List of referencing styles- Uses and their importance

In this post, we have outlined the List of referencing styles to help you in your academic writing journey. Academic Writing is a formal piece of writing backed up with evidence (authority) and written for the sole purpose of educational research and grades. It is quite unique and often stands out from other writing genres. This is because of its candid characteristics, some of which include clarity, cohesiveness, proper structure, and provision of evidence, which is its most outstanding feature.

Provision of evidence in Academic Writing can be done through research. This is why Referencing and Citations are key factors in this genre. Although, both could seem complex because of their different styles and mode of citing. The essence of this article is to effectively explain what Referencing is, its various styles and its importance in Academic Writing.


Academic Writing demands the provision of evidence to back up points provided while writing. This act is done to ensure that proper research is conducted and actual knowledge is acquired during the writing process. While researching, the individual is bound to stumble on similar results compiled by people who have previously conducted the same research. When this happens, one must give credit to previous scholars who might have spent days or years conducting such research.

In other words, Referencing is simply the act of acknowledging the original source(s) of information while writing an academic piece. Acknowledging the original source of information could come in form of citations. Citation is the brief summarisation or quotation of a phrase or group of phrases from the original source of information. It tells readers that that particular phrase was gotten from a different scholar and it also tells the readers who the scholar is.


The importance of referencing in academic writing includes:

  • It gives credit to writers or scholars who have conducted similar research in the past, produced results and ameliorated the current writers’ research.
  • It can be used as a means of avoiding plagiarism.
  • It is a way of providing evidence to back up claims or views in academic writing.
  • It gives credibility and persuasiveness to a piece of writing.
  • It informs the readers or examiner(s) of the writers’ growing knowledge in that particular field.
  • It enables the readers or examiner(s) to trace the source(s) of information used in the piece of writing.
  • It is the best way to keep a record of the sources of information used while conducting research.
  • It aids in the creation of new ideas and insights regarding the researched topic.


An Individual must reference every time he/she makes use of another persons’ work or research during the course of academic writing.

For example, if you find a book or journal that contains results regarding the topic you are researching about, reference it every time you pick and use an idea from a previously published work. It does not matter if that particular idea was summarized, paraphrased or quoted.


These can be referred to as the rules or guidelines which tell the researcher/writer(s) how to give credit to the works of other people while writing an academic piece.

Referencing styles consist of two basic elements, these includes:

  • An in-text citation: This is simply a brief form of reference which can be included in the body of an academic piece.
  • A reference list: This is the overall compilation of both the sources cited in the body of an academic piece and the sources that were relied on for information during the course of academic research and writing. It is often written at the end of the assignment or paper.

Both elements contain basic information about the previously published work and the author of the work. The information needed during the course of referencing includes:

  • The name of the author(s).
  • The title of the work.
  • The year of publication.

Depending on the type of source referred to during the course of academic research, these elements could also contain:

  • The name of the publisher(s).
  • The volume of the work.
  • The edition of the work.

Referencing styles vary, depending on the discipline of the writer. Each referencing style contains basic information about the work cited however, the mode of a citation could come in different forms.

3 common referencing styles- List of referencing styles

The types of referencing styles stretch as far as the different academic disciplines there are. However, there are three basic types of referencing styles that members of different disciplines make use of at different points in academic research and writing. They include:

  • Modern Language Association(MLA).
  • American Psychological Association(APA).
  • Chicago/Turabian style.


This style of referencing is generally used to reference academic writing in the arts and humanities discipline. When referencing with MLA style, the aforementioned information will be used. However, the mode of writing it will be different.

In-text citations in MLA require only the surname of the writer and the page number where the particular information was gotten from. In-text citation however varies, depending on the number of authors.

For example, (Webster 143) signifies only one author and the page number. (Mustard, Adefarasin and Winks 229) signifies an in-text citation with three authors.

Preparing a reference list with MLA style differs depending on the type of sources cited, the number of authors and the place in which that particular source was gotten from.


The American Psychological Association referencing style is commonly used as a tool for referencing in Social Science disciplines. Unlike Modern Language Association, APA’s in-text citation requires the last name of the author(s) and the year of publication. For example: (Mustard 1998).

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In the case of two to three authors, it will be (Mustard, Winks and Adefarasin 1998). Using APA style in a referencing list also varies, depending on the type of research material, the mode of accessing these research materials and the number of authors.


The Chicago or Turabian referencing style is mostly used in History and other humanities disciplines. Its style of referencing is quite different from the others. Different in the sense that, the methods of referencing used in books, journals, articles and other academic materials are the same. Referencing with other styles requires meticulous methods in different types of academic materials.

Referencing an in-text citation with this style requires the name of the author(s), date of publication and page number(s). For example: (Mustard 1998, 14-26). It can also be written as Mustard(1998, 14-26).

OTHER TYPES OF REFERENCING STYLES -List of referencing styles

Examples of other referencing styles include:

  • Harvard.
  • Vancouver.
  • Oxford Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities (OSCOLA).
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers(IEEE).
  • American Medical Association(AMA)
  • National Library for Medicine(NLM)
  • American Anthropological documentation style(AMA)
  • American Political Science Review(APSA).


Academic Writing is a formal piece of writing which involves the provision of evidence to back up or prove certain views. This sole aim makes academic writing unique and referencing important.

Depending on the discipline or field of study of the scholar, the method of referencing varies. However, there are three basic styles that can be used by all disciplines. They include APA, MLA and Chicago or Turabian style. It is important to master the generally accepted referencing styles as well as the referencing style in your individual field. As discussed in the article, it has high-level advantages and good grades.


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