Monday, October 10, 2011

Citation Spotlight: CBE Style

In my experience, the two major players in the world of citation styles have always been those of the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA). With my background as an English major, MLA is what you could call "my jam"; it's the style I'm most comfortable with and it makes a far more sense than that rage-inducer APA. But APA is far more widely used than MLA, as MLA is used solely in the field of English and literary studies, unlike APA which is used in basically everything else.

There are other styles, of course. You have Chicago and Turabian, two styles that if you showed me examples of the two I would have no clue which was which. And then there's the Council of Biology Editors (CBE) citation style, which up until the last couple months I had no idea existed.

Ten points to the person who guesses what disciplines it's used for.

Being the inquisitive type, I looked into this mysterious citation style. I began my search on the Purdue OWL website, but I found my search fruitless; the OWL focuses primarily on MLA and APA, the two most commonly used citation styles in the United States.

A Google search, however, yielded far more results. Google compiled 1.6 million results (in an astonishing .17 seconds!) for "cbe citation style," the first ten of which all were websites containing the ".edu" domain suffix. What does that mean? Well, for starters, it means it's legit--".edu" screams credibility.

Further research into CBE showed similarities between CBE and APA, not terribly surprising considering the pervasiveness of APA among science writers. An example provided by the Frederick Douglass Library at University of Maryland Eastern Shore gives the example for citing a book by a single author:

Li TSC. 2000. Medicinal plants: culture, utilization and

phytopharmacology. Lancaster (PA): Technomic. 517p.

Those familiar with APA will notice that certain APA conventions are followed. For example, the title of the book is listed in a similar manner as APA as only the first word of the title has its first letter capitalized. Additionally, first names are initialed as opposed to MLA, which requires the full name of the author. Structurally, the two styles follow the same order of author-to-year-to-title, sharing an emphasis on dates in which the works are published.

Curiously, however, CBE diverges from APA in that it abandons the punctuation following the author's last name, as well as after each initial of her first name. Also, CBE places an importance on where the book was published.

Citation styles continue to evolve and separate like single-cell organisms. Though you may have memorized a particular style a couple of years ago, the moment a new edition comes out all you knew may be torn asunder. Keeping updated with stylebooks can get to be expensive, however, so the most ideal way to keep in touch with the latest changes in your favorite citation style is to pay attention to Purdue's OWL or do a simple Google search.

Further reading and citations:

"How to Cite Using CBE" from the University of Maryland - Eastern Shore

"CBE Citation Style" from the University of Maine at Farmington

"Council of Biology Editors Citation Style" from the University of Wisconsin - Madison

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