Citation styles differ mostly in the location, order, and syntax of information about references. The number and diversity of citation styles reflect different priorities with respect to concision, readability, dates, authors, publications, and, of course, style.
There are also two major divisions within most citation styles: documentary-note style and parenthetical style. Documentary-note style is the standard form of documenting sources. It involves using either footnotes or endnotes, so that information about your sources is readily available to your readers but does not interfere with their reading of your work.
Professor Scott asserts that “environmental reform in Alaska in the 1970s accelerated rapidly as a pipeline expansion.”: (Scott 1999,23)
This is generally considered an abbreviated form of citation, and it does not require footnotes or endnotes, although it does require the equivalent of a "Works Cited" page at the end of the paper. It is easier to write, but might interfere with how smoothly your work reads.
With so many different citation styles, how do you know which one is right for your paper? First, we strongly recommend asking your instructor. There are several factors which go into determining the appropriate citation style, including discipline (priorities in an English class might differ from those of a Psychology class, for example), academic expectations (papers intended for publication might be subject to different standards than mid-term papers), the research aims of an assignment, and the individual preference of your instructor.
If you are a teacher or instructor, you may also wish to distribute examples of plagiarism and legitimate citation, and then go over the differences together with your classes. This will clarify some of the common misconceptions about plagiarism and reduce the likelihood of "honest mistakes," while at the same time showing how serious you are about the issue.
If you want to learn more about using a particular citation style, we have provided links to more specific resources below.
[Note: the AAA style is based on the Chicago style, so for specific questions not addressed in any of the AAA style guides, please use the links above or consult The Chicago Manual of Style (14th edition, 1993)]