When you conduct your research, it is important to record the details of all the information you find to provide accurate references, and to assist you or the reviewers to locate the information again later.  Many styles are used for citation referencing.  When you are given thesis or dissertation guidelines, check which style of referencing your advisor or committee asks you to use.  If you don’t check, and you use a style that is not the one stated in your guidelines, you could lose points. 


Why Do We Cite and Reference?

As an academic writer and student, you must document all sources of information that you include in your project.  The purpose for citations is to credit the author for their original work and to allow readers to access the same sources you did.  Even if you use your own words, if the ideas are from another source, you must document it.  In-text citations show readers exactly where certain ideas in your paper came from, and cross-references with the full citation in the References List at the end of the document. 

Furthermore, by citing references, you also:

·                     enable the reader to see how dated the information might be

·                     prove to your professors that you have read about/researched the topic

·                     validate your arguments

Additionally, by following the guidelines set forth by your discipline, college, or university, you avoid plagiarizing someone else’s ideas, a serious breach of academic conduct and violation of most student codes of conduct.[1]

What Is Referencing?

Citations and referencing is a process used to demonstrate that you, a student/researcher, have conducted a thorough and appropriate literature search.  Equally, referencing is a way for you to acknowledge that you used the ideas and material belonging to other authors in your own work.  Referencing is a key element of good academic practice and shows that your writing is based on knowledge and appropriate resources.

All referencing styles have two parts: citing and the reference list. 

What Is A Citation?

When you use another person’s work, by either reference or quote, you must acknowledge his or her work in your text—this is called a citation.  An in-text citation is a shortened version of a source’s reference cited in the reference list and is inserted right at the end of a specific sentence to indicate that the information in that sentence was borrowed from that particular source. 

What Needs To Be Recorded?

Author/s.  Include the author(s) where possible; with the last name first followed by any initials.  If there are more than three authors then you can cite the first author and use the abbreviation ‘et al’, meaning ‘and all’.  For some sources, especially websites, the author may not be known; in these cases, use either the organization name or the title of the document or webpage.

Date of Publication.  You should include the year of publication or a more specific date if appropriate, for any resource you cite and include this date in parentheses after author information.  If no date can be established, put (n.d.).  For webpages, look for the when the page was last updated and put this date in brackets. 

Title of Piece.  Include the title of the piece (e.g., the name of the book, the title of a journal article, or webpage).  It is important to remember to include the edition of the book to make finding information easier, and the volume and issue number when citing a journal or magazine article.

Publisher Information.  Usually only relevant for books, include the publisher name and place of publication after the title of the piece.

Page Numbers.  If you are referencing a specific part of a book or article, be sure to include the page number(s) you used.  Use p. 123 to indicate a single page or pp. 123-456 to indicate a page range.

DOI or URL and Date Accessed.  A digital object identifier (DOI) is an alphanumeric string assigned to identify content and provide a persistent link to its location on the Internet.  The publisher assigns a DOI when the article is published and made available electronically. [2]  For webpages, include the full URL of the page and the date you last accessed the page in brackets at the end of the reference.  The internet is not stagnant and webpages are constantly changed/updated/removed, therefore, it is important to note when you found the information.

What is a Reference List?

In academia, the purpose of the reference list is to credit the work of others that influenced the present work and documents any facts not common knowledge; and gives readers the information necessary to identify and retrieve those sources.  Note that uncited sources are not to be included in the reference list, but can be in a bibliography.  A bibliography is more expansive, covering works consulted by the author or recommended for the reader but not cited in the text.

Basic Rules

Your references should begin on a new page at the end of the document, and labeled “References,” centered at the top of the page.  All text should be spaced the same as the rest of your document.  Most importantly, each source you cite in the text must be listed in the references, and each entry in the reference list must be cited in the text.

When to Cite Sources

Different academic disciplines have different rules concerning when and how to cite sources (i.e., footnotes vs. parenthetical in-text citations vs. a complete bibliography).  As you decide on a concentration and begin work in your program, you will learn the specific protocols for your field.  And, remember the fundamental rule: when in doubt, cite.

Princeton University describes some basic principles of citations below which apply to all disciplines:

·                     Quotation.  A citation and page number must accompany any verbatim use of a source, no matter how large or small the quotation. 

·                     Paraphrase/Summary.  A summary or paraphrase is a restatement of another person’s thoughts or ideas in your own words.  Although you don’t need to use quotation marks when you paraphrase, you still need to cite the source. 

·                     Information, Facts, and Data.  You’ll often use facts or information to support your argument.  If the information is found in a particular source, you must clearly acknowledge that source (e.g., data from a scientific experiment conducted and reported).  However, if the information is considered general knowledge, you do not need to cite a source; although, you would still want to list this in your bibliography.

·                     Supplementary Information.  You may not always be able to include all of the information or ideas from your research in the body of your document.  In such cases, insert a note offering supplementary information rather than bibliographic information.  In these footnotes or endnotes, you can offer additional data to support your argument, or briefly present an alternative idea from one of your sources, or list additional articles your reader might interesting.  This supplementary information demonstrates the breadth and depth of your research, and permits you to include relevant, but not essential, information or concepts without interrupting the flow of your paper.

Most importantly, remember that the standards of academic integrity require citing the source in the text and in reference list.  To be clear, it is not enough to list a source only in your references list if it deserves an explicit citation.  Failure to include such a citation could result in being accused of plagiarism.


[1] https://www.academiccoachingandwriting.org/academic-writing/resources/citations

[2] http://www.apastyle.org/learn/faqs/what-is-doi.aspx


You must be logged in to post a comment.