Referencing is how you highlight where you’ve got information from – these are your sources. You have to reference sources in your essays so that the reader can acknowledge the original source of the information and find out more. By referencing, you’ll also avoid plagiarism – copying other people’s work and passing it off as your own.

There are many different referencing styles, however, you’ll only ever be asked to use one, and your school, college or university will have guides on this style available in their library or on their online portal. The most common styles include MLA, Harvard and APA. Regardless of the system you use, the key is to be accurate and consistent.

Some useful tips to consider when you’re referencing include:

When to reference

  • When you quote someone else’s words (verbal or written)
  • Paraphrase (re-word), or refer to someone else’s ideas
  • Use factual data from sources
  • Re-print a diagram, image or chart
  • Use someone else’s design format
  • Need to highlight that you’re evidencing an argument

Establish a routine

When doing any research, get into the habit of copying down information and noting where you got it from at the same time. This saves you worrying about not being able to locate the source of the information again when you come back to write it up.

Outline what is sourced

Make sure that when you’re writing down notes, in the planning stage, that you keep these separate from the information you’ve sourced from other people; you want to avoid getting confused and plagiarising. This will also make it easier for you to use your original ideas and then use additional sources to evidence and explain them further.

Look at academic references

Sometimes having a look at an academic’s essay and seeing how they’ve referenced will give you a better idea of the way you want to tackle it. This will also make it easier for you to understand how referencing should look on paper if you’re feeling confused. You can also use handy websites such as www.citethisforme.com to make sure you’re on the right track when it comes to referencing.

Remember the most important thing about referencing is that you take down the author’s name, the title of work, the date the source was published, where it was published and who by. Once you have this, you can adapt it to any style of referencing you need.

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