The Most Popular Citation Style: A Ranking of Commonly Used Styles

Choose the citation style you think is the most popular!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Feb 22, 2024 05:56
Step right up and make your voice heard in the great citation showdown of the century! Here at StrawPoll, we're on a quest to discover the most popular citation style preferred by scholars, students, and enthusiasts alike. With thousands of polls and rankings under our belt, we're inviting you to cast your vote and help settle the debate once and for all. Will it be the versatile APA, the meticulous MLA, the classic Chicago, or perhaps a dark horse contender? Dive into the exciting world of citation styles, compare their unique strengths, and discover fascinating tidbits about each contender. Not satisfied with the options? Don't worry, you can always suggest a missing style and rally support for it. So go ahead, join the fray, and let's determine the ultimate champion of citation styles together!

What Is the Most Popular Citation Style?

  1. 1
    APA - widely used in social sciences, education, and psychology.
    APA (American Psychological Association) is a citation style commonly used in the social sciences. It provides guidelines for formatting and referencing sources in written academic work.
    • In-text citations: APA uses author-date citation format, where the author's last name and the publication year are included in the text.
    • Reference list: APA requires a reference list at the end of the paper, providing detailed information about each source cited.
    • Article titles: In APA, only the first word of the article title and subtitle, as well as proper nouns, are capitalized.
    • Italicization: APA recommends italicizing the titles of books, journals, and other longer works.
    • DOI usage: APA encourages the use of digital object identifiers (DOIs) for electronic sources.
  2. 2
    MLA - commonly used in humanities, literature, and language studies.
    MLA (Modern Language Association) is a widely used citation style in humanities and liberal arts disciplines. It provides guidelines for citing sources, formatting papers, and organizing citations. The style emphasizes clarity, consistency, and simplicity to ensure scholarly integrity and credibility.
    • In-text citations: Author-page format
    • Works Cited page: Alphabetical order, hanging indentation
    • Title capitalization: Sentence case, except for titles and headings
    • Punctuation: Commas between elements, periods at the end
    • Italicization: Titles of larger works are italicized
  3. 3
    Chicago/Turabian - used in history, social sciences, and some humanities.
    The Chicago/Turabian citation style is a set of guidelines for citing sources in academic writing, particularly in the field of humanities. It is based on The Chicago Manual of Style and A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations by Kate L. Turabian.
    • Author-Date System: In the social sciences and natural sciences, this system provides brief parenthetical citations within the text.
    • Notes and Bibliography System: In the humanities, this system uses footnotes or endnotes for in-text citations and includes a separate bibliography.
    • Two Documentation Systems: The citation style offers both the Author-Date and Notes and Bibliography systems for different academic disciplines.
    • Detailed Guidelines: It provides comprehensive rules for formatting citations, as well as guidance on grammar, punctuation, and writing style.
    • Variations for Different Types of Sources: The style accommodates a wide range of sources, including books, articles, websites, and multimedia.
  4. 4
    Harvard - widely used in UK and Australia, popular in social sciences, business, and management.
  5. 5
    Vancouver - used in medicine and health sciences.
    Vancouver is a coastal city located in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia, Canada. It is known for its stunning natural beauty, with mountains, forests, and the Pacific Ocean surrounding the city. Vancouver is one of the most popular cities in Canada and attracts visitors from all over the world.
    • Population: 631,486 (2019)
    • Area: 115 square kilometers
    • Province: British Columbia
    • Elevation: 0 meters (sea level)
    • Climate: Oceanic climate with mild, wet winters and warm, dry summers
  6. 6
    IEEE - used in engineering and computer science.
    IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) is a widely used citation style in the fields of electrical engineering and computer science. It provides guidelines for formatting and citing various types of sources, such as journal articles, conference papers, and technical reports.
    • Author Names: Last name, First initial.
    • Title Format: Sentence case, capitalizing only the first word and proper nouns.
    • Journal Article: Author(s), "Title of Article," Journal Title, vol. X, no. X, pp. XXX-XXX, Month Year.
    • Conference Paper: Author(s), "Title of Paper," in Proceedings of Conference Name, Location, Month Year, pp. XXX-XXX.
    • Book: Author(s), Title of Book, Edition. Location: Publisher, Year.
  7. 7
    ACS - used in chemistry.
    The ACS (American Chemical Society) is a widely used citation style in the field of chemistry and related disciplines. It is maintained by the American Chemical Society.
    • Format Style: Numeric
    • Citation Order: Ascending
    • In-text Citations: Numeric superscript
    • Bibliography Style: Numbered list
    • Title Capitalization: Sentence style
  8. 8
    AMA - used in medicine and health sciences.
    The American Medical Association (AMA) citation style is a set of rules and guidelines developed by the American Medical Association for writing and formatting papers, research articles, and other scholarly works in the field of medical science.
    • Formatting: AMA style uses a superscript Arabic numeral placed at the end of the sentence to indicate a citation.
    • References: AMA utilizes a numeric system for creating references, with each reference number corresponding to a citation in the text.
    • Order of references: References are sequentially numbered and listed in the order they appear in the text.
    • Author names: Author names are typically listed by last name followed by initials.
    • Title formatting: Article and journal titles are typically presented in sentence case.
  9. 9
    Bluebook - used in law.
    The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation is the most widely used authority for legal citation in the United States. It provides a comprehensive guide for legal writing, specifically in regards to citation formatting and legal references. The Bluebook is commonly used by law students, lawyers, and legal scholars.
    • Publication Year: 1939
    • Editions: The 20th edition is the current version (2015)
    • Color: Blue cover inspired the name
    • Abbreviation: BB
    • Sections: The Bluebook is divided into several parts, including rules for citation, abbreviations, court rules, jurisdictions, and more
  10. 10
    CSE - used in natural sciences and biology.
    The CSE (Council of Science Editors) style is a widely used citation style in the scientific and academic community. It provides guidelines for accurately citing sources in scientific writing, specifically in the biological and physical sciences.
    • Format: Numeric citation-sequence
    • Source Types: Journal articles, books, websites, and other scientific and technical sources
    • In-text Citation Style: Superscript numbers
    • Reference List Style: Numbered list in the order of appearance
    • Abbreviations: Journal name abbreviations in accordance with CASSI

Missing your favorite citation style?


Ranking factors for popular citation style

  1. Disciplinary preferences
    Different academic disciplines have specific citation styles that are commonly used within that field. For example, the humanities often prefer the Modern Language Association (MLA) style while social sciences use the American Psychological Association (APA) style. Identify the preferred citation style for the discipline in question.
  2. Ease of use
    Some citation styles are easier to learn and apply than others. Consider whether the style is simple and straightforward or complex and time-consuming to implement.
  3. Versatility
    Consider whether the citation style can accommodate a wide range of source types, including books, articles, websites, multimedia, and other formats.
  4. Consistency
    A good citation style should be consistent in its formatting rules across different types of sources to make it easy for users to apply and for readers to understand.
  5. Clarity and readability
    Evaluate how well the citation style presents information in a clear and easy-to-read manner.
  6. Adaptability to digital formats
    With increasing use of digital sources and electronic publication, the citation style should be easily adaptable to online materials.
  7. Popularity
    Consider the overall popularity of the citation style among researchers, institutions, publishers, and professional organizations to determine its relevance and acceptance in the academic community.
  8. Standardization
    Check whether the citation style follows a standardized set of guidelines, such as those published by professional organizations or governing bodies, making it widely recognized and accepted.
  9. Compatibility with citation management tools
    Ensure that the citation style is compatible with popular citation management software like EndNote, Zotero, and Mendeley, which can help users easily create and manage their references.
  10. Updates and revisions
    A good citation style should be periodically updated and revised to reflect any new developments in source types or formatting standards.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most popular citation style. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or style is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 220 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Movers & Shakers

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each style once every 24 hours. The rank of each style is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.


More information on most popular citation style

Citation styles are an essential aspect of academic and research writing. They provide a standard format for citing sources and acknowledging the works of other authors in the field. The most popular citation styles include APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), and Chicago/Turabian. Each style has its unique rules and guidelines for formatting in-text citations, reference lists, and bibliographies. While APA is commonly used in social sciences, MLA is popular in humanities, and Chicago/Turabian is preferred in history and social sciences. Choosing the right citation style can enhance the credibility and professionalism of your academic work.

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