In the writing of a scholarly piece, and when it comes to citations, there are three main styles used in the writing:

  • Modern Language Association (MLA)
  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • Chicago, which supports two styles: Notes and Bibliography. Author-Date. 

APA referencing is a variant of the Harvard style, and most of the conventions followed are the same.  Author-date citations are included in-line, with full citations appearing in the reference list of the writing piece.  APA is not to be confused with AP style of writing, which generally applies to journalists.

Colleges use both the MLA and the APA styles, with MLA styles most often used for humanities and literature papers, and APA style used most often for science and technical papers.  Each is designed to help make citations in each category easier.  While this general statement is true, it still may not help you determine which style to follow when writing your particular essay or paper. 

Let’s chat now specifically about the Chicago style and the Harvard style, and see if we can help guide the Chinese student through this choice.


Chicago Style of Citations 

The Chicago style guide for American English has been published since 1906 and is one of the most widely used style guides in the United States.  The style focuses specifically on American English with respect to editorial best practices, including grammar, and paper formatting (margins, indentations, line spacing, etc.).

The Chicago style identifies and offers guidance on citations in two places:  first, in-line, immediately following information taken from an outside source; and, then, the full citation that appears in another place in the paper, whether a footnote or an end note.

The author-date detail identifies that outside source in-line.  If a line from one of my previous writings was quoted or referenced, the in-line citation would appear as such:  (McGrath   2019), my name, and the year of that writing.  Notice that no punctuation was used in the citation. 

If the page of the writing was to be included in the citation, it would appear thusly:  (McGrath   2019, 13) with a comma after the year and before the page number where that line appeared. 

And, if my name appeared in the line referenced, only the year would be used in the citation:  (2019).


Harvard Style of Citations 

The Harvard citation style is another commonly used and popular style that uses the author-date system for in-line citations.  It, too, consists mainly of the author’s last name and the year of the writing being referenced.  As in the Chicago style, if the reference is to a directly quoted line from the writing, a page number is also used.  This citation will also appear in parentheses.

The Harvard style is most often used by college and university students to cite information sources in their writings.  Two types of citations are used:  in-line, as noted above, and full citations appearing either in footnotes or a bibliography.  Notes use commas; bibliographies use periods.


Differences Are Subtle, So Which Referencing Style Should You Use?

These descriptions are oversimplified, as you might expect in a blog post of only a few hundred words.  After all, the Chicago Manual of Style is a book, not an essay, and has been published for 115 years.  However, we are comfortable with the recommendation of following the Chicago style, the style most often used by American English writers. 

We can help Chinese students with their English essays with proofreading and suggested edits based upon this recommendation.  A well-written essay, grammatically correct, properly formatted, and with citations appearing in acceptable Chicago style, serve as an integral part of a college/university application.