12 Sep in  Business trends

Best Practice – Citation Format Guidelines (APA, MLA, Chicago)


citations template


We’ve all been there. You’ve been awake for two days straight, the academic paper you’ve been assigned to write a month ago has finally been written and you’ve made sure to include some key texts from reputable sources in your essay that back up your arguments.


Then comes time for the dreaded moment where you must cite all of your sources and complete the bibliography! You know, the part of your essay that your professor is sure to subtract points from you for not properly sourcing your references.


But surely there must be an easier way to avoid losing precious grades over some commas and spacing and the proper way to prove that you’re not a plagiarist? Well, there is! So without further ado, let’s dive into the guidelines for citations and tracking sources.


We’re sure that after reading this article, completing your citation pages will be a breeze and you’ll never get in trouble for not properly sourcing again! Oh, and with Soda PDF, we’ve even included some templates for you to use over the course(s) of your future essays!


What’s a citation anyways?

In short, citations are an inventory of your sourced material (books, magazines, websites, etc.) provided at the end, or depending on the style used, within the pages of your scholarly papers. The reference page is included to ensure that:

  1. You’re referencing the source materials (whether to quote from a book or course pack) you used to come up with or further support your essay’s thesis and/or corresponding arguments
  2. To ensure that you’re not plagiarizing another person’s work, as in, making it sound like you wrote the material yourself (which, let’s be honest, you didn’t)


Not having a page dedicated to explaining and outlining all the sources you’ve used to get you to this completed paper, would open yourself up to accusations of plagiarism, which can be detrimental to your post-secondary education credibility.


Why do I need to cite my sources?

Think of it this way: why wouldn’t you cite your sources? It’s important to give credit where credit’s due, and nobody likes it when someone else steals their work or gets praise for something they came up with in the first place.


And when people feel like they’re not getting the respect they deserve, you can bet they’ll make a stink about it. Hence why that scary word “plagiarized” will most likely come back to haunt you if you don’t give credit and track your sources properly.


And if you’re thinking you won’t, or ever, get caught plagiarizing, think again. Your teachers now have the technology to help catch cheaters, thanks to Google.


So unless you’re paying for someone else to write your essays, a trend that is sounding alarms in the United States and something that you can bet your professors are looking out for, you’re already a cheater and it is costing you money on top of the tuition that your parents, or even you, will be forced to pay off.


But if you’re one of those few, honest students still enrolled (OK, there’s many of us, let’s be honest) then do yourself a favor and get accustomed to citing your sources with these helpful formats that you’re sure to come across in your scholarly journey!


Your teacher or professor might have a certain format he or she would like their students to abide by, thus we’ve broken down the three most popular citation styles to make life easier and simpler for our fellow students.


MLA Format

The Modern Language Association (or MLA for short) style is mostly used for Arts majors and/or minors, and the citation page here is referred to a Work Cited page. Regardless, it should appear at the end of your paper and follow the same purpose as mentioned above.

Here’s an MLA Style overview to check out before diving into how to insert your in-text citations and build your Work Cited page.


In-text citations – MLA Format

At times, throughout your essay, you will need to include citations within your text. This either helps you paraphrase what you’re trying to argue based on your reputable sources, or you’re using these quotes directly to highlight why your argument is correct since other sources also concur with your reasoning.

Want to find out how to use in-text citations properly? MLA’s got you covered with the basics here.

Works Cited page – MLA Format

If you’re citing an entire book with one author:

  1. Author’s Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. City of Publication, Name of Publisher, Publication Date.



  1. Cather, Willa Sibert. A Lost Lady. Houghton, Mufflin Company, 1938.


If you’re citing a film:

  1. Movie title followed by a. Directed by insert first and last name here followed by, Studio name, Year of film’s release.



  1. Safety Last!. Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer, Hal Roach Studios, 1923.


If you’re citing a website article:

  1. Author Last Name, First Name. “Article title.” website name, Date you accessed the website, www.websiteurl.com.



  1. Roy, Holden. “How PDF Software Makes Life Way Easier for Students.” Soda PDF Blog, 6 Sept. 2019, https://www.sodapdf.com/blog/students-pdf/.


For all other web sources (tweets, YouTube videos, etc.) check out the MLA’s list here.

And here’s what your Works Cited page should look like when you’ve finished plugging in all of your source materials throughout your paper:


Finally, check out OWL Purdue’s MLA format sample paper to see how in-text citations and the Works Cited page should look like in your essay.


Chicago Format

The Chicago Style has two types of styling:

  1. Notes and bibliography
  2. Author-Date



In-text citations – Chicago Style

Use the Notes and bibliography style for your Arts papers, including humanities and history. And yes, MLA is also used for the Arts, but your teacher might outline their style preference within their syllabuses or course packs, so best bet is to check with your prof before proceeding.


The Author-Date style is geared towards social sciences students and those who are in pursuit of a Bachelor of Sciences degree. Its simple to use and all that is required is to include the author’s last name and date of publication at the end of the quote in brackets, like so. (Garland, 2019)


Notes and Bibliography – Chicago Style

Here’s what your book citation should look like:

  1. First name Last name, Title of the book (Place of publication: Publisher, Year of publication), put page number(s) here if not using entire book.


  1. Cather, W. S. (1938). A Lost Lady. Houghton, Mufflin Company.


Here’s what your film citation should look like:

  1. Last name, First name of Director. Title of Film. Performed by First name Las t name. Original Release Year; City: Studio name, year film was released. The type of medium.


  1. Newmeyer, Fred C., director. Safety Last! Performed by Harold Lloyd. 1923; United States: Hal Roach Studios, 1923. Film.


Here’s what your website article citation should look like:

  1. Firstname Lastname of Author if there is one, “Title of Web Page,” Name of Website, Publishing Organization, publication or revision date if available, access date if posting date is not available, www.thewebsiteurlgoeshere.com/.


  1. Holden Roy, “How PDF Software Makes Life Way Easier for Students.” Soda PDF Blog, September 6, 2019. https://www.sodapdf.com/blog/students-pdf/.


For all other advanced note and bibliography citations, be sure to check out Chicago Manual of Style’s sample citations page.


Here’s what your Notes and Bibliography page should look like:

And here’s a Note and bibliography sample paper from OWL Purdue in Chicago style.


Author-Date References – Chicago Style

Here’s what your book citation should look like:

  1. Author’s Last Name, First Name. Year of Publication. Title of Book. Place of publication, Publishing company or person.


  1. Cather, Willa Sibert. 1938. A Lost Lady. Houghton, Mufflin Company.


Here’s what your film citation should look like:

  1. Director Last Name, First Name, director abbreviation. Year of film’s release. Title of film. Studio name.


  1. Newmeyer, Fred C, dir. 1923. Safety Last! Hal Roach Studios.


Here’s what your website article citation should look like:

  1. Year of publication. “Title of the website article.” Name of the site. Date retrieved or date of publication. www.websitenamegoeshere.com/url/


  1. 2019. “How PDF Software Makes Life Way Easier for Students.” Soda PDF Blog. September 6. https://www.sodapdf.com/blog/students-pdf/.

For all other advanced author-date reference citations, here’s the Chicago Manual of Style’s sample citation page.


Here’s what your Author-Date Reference page should look like:


Here’s an Author-Date sample paper in Chicago style from OWL Purdue.


APA Format

The American Psychological Association (APA) style is for academic and research papers that deal with social sciences.


In-text citations – APA Format

Similar to the Chicago style, you include the author’s last name, year of publication as well as the page number of the quoted text. (Garland, 2019, p. 6)


References – APA Format

Here’s what your book citation should look like:

  1. Author Last Name, First Name Initials. (Year of publication). Title of the book: Use Capitals for subtitle if any. Location of publication: Publisher name.


  1. Cather, W. S. (1938). A Lost Lady. Houghton, Mufflin Company.


Here’s what your film citation should look like:

  1. Producer Last Name, First Name Initial (Producer), & Director Last Name, First Name Initial (Director). (Year of Film’s Release). Title of the film [Motion picture]. Country of Origin: Studio Name.


  1. Roach, H. (Producer), Newmeyer, F. C.  Hal Roach Studios. (1923). Safety Last! United States: Hal Roach Studios.


Here’s what your website article citation should look like:

  1. Author Last Name, First Name Initial. (Date of article’s publication). Title of page [Format description if and when necessary]. Retrieved from https://www.thewebsiteurl.com/full/url/goes/here/


  1. Roy, H. (2019, September 6). How PDF Software Makes Life Way Easier for Students. Retrieved from https://www.sodapdf.com/blog/students-pdf/


For all other citations for the APA Style, check them out here.


And finally, here’s what your References page (remember, this comes before your Appendix pages) should look like when your paper is complete:



Don’t forget to check out OWL Purdue’s sample paper in APA format!


How Can I Make Sure My Sources Are Legit? (Tracking)

When in doubt, use this citation checker to prevent a potential case of plagiarism by having your paper checked before submitting it to your professor for grading.


Also, check out Citation Machine’s citation creation tool, which is absolutely free to use and will help you with whichever of these manual styles you’ve got to deal with!


And that’s how you can track your sources…right to the, uh, source! Pretty cool, right?


Remember, regardless of what style you end up using, your cited sources should always appear in alphabetical order on your Work Cited, Bibliography, References page(s).


How Soda PDF Can Help (With Templates)


And finally, Soda PDF wants to help students succeed, no matter what their grade level. Therefore, we’re happy to offer everyone a FREE template for all of these citation styles.

Download our awesome citation cheat sheet here:

Soda PDF Citation Cheat Sheet Free Download

And while you’re at it, why not try out Soda PDF for all your document writing needs? You’ll see how much fun and easy it is to convert files of all kinds into professional papers that will leave your professors feeling pretty impressed by the work you’re submitting each time an essay is due!


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