Why Thousands of Citation Styles Exist

Though you may not have realized, Cite This for Me offers more than just Harvard and MLA style. There are literally thousands of citation styles available in our reference generator that cover a wide range of academic disciplines. When looking at this huge list, it is easy to think things like “Why are so many different styles necessary?” or “Why would anyone need a citation style called ‘Arachne’ or ‘Blood’?” Though some of these styles are more often used than others and some can seem a little strange, each serves a purpose for researchers all over the world. Read on for more information as to why all of these citation styles are important.

Citation styles have unique histories and traditions

There are some citation styles that have been used by scholars, students, and researchers for generations. This prevalence and occasional world-renown is sometimes the reason that certain citation styles have never gone out of fashion. The Chicago Manual of Style, for example, was originally published in the year 1906, and is currently in its 17th edition. As is often the case in academia, it is common that scholars in a certain discipline would be reluctant to try a new referencing style, instead preferring to stick with the one they are used to.

One citation style can have multiple sub-citing systems

One contributing factor to the vastness of the citation style list is the fact that certain styles have variations on their citing systems. The most well-known instance of this is with Chicago style, which has two distinct systems: Author-Date and Footnote-Bibliography. The footnote-bibliography system can be commonly found in humanities courses, and features superscript footnotes at the bottom of each page of the paper. The author-date system, on the other hand, has a more broad application, and is evidence by parenthetical citations that contain the author’s last name and the date the source was published.

Citation styles have specific applications

Certain citation styles have gained traction in specific academic disciplines over time. For instance, MLA format is widely used in the humanities, since the style is well-suited to citing literature and archival sources. Conversely, APA citation format is widely used in the social sciences, since the style performs well with quantitative studies and analysis. More specifically, some citation styles are used for single publications, such as The Journal for the History of Astronomy. That style is almost always used by only researchers or employees of that particular scholarly journal.

Audiences or readers of research papers can vary

While most students think of the “audience” of their paper as only their class instructor, this may not be the case for other academics, such as professional writers and editors. Therefore, a research paper can have a wide range of audiences that the writer needs to keep in mind when completing their annotated bibliography or references. This is important because the point of references or citations is to make it easy for the paper’s reader to find where the writer found outside information that they included in their work. Certain citation styles have specific rules for a particular audience, which is another reason why so many citation styles exist.


Cite your next bibliography in MLA, APA, Chicago, Harvard referencing, or any one of the many citation styles on Cite This For Me. There are also articles on how to cite a book, how to do in-text citations, and more!