Old Dominion University Libraries

STARquest I: Library Services & Resources

9b. What is a style manual?

Organizations such as the

  • Modern Language Association (MLA)
  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • University of Chicago Press

have produced guidelines for preparing scholarly manuscripts and research papers.

These guidelines provide the format of the punctuation, quotation, and documentation of sources. The style manual is the resource in which these guidelines have been made public.

How do I know which one to use?

Generally, it is a matter of preference. However, certain publishers conform to a particular style. For example, all APA journal articles use APA style.

For student papers, make sure to ask your instructors for their preference. Typically, a department will use the same style manual for all classes taught within that department, but this varies. A general rule of thumb:

  • Arts and Humanities - MLA or Turabian/Chicago
  • Social Sciences - APA
  • Sciences - APA or CBE (Council of Biology Editors)