manual of Style
In the world of academics, the most well-known academic style guides include:
- Style Guide of the American Anthropological Association (AAA)
- Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, Rev. ed. (AP)
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. (APA)
- The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing, Rev. ed. (Canadian)
- Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 7th ed. (CSE)
- The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. (Chicago) said to be the most comprehensive of all style guides,
- MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 3rd ed. (MLA)
- A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 7th ed. By Kate L. Turabian (Turabian) (Ryder)
So why are we tortured with these style guides, and following all these rules that seem redundant, incompatible, time consuming, and have the potential to lower our final grade, if used incorrectly? A style guide is the authoritative standard for writing and structuring documents within a field or industry.
The necessities of style
The objective of a style manual is to provide harmony to style and formatting within documents. Essentially, the objective is to literally ensure that everyone is on the metaphoric “same page.” For example:
- Should writers use written numbers, like “ten,” or utilize a figure, like “10” (Ryder)?
- Should a citation to an author, within the written text of the document be announced using “(Ryder),” which is the MLA method, or should that citation be formatted “(Ryder, 2016),” which is the APA practice?
- Should periods be used when abbreviating the United States, such as “U. S.,” or should we simply use “US”?
Style guides also answer the question, where should we place all the in-text citation details, through footnotes, works cited, references, or bibliographies. The creation of a standardized guide helps us to employ the same rules, and aids in document consistency. In addition, academic style guides provide a method for professors and other readers to ensure that the writer is not engaging in plagiarism (“About Citing”). As well, guides serve to demonstrate that research was conducted using authoritative sourcing, and if the reader would like additional information, bibliographies give direction to more resources.
Which style should we use?
In the academic world, the appropriate style guide to use is the one assigned by the professor – this is the golden rule. If your professor has not assigned a specific style, asking your professor about the preferred style, is the next best step. Academic style guides are generally divided into specific areas of preference, for example:
- Turabian style was designed with the needs of educators and students in mind, it is most often used for the natural and social sciences, and the humanities, and is based on the Chicago style guide (“Turabian Citation”).
- The MLA is most often used in the humanities, the arts and literature (“MLA Citation”).
- AAA is generally applied in the anthropological sciences, while CSE is used in the sciences (“About Citing”).
- APA is often used in the areas of social sciences, education, psychology, and business.
- Chicago (the author-date system) is implemented in physical, natural, and social sciences.
- Chicago (the documentary-note style) is most often used for history, the arts, and literature (“About Citing”).
Yet with all the categories delineated, the rules are not hard and fast. The best source for identifying academic style is the person giving your grade.
Differences between academic style guides
Academic style guides have unique methods for expressing information, authors and reference resources used. There is an unlimited amount of information that each style guide provides, such as formats for:
- Web sources
- Film and television
- Personal information
- Unpublished materials
- Document structure and headings
- PowerPoint presentations
The most common style structures are in-text citations and authority references. In-text citations are used to aid the reader to identify written sources in the reference section that match the passage cited in the narrative. In the case of the Chicago style, footnotes or endnotes are used in place of in-text citations. In the Chicago style, a number is inserted next to the information to be cited, and a corresponding number is used to identify the matching endnote or footnote, where the reader can find additional resource information, such as author and book title.
The work cited (MLA), reference (APA), or bibliography sections (Chicago) are used to list the author, title, publisher, publication date, city of publication, and possibly the sections or pages cited. These differences can be seen here:
IN-TEXT PARENTHETICAL CITATIONS FOR BOOKS
- APA – (Michaels, Conners and Windom, 2016)
Format: (Surname Author 1, Surname Author 2, Surname Author 3, year of publication)
- MLA – (Michaels, Conners and Windom 33)
Format: (Surname Author 1, Surname Author 2, Surname Author 3, a space, page number or section number, if available)
- Chicago – (Michaels, Conners and Windom 2016, 33)
Format: (Authors’ Surnames year of publication, page number or section number, if available) (“The Purdue OWL”)
REFERENCE PAGE FORMATS
- APA – Reference Section: Michaels, John, Conners, Mary and Windom, Westley (2016). The book of ideas.1 Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard.
Format: (Surname, First Name1, Surname, First Name2, Surname, First Name3. (Year of Publication). Book title. City of Publication: Publisher.)
- MLA – The Works Cited Section: Michaels, John, Conners, Mary and Windom, Westley. The Book of Ideas. Boston: Harvard, 2016. Print.
Format: (Surname, First Name1, Surname, First Name2, Surname, First Name3. Book Title. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. Publication medium, i.e. web, print, etc.)
- Chicago – Footnote or Endnote Section: 1. Michaels, John, Mary Conners and Westley Windom. “The Book of Ideas.” Harvard, June 1st, 2016. http://www.harvard.ii.
Format: Footnote or endnote number., First Name1 Surname, First Name2 Surname, First Name3 Surname. “Title of Book.” Publication Organization/Web Site Name in Italics, Last edited date. http://Web address for resource.
- Chicago – Bibliography Section: Michaels, John, Mary Conners and Westley Windom. “The Book of Ideas.” Harvard, June 1st, 2016. http://www.harvard.ii.
Format: Surname, First Name1, First Name2 Surname, First Name3 Surname. “Title of Book.” Publication Organization/Web Site Name in Italics, Last edited date. http://Web address for resource. (“The Purdue OWL”)
The Purdue OWL
Arguably the most utilized academic style guide resource is the Purdue Online Writing Lab, or OWL for short. Purdue University is the curator, and the website offers an extensive amount of information on numerous academic style guides including the APA, MLA, and Chicago styles, detailing the basics of:
- General format
- Author in-text citations
- What to do when there are multiple authors
- How to cite articles in periodicals
- Reference sections
- How to reference books
- How to reference other print sources
- How to reference websites (“The Purdue OWL”)
The OWL offers sample papers which identify exactly how an academic paper should be structured, including heading styles and how to present PowerPoint slides properly. There is information on how to present tables and figures, abbreviations, statistics, and posters for the classroom. In addition, the OWL has extensive information on general writing skills, for example, there are sections on:
- The Writing Process
- Academic Writing
- Common Writing Assignments
- Visual Rhetoric
- Undergraduate and Graduate Applications
- Personal Correspondence
- Community Engaged Writing (“The Purdue OWL”)
The OWL offers information on how to conduct research and how to utilize research including statistics (“The Purdue OWL”).
Teaching tools of the OWL
As if this is not enough, there is information for teachers and tutors, including invention strategies for creative writing, literary journalism; writing letters of recommendation, with actual sample letters; and teaching resources to help tutors tutor writing. There is an in-depth discussion on the topic of plagiarism, what it is, what it is not, how to avoid it, and what the implications are when plagiarism is conducted.
Finally, the OWL has information on specific subject matter writing, like:
- Writing a business letter
- Technical writing
- Writing in the social sciences
- Writing for the healthcare industry
- Writing in engineering
- Writing in journalism
- Writing if you are searching for a job (“The Purdue OWL”)
Clearly, the Purdue University OWL is a tremendous resource that every academic should explore, at least once.
Physical copies of academic styles
In addition to the extensive online resources of the OWL, (and for those who did not roll their eyes, or blurt out inappropriate comments initially) each academic style guide comes in book form (“Books”).
- MLA Handbook, by the Modern Language Association of America
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th Edition, by the American Psychological Association
- The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition, by the University of Chicago Press Staff
- A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Eighth Edition, by Kate Turabian, for those interested in the Turabian style guide
Academic style guides help to keep our world organized and properly formatted, and to drive us batty.
“About Citing & Style Manuals.” Cal State University Library. California State University, Los Angeles. 15 September 2016. Web. 19 May 2016. .
“Books.” Amazon.com. Amazon.com, Inc. n.d. Web. 19 May 2016. .
“MLA Citation Style Quick Reference Guide: About MLA.” University/College Library. Broward College & Florida Atlantic University. 19 May 2016. Web. 19 May 2016. .
Ryder, Jan. “Academic Style Guides.” My Final Draft. n.d. Web. 19 May 2016. .
The Purdue OWL. Purdue U Writing Lab, 2010. Web. 19 May 2016.
“Turabian Citation Style Quick Reference Guide : About Turabian.” University/College Library. Broward College & Florida Atlantic University. 19 May 2016. Web. 19 May 2016. .