What is referencing?

Referencing is a standardised method of formatting all sources of information used in your academic writing. Referencing is a formal acknowledgement of the source of the information (an idea, concept, diagram, fact, figure or theory) that you are using in your writing.

Why reference?

Here are some of the reasons why referencing is essential in academic writing:

  • Giving a full reference to the source of information allows you to credit the author whose ideas you are using
  • Referencing allows the reader to fully and accurately access the information you cite in your work should the reader wish to do so
  • Avoiding plagiarism: Referencing means that you are not pretending that the idea you are using is your own
  • Referencing adds to your credibility as a writer
  • Evidence of referencing displays the rigorous review of the literature you have undertaken

How do you reference?

You must refer to all sources you quote or paraphrase within your document, and this is known as citing.  You should always briefly cite the sources you use in your work within your academic writing as this will refer your reader to your reference list or bibliography where you will provide the extended details of the source. 

 If you use the words of another author, you must always use quotation marks to indicate that these words are not your own and you must acknowledge the source, including the page number in your brief in-text citation.

If you express another author’s ideas in your own words, this is called paraphrasing and you must still acknowledge the source of the idea.

The Reference list is usually placed at the end of a text (essay or chapter).  It contains the list of citations for sources that you have cited within your text.

The Bibliography is placed at the end of your work and comprises the complete list of all references you consulted in preparing the document, whether you cited them in your text or not.  It can also include titles useful as background reading.

Refer to our Library’s Guide to Managing your References for detailed guidance on the mechanics of referencing.

Referencing styles

A referencing style is a particular set of rules telling you how to present your sources of information. There are many styles in use but most can be categorized in author-date or numerical styles. Different Schools have preferred styles, check with your lecturer or tutor if you are not sure which style to use. Harvard and MLA are the most common styles within Languages and Humanities. Refer back to our Library’s Guide to Managing your Reference

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