The reason for so many is because some disciplines prioritize certain information. For instance, the social sciences use APA because the date of publication is important to them, which has been made very accessible through the APA style guide. They want current information.
The arts, on the other hand, tend to prioritize names of creators, therefore MLA hosts both author first and last name.
But what about the rest of the style guides? What makes them so unique? Mainly how they cite and reference seems to be the key differentiator.
Other than that, it seems like style guides use examples and illustrations common to the disciplines they represent, making the guidelines easier to follow. Some nuances also exist between different style guide structures that allow citations to be more easily done in the respective academic disciplines.
Let’s look at the key differences between the style guides:
CSE (Council of Science Editors)
The CSE style guide is used in the sciences, including biology, zoology, ecology, and medicine. It uses three different formats: citation-sequence system, citation-name system, or name-year system.
The citation-sequence system uses superscripted numbers that are documented in the reference section at the end of the paper. In the references, the citations are in the order they appear in the text.
The citation-name system also uses superscripted number, but the end of document “cited works” are in alphabetical order according to author’s last name.
The name-year system has, in the text, the author’s name and year of publication. The references, placed at the end of the document, are in alphabetical order by author surname.
AMA (American Medical Association)
The AMA style guide is used for medical research. It uses in-text superscript numbers for citations placed at the end-of-paper references.
ACS (American Chemical Society)
The ACS style guide is used mostly in chemistry. The ACS style has a reference list at the end of the paper and in-text citations. The in-text citations are either sequential numbers in square brackets or author-date format containing the author surname and date of publication. Just be consistent in which in-text citation format you choose.
The Chicago style guide uses footnotes or endnotes and a Bibliography. You can either have footnotes which situate the references at the bottom of the page or endnotes which puts them at the end of the paper.
There are two types of Chicago styles: (1) the notes and bibliography system and (2) author-date style.
Chicago’s notes and bibliography system uses superscript numbers inline to refer to the corresponding bibliography as either footnotes or endnotes. The notes and bibliography system is used mostly in history, the arts, and literature.
The sciences and social sciences tend to use the author-date Chicago Style. It involves in-text citations with author name, publication year, and page number. This Style involves a reference section at the end of the paper.
IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)
The IEEE style guide is used for engineering, computer science, and IT. The inline citations are numbers in square brackets, listed in numerical order at the end-of-paper reference section.
ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers)
This style guide is used by civil engineers. It incorporates the in-text author date format, citing the author’s last name and date of publication.
Whew! That’s a lot of information on style guides. If I had to pick a style guide before picking a discipline of study, I’d pick AMA (American Medical Association). That’s because everyone dreams of being a doctor, including me. But the last time I went to the doctor’s office, it had a thick scent, perhaps of COVID. Thus, I think I’ll stick with APA.