There are a number of citation styles that are appropriate for STEM writing, whether it’s science writing, engineering writing, medical writing, or any other form of technical writing. Using a consistent citation style allows your documents to look polished and professional. Additionally, citing others’ works is a bolster to your own credibility as a researcher and is also one way to give credit to the author whose work you cite in your own research. But which citation style is most appropriate for your document? This article examines the top five citation styles for STEM writing.
APA style is a writing style that is commonly used in the social sciences, engineering, and education. APA uses author-date style, so when using APA style for in-text citations, make sure to use the author’s last name and year of publication: (Jones, 2019). When you make a direct quote, make sure to include the page number that you drew the quote from as well: (Jones, 2019, p. 15). The reference list is in alphabetical order based on the author’s last name.
A journal article in an APA reference list would look like the following:
Jones, K. (2019). Life cycle assessment of diesel trucks. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 15(2), 8-15.
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE, is a common citation style for engineers. Based on the Chicago citation style, IEEE uses bracketed numerical in-text citations: . The reference list is in numerical order based on the in-text citations.
A journal article in an IEEE reference list would look like the following:
 Jones, K. “Aeronautics work and the psyche: templates.” Brown Center Engineering Institute, vol. 120, no. 4, pp. 2329-2337, Mar. 2021.
The Chicago style is another style commonly used in technical writing. Created and published by the University of Chicago Press, the Chicago citation style is common in social science publications, but is used for various purposes in STEM professions. In-text citations usually consist of the name of the author, the date of the publication, and the page number: (Smith 2018, 256). The reference list is in alphabetical order by author’s last name.
A journal article in a Chicago reference list would look like the following:
Smith, R. “Expanding the energy sector access in Taiwan.” Journal of Electrical Engineering 12, no. 4 (Fall): 3-21.
The American Institute of Physics, or AIP, is a citation style most appropriate for physics and astronomy publications. AIP uses superscript numbers for in-text citations: Smith later denied this claim1. The reference section is listed in numerical order based on the in-text citation numbers, and the journal title is abbreviated for each reference.
A journal article in a AIP reference list would look like the following:
1R. Smith, “Rate of decay of olfactory senses.” J. Elec. Eng. 12, 342 (2019).
CSE is a common citation style that is used in the science disciplines that includes three different formatting systems:
A journal article in a CSE reference list would look like the following:
Jones K, Smith R. 2021. Assessing potable water use in southern Vermont. New England Journal of Medicine. 312(1): 615-622.
Citations play a very important role in STEM writing, so it’s important to choose the correct citation style for your document. The STEM Writing Institute (SWI) offers both virtual and in-person STEM writing workshops to STEM graduate students, faculty, and industry professionals. Whether you’re working on a dissertation chapter, an article, or a technical report, SWI is available to help with all of your STEM writing needs.
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