All you ever wanted to know about referencing

Referencing is an academic convention that can provoke a lot of angst and worry amongst students. What is it? Why do I have to do it? How do I do it?…

There is no getting away from referencing, it can be a time consuming and often frustrating process but the following advice will get you started!

Why do I need to reference?

Referencing is your opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of your subject area, to highlight what you have read in support of your work and to show how you have synthesised different viewpoints and arguments. It also allows your reader to follow up on any interesting references.

What do I need to reference?

Reference everything that you have read and subsequently used in your work, with the exception of commonly accepted facts, such as the earth is round.

A word on terminology…

A reference or citation is the item that you have read.

A reference list is a list of all the items that you have read and included in your work. This is what most tutors are looking for.

A bibliography is a reference list plus any items you have read, that have informed your thinking, but which you have not directly referred to in your work. Some people use these terms interchangeably, so if you are not sure what is required, ask. Also, be very careful if you produce a bibliography to make sure that you do not inadvertently commit plagiarism.

The in-text citation is the marker in your document that links the reader to your reference list. If you are using the author date style, you use the author name and year information, for example, (Johnson, 2017). In the numbered style, each reference is given a running number. Depending on the style you are using, it will look like this, (1), [1], 1 .

Which referencing style should I use?

This will depend on the guidance you receive from your department. There are three main systems of referencing – author date, numeric and footnotes.

In the author date system, your reference list is ordered alphabetically by the last name of the first author.

In the numeric system, your reference list is ordered chronologically in the order you have added the references to your work.

In the footnote system, the in text citations correspond to footnotes at the end of each page with a reference list at the end of the document.

The golden rule is to select a style and stick with it. Consistency is all important. For further advice on the different styles and how to use them, click here.

How do I manage my references?

As you complete more modules and assignments, you will need a system to manage the references that you are finding and using. The most important thing is to have a system that works for you. This might be a list or spreadsheet of the references you have used or you might want to use an online reference management system that will store your references and automatically create your in-text citations and reference lists. The University currently subscribes to the EndNote software but other packages include Mendeley and Zotero.

Start referencing.

Hopefully you can now start referencing with confidence. You can get more detailed advice via the RefWise tutorial. If you have any questions, your departmental guidance is the best place to start.

Top Tips

Have a system that works for you

  • Use a referencing software tool
  • Keep a record in Word as you go along
  • Keep copies of full text articles
  • For more in-depth guidance go to our Referencing and Plagiarism online tutorial!

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