Knowing which referencing style to use for sociology papers and research can prove to be confusing. A simple Google search brings up multiple different citation styles, each slightly different from the last - so how do you know which one to make use of?

Firstly, it’s important to pay attention to the referencing style preferred by the sociological department at your university. This is likely to be given to you in a marking rubric or told to you by a lecturer at the beginning of the course.

Because the requirements can differ from university to university, we’ve put together this full guide to knowing what citation style to use for sociology:

#1 Harvard citation style

Harvard citation style

Recommended especially for the formatting of in-text references and when writing bibliographies, the Harvard referencing style will contain information like the name of the author, year of publication, title, name of the publisher, and the pages used.

Your in-text citation will typically show the author’s last name and the year of publication, located at the end of the direct quote or paraphrased statement, like so:

The only way forward for the justice system is to be continuously questioning itself, just like society can only move into the future based on the work it does on maintaining itself and its institutions (Dreyfus, Hubert and Foucault, 1983).

There is, however, a snag here. If you have used the name of the author or quoted person within your sentence, there is no need to place it within the reference at the end of the sentence. Instead, you can simply use the date.

Foucault’s approach to the sociology of crime and criminal justice is still applicable to the modern socio-economic systems of today. (1983).

In a situation where there are multiple authors, the first author surname is added and the rest shortened to ‘et al’ as below:

Johnson et al. (2015) have determined that there is significant concern regarding screen time in young children.

For a full text citation, you'll want to pay attention to the following format:

Dreyfus, Hubert L and Foucault, M. (1983) Michel Foucault, beyond structuralism and hermeneutics: Beyond structuralism and hermeneutics. 2nd ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Check out these Harvard referencing resources

🌐 Official Harvard style guidelines (Cite Them Right)

🗂 Harvard style guide

📝 Harvard citation generator

#2 ASA citation style

ASA citation style

ASA, as in the American Sociological Association, have their own preferred method of referencing that is widely used and accepted by academic institutions.

The most basic breakdown of this type of citation is the inclusion of the last name of the author and the year of publication. Sometimes, the page number can be added as well when referring to specific pieces of text.

To start with, you need to know that the most basic version of the ASA in-text citation is the author’s name and the year the work was published.

In 2003, there was a first-wave of data showing that the technology sector was one of the highest-paid (Bergensen, 2005:15).

When referring to an author directly in a sentence, you can simply follow the name of the author with the date of publication in brackets, like so:

Chen (2018) furthermore states that...

The page number can also be included in the same bracket as:

Chen (2018: 208) furthermore states that...

Changing tracks, this is what you can expect a full citation to look like:

Rowthorn, V., and J. Olsen. 2016. “Global/Local: Reporting on the First Meeting of Global Health Educators on the Theme of ‘Global/Local’ Education and a Preliminary List of Global/Local Program Elements.” Annals of Global Health 82(3):555.

The last thing to bear in mind with this style of referencing is that footnotes and endnotes are not encouraged. If absolutely necessary, footnotes can be used to cite sources that have temporary availability and numbered using superscript numerals.

Check out these ASA style resources

🌐 Official ASA style guide

📝 ASA citation generator

#3 APA citation style

APA citation style

APA is another method of citation that is commonly used when citing in sociology. The most basic components of an in-text citation for this style features the author and date in parentheses - the page numbers are also sometimes used here.

The issue of global health education is one that affects every country (Rowthorn & Olsen, 2016).

If a work has multiple authors, you can use the "et al." descriptor in your in-text citation, and expand further in the full citation at the end of the paper.

Citations in the APA style can be added to the end of a sentence in parentheses, or if the author's name has been added to the content of the sentence the date is added in round brackets.

In the full-text citation, the following format needs to be followed:

Seabright, P., Stieglitz, J., & Van der Straeten, K. (2021). Evaluating social contract theory in the light of evolutionary social science. Evolutionary Human Sciences, 1–45.

Check out these APA style resources

🌐 Official APA style guidelines

🗂 APA style guide

📝 APA citation generator

#4 Turabian citation style

Turabian citation style

The Turabian citation style is an adapted version of the Chicago method of citation. While less common than some of the other citation styles on the list, the Turabian method is occasionally used by sociology departments.

The author-date style of Turabian citing will see your in-text citation example look like this:

Distance education has had a huge impact on learning (Bozkurt 2019).

As for the full-text example in the bibliography, you can expect it to look something like this:

Phillips, Nicola. 2017. “Power and Inequality in the Global Political Economy.” International Affairs 93, no. 2: 429–44.

Check out these Turabian style resources

🌐 Official Turabian style guides

🗂 Turabian style guide

📝 Turabian citation generator

#5 Chicago citation style

Chicago citation style

The Chicago citation style, like its Turabian descendent, has also been used to cite references in sociological papers, journals, and other sources.

It's important to note that of the two systems in the Chicago style, sociology makes use of parenthetical citations and a reference list.

In the Chicago method of referencing, you can expect the authors' surnames to be listed along with the date of publication:

In educational research, there are several instances of philosophical theory at play (Fulford and Hodgson 2016) .

An important thing to note is that there is no distinction made between books, journals, or other types of sources in the in-text citation.

If a specific page range is being mentioned, the numbers can be added to the citation as follows:

(Peters et al. 2020, 512)

In the Chicago style of referencing, you can expect a full-text citation to have all the above info and more. Take a closer look:

Wallace, A., V. Dietz, and K. L. Cairns. 2009. “Integration of Immunization Services with Other Health Interventions in the Developing World: What Works and Why? Systematic Literature Review.” Tropical Medicine & International Health: TM & IH 14 (1): 11–19.

Check out these Chicago style resources

🌐 Official Chicago style guidelines

🗂 Chicago style guide

📝 Chicago citation generator

Frequently Asked Questions about citation styles for sociology

🌟 What is a reference group in sociology?

A reference group in sociology would refer to an group that is being compared to another in an evaluative setting. In sociology this may be to gain insights on the identity of a social group, view shared characteristics or do other examinations of human behavior in groups.

🗂️ How do you cite sociology?

Most citation styles used in sociology follow the author-date format of referencing. This means the author's surname, the date of publication, and the page ranges used will all need to be included in the in-text citation, with further details added to the full citation at the end of the paper.

✍️ What is the shortest citation style to use in sociology?

Compared to other citation styles, MLA is one of the most streamlined to be used across as many subjects, including sociology. This is also one of the reasons why it is commonly taught to those that are new to citing.

🧐 Does sociology use APA?

APA is widely used in the social sciences, business fields, and a few of the life sciences. This means APA can also be used in sociological papers, journals, and other kinds of assignments.

🤔 What is the current APA format used in sociology?

Since 2019, the American Psychological Association has stated its preference for the use of the 7th edition APA manual. The 6th edition is still currently in use in many higher education institutions, but the 7th edition addresses new changes in citing online material that will cause many to change over.


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