Research findings are not considered valid and legitimate unless the researcher documents the resources and methods used to conduct that research. For a scientist, this entails a detailed account of materials and methods used in the lab or the field. For the social scientist, it may mean including copies of surveys, questionnaires, observations, or other methods used to gather information. For any researcher using verbal or graphic materials, regardless of the medium—print, Internet, film, photographic, microfiche, etc...—it means indicating exactly what sources were used and where each piece of information came from.
The purpose of documenting your sources is so people interested in the subject of the research can verify information or refer to it for additional information or research. Accurately and completely documenting all sources of information used is therefore essential to the scholarly conversation — and foundational to research.
The Associated Press (AP) style guide provides guidelines for news writing, including how to attribute your sources, word usage, abbreviations, punctuation, and more. Many newspapers, magazines and public relations offices across the United States use AP style and a basic knowledge of its conventions is considered essential to those who want to work in journalism.
In a news story, facts and sources are attributed within the text. Different disciplines have developed different styles, or rules for citing sources. Fields in the humanities, and arts like literature, religion, or philosophy, tend to prefer MLA style. History and some social sciences, like education, economics, or political science, may prefer Chicago style. Other social sciences prefer APA. You should always consult with your professor to determine which style you should use for any project.
The most commonly used styles are: