What is referencing and how do you do it?
Last updated on 10/13/2016 Print this page
What is referencing?
Referencing is acknowledging the sources of information
(originated by another person) that you have used to help you write
your essay, report or other piece of work.
In your work, you should use the existing knowledge of others to
back up and provide evidence for your arguments. This makes
your arguments stronger and gives them true academic
value. The sources of information you use may include
books, journal articles, newspapers, government publications,
organisational reports, websites, videos, computer programs and so
When must you use a reference in your work?
You MUST use a reference whenever you:
- Quote directly from a source.
- Paraphrase (put into your own words) someone else’s ideas. This
is often a better alternative to using a direct quotation.
- Use statistics or other pieces of specific information which
are drawn from a source you have read, viewed or heard.
- Use photographs, diagrams, illustrations or charts that
you have not designed and created yourself.
If you do not use a reference in the circumstances above or
follow the conventions of referencing your work, you run the
risk of committing the serious academic offence of
plagiarism. Plagiarism is taking the work of
others and passing it off as your own work (even unintentionally).
This may ultimately result in failure or expulsion from the
University. Don't panic though, it is easy to avoid if you follow
the basic rules.
How do you reference?
You reference using a referencing system.
This is a set of guidelines to show you what information is needed
in a reference and how you should format it, both within your text
and in your reference list at the end of the document. There are
two common types of referencing system:
- Author-Date (e.g. Harvard, APA): Author surnames and
date of publication are given in the text and an alphabetical
reference list/bibliography is given at the end.
- Footnote-Bibliography (Chicago, OSCOLA): A superscript
number in the text refers to footnotes found at the bottom of
each page and an alphabetised reference list/bibliography is
given at the end.
Your department will advise you on the appropriate style to
Whichever referencing system you use, there are some general
golden rules which should be followed:
- Be consistent – use only the guidelines
provided and stick to them for all your work.
- Follow the detail in your guidelines
absolutely; for example, for punctuation, capitals and italics. If
you do this inconsistently, you may lose marks. Referencing is
all about attention to detail.
- If the source of information you are
referencing does not fit any of the examples in the guidelines,
include enough information for your reader to find and check that
source, in a format as near to the appropriate example as
University plagiarism quiz - A short online quiz to help
you understand what constitutes plagiarism.
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