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Reference Styles

Unlike most other literary genres, scholarly literature requires that you leave a clear trail of all external sources used in your papers. This is the practice, or craft if you will, of referencing as has just been discussed in the referencing section of this guide. Referencing in academia is not only mandatory it is also highly regulated. When you cite a source in your paper, you do not do that blindfolded and at random, instead you follow a predefined template that dictates exactly what information you are expected to provide. This template is called a reference style and there are literally thousands of styles available from which to choose. Some are extremely limited in their application and are used for specific publications only, such as The Academy of Management Review. Others cover entire domains, which is the case of the APA style, from the American Psychological Association, which is predominantly used in the behavioral and social sciences. 

Citations and references in selected reference styles – a couple of examples:

APA (7th edition)

(Callaghan, 2016, p. 3)

Callaghan, C. W. (2016). Capital-centric versus knowledge-centric paradigms of human resource management: A historical perspective. Acta Commercii, 16(1).


(Callaghan 2016, 3)

Callaghan, Chris W. 2016. “Capital-Centric versus Knowledge-Centric Paradigms of Human Resource Management: A Historical Perspective.” Acta Commercii 16 (1).

As is clear from the examples provided above, differences between styles may be stark and obvious (e.g. given name spelled out vs. initials) or they may be so subtle as to be almost negligible (e.g. comma vs. no comma). They all serve the same purpose though, which is to make reading comprehension as easy as possible.

Even though each style has its own inherent logic, it is very difficult, if not outright impossible, to guess how a particular style behaves in all instances. Instead, you need to learn by rot the basic and distinctive characteristics of the style of choice in order to operationalize it all of its multifarious manifestations. This is why referencing is a craft; the more you practice a style, the easier it will be for you to implement it in your own papers and to recognize and decode it in those of others.  

No universal style at CBS

At CBS, we do not operate one universal style that all students are expected to follow. In fact, most study programmes do not have any preferred style and it falls on you as a student to decide which style to opt for. Unless you have a personal favorite, it is always a good idea to talk to your supervisor or instructor about choice of style, as they may prefer one over others. Check the formal requirements section on to see if your programme requires the use a particular reference style.

APA style

If no dictate emerges from your study programme or supervisor, and you have no spontaneous impulse yourself, we recommend that you use APA in its most recent release. First, it is a reference style born out of the behavioral and social sciences and is highly relevant in the context of CBS as a business university. Second, it is a well-known and recognizable style across academia and as such is easy to relate to even outside the behavioral and social sciences. Third, there is a lot of expertise on this specific style available at CBS, should you ever need help.

Consistency is king

Regardless of style, the single most important aspect of referencing is consistency. Whether you settle on APA, Chicago or some obscure, single-journal style, always make sure to stick with it throughout a paper. This is equally true in those cases where you, for whatever reason, should decide to forgo any known style altogether and create your own. Always be consistent!

Having said that, however, it is not advisable to skip the use of a formal and recognized referencing style. Unless you are totally on top of the underlying philosophy and pragmatics of referencing, there is a real risk that the data provided to your readers in a home-cooked style will lack important details, which in turn will make it difficult to identify the sources used. This may lead to accusations of plagiarism.

Wrong Choice of Reference Style

Wrong choice of style can never be plagiarism. At most, your exam submission may be rejected because you have failed to use the style required by your study programme. This means that you will have used one exam attempt. To avoid any such misunderstanding, it is highly recommended that you check out before you settle on a reference style.

Reference Style Directory

Click the picture and mouse over the style you would like to preview

Section Author

Joshua Kragh Bruhn -