The preferred citation style at Meadville Lombard is Chicago Style, referring to The Chicago Manual of Style, which is currently in its 17th edition. It is the citation style most commonly used by scholars of religious studies and the humanities.
The Meadville Lombard library also maintains a subscription giving students, faculty, and staff free access to an online version of The Chicago Manual of Style.
Chicago Style is sometimes referred to as Turabian Style, after Kate Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, currently in its 9th edition. Turabian is a (more affordable!) summary of The Chicago Manual of Style. If you are looking to buy a citation and formatting guide (and it is highly recommended that you do so!), Turabian is a great way to go.
There are a number of computer programs that can format citations for you. Microsoft Word includes a citation formatting tool (in the References tab), while tools like Zotero are available online. However, know that it is not guaranteed that these programs will always produce correct citations! If you type in something inaccurately or neglect information that should be there, these tools cannot correct those mistakes. While these programs are becoming increasingly better, they are ultimately computer algorithms and do not understand nuance; they might, for example, incorrectly alphabetize an author like Otis Moss III under I instead of M, or fail to recognize that P. Lightsey is the same person as Pamela Lightsey. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with Chicago Style before using such programs and to double check to make sure that the citations the program produces are correct! In the end, it is your responsibility—not your computer's—to properly cite your sources; if a citation program makes a mistake, you can be liable for it.
Your audience—your professors and the outside academic world—expects that you will cite outside works according to Chicago Style or another citation style. Citations are part of the ethics of scholarship. It is unethical to take someone else’s idea and claim it as your own. Doing so, even unintentionally, is considered plagiarism, which can result in disciplinary action or even expulsion.
Citations are also justice work. In citing a resource, you are properly attributing an idea to its creator; not citing someone else’s intellectual property is therefore an act of cultural appropriation. Given that the ideas and contributions of historically-marginalized peoples have often been ignored, forgotten, and whitewashed, citations allow us the opportunity and ability to recognize the impact of black, brown, women, queer, and other long silenced voices.*
Finally, citations will show your professor that you have indeed been doing your work. In citing your course readings, your instructor will see that you have been reading your assigned readings; in citing outside materials, your instructor will see that you have research skills.
*Zaynab Shahar, “Citations as Justice Work,” YouTube video, 11:15, July 17, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGmJNQXlHVc.