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According to Wikipedia, the most pertinent styles are Chicago and APSA, which is a variant of Chicago. But I could not find stronger references about this.

EDIT. The purpose of my question is the following. I am trying to build a quick help-sheet for scholars and students about the "citation" topic. Political science seems to be a discipline not very careful about the citation styles issue (compared to the STM fields), so I can't find clear information about the practice of its community.

  • This is really a question you should ask your advisor. – Alexandros Jan 19 '15 at 11:03
  • I'm not a scholar, and I don't need to write a paper, so I don't have an advisor. But as librarian I'm interested in how academic publishing works. Does your comment mean that there is no such thing as a common practice, and every advisor does what he prefers? – FraEnrico Jan 19 '15 at 11:07
  • My comment just means that advisors usually know the prevailing citation style of an academic discipline and are better for this kind of advice than total internet strangers. But since you are not interested in writing a paper, perhaps you can get some initial hints here. – Alexandros Jan 19 '15 at 11:33
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    What's the underlying question? What problem are you actually trying to solve? What difference would the answer make to you? If we know that, we can give you a better answer. – EnergyNumbers Jan 19 '15 at 11:36
  • Thank you all. I'm also new to SE so I need to find the best way to act here. @Alexandros: I assume that academia.SE is not "total internet strangers" but a community of people knowledgeable about academia. I ask help here as much I ask to people around me :) – FraEnrico Jan 19 '15 at 11:41
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Political Scientist here. @aeismail is correct - different journals use different citation styles, as do different academic publishers. The best way around this is to use a reference manager (such as Mendeley or Papers) to not only manage your academic articles, but cite directly into your publications. These software packages are capable of formatting your citations in whichever style necessary.

With that said, my experience is that, generally, APSR's citation style is broadly accepted, with minor variation.

  • Thank you for your useful answer. I see a flaw though: you say "the best way around this is to use a reference manager" and I agree, but a RMS requires that you select the style that you want to use. So that does solve the problem of formatting the citations, but not the problem of choosing the right style - which was the object of my question. – FraEnrico Jan 22 '15 at 7:58
  • Can you provide examples of software to format citations? – Ryan Apr 7 '15 at 4:02
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The best way to figure this out is to look at the "instructions to authors" provided by different political science journals on their home pages. (As an example, the Journal of Politics and Society expects authors to use the Chicago Manual of Style for citations. In general, for writing in the humanities, the Chicago guide is often a good starting point.

However, the better recommendation would be to use bibliographic software which will be able to reformat references into whatever style you need. Note that you don't need to have a subscription to the journals to access this information; it should be freely available on the website outside of any paywall the journal publisher may have.

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This is hard to generalize because it depends on the type of journal your are submitting to and/or your department's requirements. Because I work in the public policy realm, APA is by far the most common style requested for journal articles. However, if you are writing a political philosophy piece or for a book chapter, Chicago is more common.

In your guide, you could say something like: "Because citation styles vary according to the type of publication, please search online for the journal name and 'author instructions' before you begin writing, or consult the editor or principal investigator of your project. You may also consider using a bibliography manager such as RefWorks, EndNote or Zotero to track your sources. These programs allow you to output references lists in different formats with minimal extra work."

Additional information on citation styles can be found:

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