A Hodgepodge of Citation Styles

By Danny Dotson, Mathematical Sciences Librarian & Science Education Specialist


Are instructors complaining to you about seeing a hodgepodge of citation styles in their students’ bibliographies? It may not be the students’ fault (at least not entirely) – it’s likely the fault of the publisher.

Increasingly, publishers are giving suggestions for how to cite an article – or outright saying to do it a certain way.

A quick search on some major publishers platforms indicate the following publishers do this, at least for some of their content, either on the items landing page or on the PDF:

  • SpringerNature
  • Taylor & Francis
  • Oxford University Press

Elsevier, Wiley, and Cambridge University Press were checked and I didn’t see this – but I only checked a few items.

So it’s entirely possible, and even quite likely, when students are provided a citation, they will assume it’s okay to use. Unfortunately, these citations are only in one style (although some of these give export options in addition to the default style). And for the three that give a default style, none appear to tell you what that style is.

This is a learning opportunity, but it is also perhaps a growing issue. Given that the three publishers that do this (for at least some of their content) are three of the biggest journal publishers, it’s quite likely this is a common occurrence.

So if instructors express stress over inconsistent bibliographies, this issue may be an explanation for some of these cases.