The APA citation basics write:

If you refer to the title of a source within your paper, capitalize all words that are four letters long or greater within the title of a source: Permanence and Change. Exceptions apply to short words that are verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs: Writing New Media, There Is Nothing Left to Lose.

(Note: in your References list, only the first word of a title will be capitalized: Writing new media.)

(my highlighting).

I realize that this is a matter of choice and convention, but as I read scientific publications in Computer Science, it strikes me how often these practices are mixed. In the document, the "capitalized" version is predominant, but in reference lists, they are quite often mixed.

When I was in school I remember being taught that this was the right way of writing headlines, so I understand those who force bibtex to cite this way by curly-bracketing first letters.

But what is the reason for this convention? Is it fair to say that it is incorrect? Otherwise, how can it be argued to use small caps in the reference lists?

  • "capitalize all words that are four letters long": at least in scientific papers, I try to avoid four-letter words :-) – Massimo Ortolano Sep 28 '15 at 11:46
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    Note that Capitalizing All Words in a Title is heavily culture dependent - in many languages, titles are always typeset in sentence case (capitalization just like a normal sentence), and to non-native English speakers, Title Case may look like the writing of a 6-year old. – Sanchises Sep 28 '15 at 11:49
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    It's not really surprising that the American Psychological Association style is not strictly followed in all CS publications... – user9646 Sep 28 '15 at 12:40
  • It might make more sense if you look at the ACM Journals Word Style Guide. They provide standard templates that abstract those pesky formatting decisions away for you. – tonysdg Sep 28 '15 at 15:51
  • The reason I used APA guidelines was simply to provide an example of the problem. It was easier than showing the actual reference list of a publication. There are numerous publications in many disciplines, also my own (CS) where you can observe mixing of these two ways of doing it. My interest is more theoretical, i.e., what is correct from an English philology standpoint. – user1603472 Oct 1 '15 at 9:36

Each venue has its own set of rules. Sometimes it can change from within the same publication (on special issues and such).

Therefore, sorry, there is not straight answer. Check the guidelines of the journal/conference you are currently aiming...

ps: I don't remember ever mentioning the title of any work in my articles. At most "The method X was introduced by A et. al [1]".

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