How to Cite an Essay?

The approach to citing a paper is defined by the required academic formatting style (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.). Why is it important to quote an essay correctly? Because it can be a ticket to passing, no less.

First, you have to define which style you will be using. In most cases, your professor will tell you. If not, it will depend on the subject.

  • Education, Psychology, and Sciences use APA
  • Humanities use MLA
  • Business, History, and the Fine Arts use Chicago or Turabian

APA citation requirements

In APA, you should include the following information in in-text citations: last name of the author, date of publication, and the exact page in case of direct quotation. Here are the examples.

In-text paraphrasing:

Ideas rendered in your own words (Rowling, 1997)

Direct quotation:

But you know, happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” (Rowling, 1997, p.198)

Reference list credit:

Rowling, J.K. (2001), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. London: Bloomsbury

Of course, chapters of books, e-books, artwork, and other things you might cite will have their own rules of citation. You can find those on the official APA Homepage.

MLA citation requirements

In MLA, you should use brief parenthetical citations referring to a list of sources at the end of your work. Each entry in this list should include the following key elements: author, title of a source, title of a container (a larger collection, e.g. anthology that contains the short story you have cited), other contributors, version, number, publisher, publication date and location. Here is an example of a book cited in MLA:

Harris, Muriel. "Talk to Me: Engaging Reluctant Writers." A Tutor's Guide: Helping Writers One to One, edited by Ben Rafoth, Heinemann, 2005, pp. 31-42.

Detailed guide on how to cite in MLA can be found in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook.

Chicago citation requirements

There are two approaches to citing sources in the Chicago style. In the first one, you should briefly cite the book in the text, then cite only author, name of the book and page when it is cited repeatedly, and finally give a fuller reference in the bibliography. Here are some examples.

In-text, first mentioning:

Jane Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (London: Bloomsbury, 2001), 99


Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 101


Rowling, Jane. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. London: Bloomsbury, 2001

Following the second approach, only the author’s last name, the date of publishing, and the number of page are cited in text (Rowling 2001, 99-100). The bibliography contains all the other details. More information on this style can be found in the Chicago Manual of Style.

If you don’t trust yourself to cite your sources correctly, there are multiple online tools that can help you with it. In most of them, you only have to upload information about the book you need to cite and the tool will return a citation in the appropriate style.