Citation Styles: An Intro Guide for Self-Publishers

Updated: January 28, 2023

Subtitle
Authors must give credit where credit is due

Synopsis
Citing your sources is a well-respected form of professional courtesy and your duty as an author and publisher. You must give credit where credit is due. Therefore, citing someone else’s work is essential when using their words or ideas. Here is a short discussion of the two essential citation styles.

The Professor with screwdriver

What You Will Learn
1. You will learn about the two most important citation styles.
2. You will learn precisely why citing your sources is imperative to your book’s success.
3. You will learn the relationship between citations, plagiarism, and credibility.

Introduction: Why Is Citing Our Sources So Important?
Citing your sources is a well-respected form of professional courtesy and your duty as an author and publisher. You must give credit where credit is due. Therefore, citing someone else’s work is essential when using their words or ideas.

If the sources in your book are not cited, you will be plagiarizing. And plagiarism is a severe offense that can result in a career-ending loss of credibility from your peers and readers. A loss of credibility would also dampen your current and future book sales.

Thank you to author Joel Friedlander of TheBookDesigner.com for linking to this article.

Here is a short discussion of the two essential citation styles:

A. MLA vs. APA: Not Such a Difficult Decision After All
These two prominent professional organizations have developed referencing and citation guidelines for their respective audiences. Other organizations do this, but these two are the most well-known.

Whatever profession you are in, you will already know which format to use. For example, professionals in the humanities apply the MLA guidelines. And the APA guidelines generally are applied by professionals in the sciences.

But for our discussion here, if you are writing non-fiction for a general audience, the default citation format for you to apply will be the rules of the MLA.

B. MLA vs. APA: Not Such a Difficult Decision After All
Works Cited (MLA) and References (APA) are bibliographic lists of your book’s works cited. Every sentence or idea you quote or use in your book must be in this section.

Works Consulted (MLA) and Bibliography (APA) are bibliographic lists of all the works you used but did not cite in your text. Every book, article, and website that helps you write your book should be in this section.

C. Additional Reading and Additional Sources
This section lists sources you believe readers might find interesting. This list could include a list of other publications or websites your readers might need to investigate for further research.

D. Annotated Works Cited and Annotated Bibliography
Annotated means that it is not only a cold and simplistic list of sources, as in typical works cited or bibliography, but also a summary, evaluation, and discussion of each source’s content and purpose for being used in your book. This format is very popular with readers.

E. Selected Bibliography and Full Bibliography
‘Complete’ bibliographies list every work cited, including all other relevant sources, whether directly mentioned in your book or not. ‘Selected’ bibliographies only list a few of the most important pieces cited. Some books distinguish between ‘selected’ bibliographies and ‘full’ bibliographies.

F. Footnotes and Endnotes
You can provide footnotes and endnotes as additional information to enhance or support your argument. Such notes demonstrate the depth of your research and permit you to include relevant, but not always essential, information and concepts without interrupting the flow of your text.

Footnotes would typically be in an ‘Endnotes’ section at the end of each chapter. These notes can also briefly present an alternative idea you found in one of your sources. You can also list other articles or books on topics your readers might find interesting.

G. Internal, In-Text, and Parenthetical Citation
An internal, in-text or parenthetical citation refers to crediting another author by citing their words and ideas within your book. This internal citation is then referenced in your works cited list or bibliography at the end of your book. Internal citations are parenthetical citations because parentheses enclose them. (Kunz, p. 3)

Conclusion: If in Doubt, Cite It
There you have it – a quick run-down of the two main citation formats. The golden rule for non-fiction authors is that if you are unsure something should be cited, then cite it. This thoroughness will only help your credibility with your peers and your readers. Citations prove that you have done your research and were very careful and thoughtful about it.

Citing your sources is a win-win situation for you and your readers. Your citations make you an essential resource for your readers. Citations can also help your readers pursue additional research on their own. All this will add up to more credibility and book sales for you.

Questions to Think About
1. Do you have a preferred method of citation? And why?
2. From your perspective as an author, do you believe that citation enhances your book? And from the reader’s perspective?

About Joseph C. Kunz, Jr.

I am an author, husband, father of twins, grandfather, and small business owner near New York City. I created this website to share my self-publishing and small-business adventures, insights, and experiences.
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