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How to Cite a Textbook in a Syllabus


As a teacher, you might want to cite the course textbook in the syllabus for two reasons -- to ensure students know exactly which book to buy, and to provide a specific example of a citation students would write in an essay or paper for the class. Use the style format you expect your students to use in their papers.

MLA Style

Modern Language Association style is used mostly in the liberal arts and humanities. To cite a textbook with one author, follow this example:

Straus, Joseph Nathan. Elements of Music. 3rd ed. New York: Prentice Hall, 2011. Print.

Notice that, since this book has multiple editions, the desired one is listed in the citation.

If this book had multiple authors, you would list the first author by the first name followed by a comma and a space and the last name. Subsequent author follow another comma and space but with the next author’s first and last name, as in this example:

Reece, Jane B., and Lisa A. Urry.

If the book was prepared by an editor, write "Ed. John Smith" in place of the edition number in the above example.

APA Style

American Psychological Association style is used in the social sciences. The format in APA style follows this example:

Myers, D. G. (2011). Psychology (10th ed.). London: Worth.

In APA style, only the first letter of the first word of a title is capitalized. If there is a subtitle, the first letter of the first word after a colon is also capitalized. As with MLA style, editors are placed after the book’s title, formatted as the example "John C. Smith (Ed.)".

Author’s names are always last name followed by first initials, so books with multiple authors would look like the following example:

Ciccarelli, S. K., & White, J. N.

Chicago Style

"The Chicago Manual of Style" is also used in some social sciences and humanities. The citation for a book in Chicago style is nearly identical to MLA format, except you are not required to write the type of source at the end of the citation:

Ocvirk, Otto, and Robert Stinson. Art Fundamentals: Theory and Practice. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008.

Notice the absence of “Print” at the end of the citation. If the book also has an editor, write “Edited by John Smith” after a comma and space after the book’s title.

Harvard Style

Harvard style is similar to APA style, but it eliminates some punctuation, as seen in this example:

Pride, WM & Hughes, RJ 2012, Foundations of business, 3rd edn. Cengage Learning, Boston.

Notice that the name of the publisher comes before the place of publication, which is opposite in most other style guides. Also, “edn.” Is used instead of “ed.” To indicate the edition.

AP Style

Associated Press style, not to be confused with APA style, is for journalists writing news articles. Since this style doesn’t use traditional reference list or works cited citations, use in-text attribution to refer to the textbook in your syllabus. For example, you could write, “Use the guidelines for capitalization found in the AP Stylebook (2015 edition).”

About the Author

Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.

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