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November 13, 2012

Referencing Tips – by Ceren

Think of referencing like this. A reference is a sign, an acknowledgement of indebtedness. In the academic world it is considered good manners, a sort of scholarly politeness.

To reference is to say, ‘I acknowledge my debt to this writer (or writers) for helping me with my work.’ You do not write that, of course. That’s the message, though.

Providing a reference also allows your reader to go to the texts that you have referred to in writing your assignment. A bibliographic reference provides the details of the author(s), the title of the text and even when, where and by whom the text has been published.

Here are Top 10 essay referencing tips:

1. Familiarise yourself with the most popular referencing systems, notably Oxford (footnotes) and Harvard (parenthetical). Plenty of internet sources provide helpful assistance in gaining a thorough understanding of the notation of the major systems, and how and when to use them.

2. Determine whether you are expected to use a particular system. In higher education, most work will carry detailed specifications regarding format and referencing as well as content. In such cases be sure to adopt the required referencing system rather than simply making up your own mind.

3. Referencing is for more than just quotes. Direct quotation of another’s work requires a reference, but so too does paraphrasing of another’s ideas. A good rule of thumb is that whenever a part of your work is substantially dependent on other material for its content, reference must be made to that other work.

4. Be thorough. Referencing is essential for all higher level academic work because it allows an interested reader to trace the origin of ideas and relevant external material. Incomplete information is an obstacle to this kind of research, so a thorough and meticulous approach is absolutely essential.

5. Be consistent. Determine a system and stick to it to ensure full clarity. Inconsistent use of referencing is a distraction to the reader and indicates carelessness of thought, lack of attention, and disregard for scholarly conventions. A tidy page implies a tidy mind.

6. Beware multiple publication dates. Many books – especially the best ones – have enjoyed many reprints, so it is necessary to be sure that your references can be traced to the right pages in the right volumes. It is usually sufficient to cite the date of the publication you are using, but often it can be informative to give the original publication date also, particularly if considering the history of emerging ideas.

7. Is the text a translation? If so you should bear in mind the tip above, namely that the original language version was probably published at least a year earlier. Also avoid the trap of taking the translator as the name of a co-author, as this will rather diminish your scholarly credentials!

8. Authors and editors. Edited volumes make up a huge part of many areas of academic literature. Do not confuse author with editor, and always refer to the former rather than the latter.

9. Specificity. Different referencing systems and different usage of material will require various levels of specificity, i.e. author, year and page number, or just author and year. There can be an element of judgment here, but where possible follow the established rules of your adopted system.

10. The most useful tip of all: look at how published academics do it. Any decent journal article will have a long list of references likely to contain edited volumes, translated material, collaborations and reprints; simply copy the notation. Also look at the text itself to find a model for parenthetical referencing or footnotes.

If you want to use Reference Management Software, please check out this blog post by Salma Patel (PhD Researcher)


To learn more please check out this blog post and make comments or ask questions if you need any advice!

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