Why do citation style guides matter?
There are four main style guides for citing research and addressing grammatical concerns in academic writing. Using the proper style guide for your field of study (or that your professor has requested) is important for two main reasons.
First and foremost, these style guides help you avoid plagiarism (which is a serious offense that can get you in lots of trouble academically and even legally). They give you a way to cite your research. Citing your research is just a fancy way of telling your reader which ideas are your original thoughts and which ideas came from other people. This way, you're giving credit to those other authors and researchers, instead of passing their ideas off as your own. You can learn more about the importance of avoiding plagiarism on our plagiarism webpage.
Second, style guides make your paper look organized and professional. That may not sound important at first, but if your paper looks like a mess on the page, your reader will have a hard time focusing and understanding your main points. Your paper won't be effective. At best, an ineffective paper means you're probably not going to get a very good grade. At worst, your valuable, original ideas aren't reaching your reader, which means you won't persuade anyone to agree with you or care about a topic you're passionate about. By using a style guide to keep your paper organized, you're getting all that silly formatting stuff out of the way, so your ideas can come across loud and clear.
What are the four main style guides?
The four main style guides are AP, APA, Chicago, and MLA. You can learn the differences between the styles, their histories, and how to use them below: