This brief study guide aims to help you to understand why you should include references to the information sources that you use to underpin your writing. It explains the main principles of accurately referencing such sources in your work.
Other useful guides: Effective note making, Avoiding plagiarism.
When you are writing an essay, report, dissertation or any other form of academic writing, your own thoughts and ideas inevitably build on those of other writers, researchers or teachers. It is essential that you acknowledge your debt to the sources of data, research and ideas on which you have drawn by including references to, and full details of, these sources in your work. Referencing your work allows the reader:
- to distinguish your own ideas and findings from those you have drawn from the work of others;
- to follow up in more detail the ideas or facts that you have referred to.
Before you write
Whenever you read or research material for your writing, make sure that you include in your notes, or on any photocopied material, the full publication details of each relevant text that you read. These details should include:
- surname(s) and initial(s) of the author(s);
- the date of publication;
- the title of the text;
- if it is a paper, the title of the journal and volume number;
- if it is a chapter of an edited book, the book's title and editor(s)
the publisher and place of publication*;
- the first and last page numbers if it is a journal article or a chapter in an edited book.
For particularly important points, or for parts of texts that you might wish to quote word for word, also include in your notes the specific page reference.
* Please note that the publisher of a book should not be confused with the printer. The publisher's name is normally on a book's main title page, and often on the book's spine too.
When to use references
Your source should be acknowledged every time the point that you make, or the data or other information that you use, is substantially that of another writer and not your own. As a very rough guide, while the introduction and the conclusions to your writing might be largely based on your own ideas, within the main body of your report, essay or dissertation, you would expect to be drawing on, and thus referencing your debt to, the work of others in each main section or paragraph. Look at the ways in which your sources use references in their own work, and for further guidance consult the companion guide Avoiding Plagiarism.
There are many different referencing conventions in common use. Each department will have its own preferred format, and every journal or book editor has a set of 'house rules'. This guide aims to explain the general principles by giving details of the two most commonly used formats, the 'author, date' system and footnotes or endnotes. Once you have understood the principles common to all referencing systems you should be able to apply the specific rules set by your own department.
How to reference using the 'author, date' system
In the 'author, date' system (often referred to as the 'Harvard' system) very brief details of the source from which a discussion point or piece of factual information is drawn are included in the text. Full details of the source are then given in a reference list or bibliography at the end of the text. This allows the writer to fully acknowledge her/his sources, without significantly interrupting the flow of the writing.
1. Citing your source within the text
As the name suggests, the citation in the text normally includes the name(s) (surname only) of the author(s) and the date of the publication. This information is usually included in brackets at the most appropriate point in the text.
The seminars that are often a part of humanities courses can provide opportunities for students to develop the communication and interpersonal skills that are valued by employers (Lyon, 1992).
The text reference above indicates to the reader that the point being made draws on a work by Lyon, published in 1992. An alternative format is shown in the example below.
Knapper and Cropley (1991: p. 44) believe that the willingness of adults to learn is affected by their attitudes, values and self-image and that their capacity to learn depends greatly on their study skills.
Note that in this example reference has been made to a specific point within a very long text (in this instance a book) and so a page number has been added. This gives the reader the opportunity to find the particular place in the text where the point referred to is made. You should always include the page number when you include a passage of direct quotation from another writer's work.
When a publication has several authors, it is usual to give the surname of the first author followed by et al. (an abbreviation of the Latin for 'and the others') although for works with just two authors both names may be given, as in the example above.
Do not forget that you should also include reference to the source of any tables of data, diagrams or maps that you include in your work. If you have included a straight copy of a table or figure, then it is usual to add a reference to the table or figure caption thus:
Figure 1: The continuum of influences on learning (from Knapper and Cropley, 1991: p. 43).
Even if you have reorganised a table of data, or redrawn a figure, you should still acknowledge its source:
Table 1: Type of work entered by humanities graduates (data from Lyon, 1992: Table 8.5).
You may need to cite an unpublished idea or discussion point from an oral presentation, such as a lecture. The format for the text citation is normally exactly the same as for a published work and should give the speaker's name and the date of the presentation.
Recent research on the origins of early man has challenged the views expressed in many of the standard textbooks (Barker, 1996).
If the idea or information that you wish to cite has been told to you personally, perhaps in a discussion with a lecturer or a tutor, it is normal to reference the point as shown in the example below.
The experience of the Student Learning Centre at Leicester is that many students are anxious to improve their writing skills, and are keen to seek help and guidance (Maria Lorenzini, pers. comm.).
'Pers. comm.' stands for personal communication; no further information is usually required.
2. Reference lists/ bibliographies
When using the 'author, date' system, the brief references included in the text must be followed up with full publication details, usually as an alphabetical reference list or bibliography at the end of your piece of work. The examples given below are used to indicate the main principles.
The simplest format, for a book reference, is given first; it is the full reference for one of the works quoted in the examples above.
Knapper, C.K. and Cropley, A. 1991: Lifelong Learning and Higher Education. London: Croom Helm.
The reference above includes:
- the surnames and forenames or initials of both the authors;
- the date of publication;
- the book title;
- the place of publication;
- the name of the publisher.
The title of the book should be formatted to distinguish it from the other details; in the example above it is italicised, but it could be in bold, underlined or in inverted commas. When multi-authored works have been quoted, it is important to include the names of all the authors, even when the text reference used was et al.
Papers or articles within an edited book
A reference to a paper or article within an edited book should in addition include:
- the editor and the title of the book;
- the first and last page numbers of the article or paper.
Lyon, E.S. 1992: Humanities graduates in the labour market. In H. Eggins (ed.), Arts Graduates, their Skills and their Employment. London: The Falmer Press, pp. 123-143.
Journal articles must also include:
- the name and volume number of the journal;
- the first and last page numbers of the article.
The publisher and place of publication are not normally required for journals.
Pask, G. 1979: Styles and strategies of learning. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 46, pp. 128-148.
Note that in the last two references above, it is the book title and the journal name that are italicised, not the title of the paper or article. The name highlighted should always be the name under which the work will have been filed on the library shelves or referenced in any indexing system. It is often the name which is written on the spine of the volume, and if you remember this it may be easier for you to remember which is the appropriate title to highlight.
Other types of publications
The three examples above cover the most common publication types. You may also wish to refer to other types of publications, including PhD dissertations, translated works, newspaper articles, dictionary or encyclopaedia entries or legal or historical texts. The same general principles apply to the referencing of all published sources, but for specific conventions consult your departmental handbook or your tutor, or look at the more detailed reference books listed in the Further reading section of this guide.
Referencing web pages
The internet is increasingly used as a source of information and it is just as important to reference internet sources as it is to reference printed sources. Information on the internet changes rapidly and web pages move or are sometimes inaccessible meaning it can often be difficult to validate or even find information cited from the internet. When referencing web pages it is helpful to include details that will help other people check or follow up the information. A suggested format is to include the author of the information (this may be an individual, group or organisation), the date the page was put on the internet (most web pages have a date at the bottom of the page), the title, the http:// address, and the date you accessed the web page (in case the information has been subsequently modified). A format for referencing web pages is given below.
University of Leicester Standing Committee of Deans (6/8/2002) Internet code of practice and guide to legislation. Accessed 8/8/02
Full references to unpublished oral presentations, such as lectures, usually include the speaker's name, the date of the lecture, the name of the lecture or of the lecture series, and the location:
Barker, G. 1996 (7 October): The Archaeology of Europe, Lecture 1. University of Leicester.
Please note that in contrast to the format used for the published sources given in the first three examples above, the formatting of references for unpublished sources does not include italics, as there is no publication title to highlight.
If you look carefully at all the examples of full references given above, you will see that there is a consistency in the ways in which punctuation and capitalisation have been used. There are many other ways in which references can be formatted - look at the books and articles you read for other examples and at any guidelines in your course handbooks. The only rule governing formatting is the rule of consistency.
How to reference using footnotes or endnotes
Some academic disciplines prefer to use footnotes (notes at the foot of the page) or endnotes (notes at the end of the work) to reference their writing. Although this method differs in style from the 'author, date' system, its purpose - to acknowledge the source of ideas, data or quotations without undue interruption to the flow of the writing - is the same.
Footnote or endnote markers, usually a sequential series of numbers either in brackets or slightly above the line of writing or printing (superscript), are placed at the appropriate point in the text. This is normally where you would insert the author and date if you were using the 'author, date' system described above.
Employers are not just looking for high academic achievement and have identified competencies that distinguish the high performers from the average graduate.¹ This view has been supported by an early study that demonstrated that graduates employed in the industrial and commercial sectors were as likely to have lower second and third class degrees as firsts and upper seconds.²
Full details of the reference are then given at the bottom of the relevant page or, if endnotes are preferred, in numerical order at the end of the writing. Rules for the formatting of the detailed references follow the same principles as for the reference lists for the 'author, date' system.
1. Moore, K. 1992: National Westminster Bank plc. In H. Eggins (ed.), Arts Graduates, their Skills and their Employment. London: The Falmer Press, pp. 24-26.
2. Kelsall, R.K., Poole, A. and Kuhn, A. 1970: Six Years After. Sheffield: Higher Education Research Unit, Sheffield University,
NB. The reference to 'p.40' at the end of note 2 above implies that the specific point referred to is to be found on page 40 of the book referenced.
If the same source needs to be referred to several times, on second or subsequent occasions, a shortened reference may be used.
Studies of women's employment patterns have demonstrated the relationship between marital status and employment sector. ³
3. Kelsall et al. 1970 (as n.2 above).
In this example, the footnote refers the reader to the full reference to be found in footnote 2.
In some academic disciplines, footnotes and endnotes are not only used for references, but also to contain elaborations or explanations of points made in the main text. If you are unsure about how to use footnotes or endnotes in your work, consult your departmental guidelines or personal tutor.
If you are studying with the School of Law, you are required to follow the conventions of OSCOLA (The Oxford Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities). Full details of how to use this system are provided by the School. Copies of the system are also made available on Blackboard.
Whichever referencing system you use, you should check carefully to make sure that:
- you have included in your reference list/bibliography, footnotes or endnotes full details of all the sources referred to in your text;
- you have used punctuation and text formatting, such as italics, capitals, and bold text, in a consistent manner in your reference lists or footnotes.
More detailed discussion of referencing conventions is to be found in the following publications:
- Berry, R. 2004: The Research Project: How to Write It. London and New York: Routledge.
- Gash, S. 1999: Effective Literature Searching for Students (second edition). Aldershot: Gower.
- Gibaldi, J. 2004: MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (sixth edition). New York: The Modern Language Association of America.
- Watson, G. 1987: Writing a Thesis: a Guide to Long Essays and Dissertations. London: Longman.
There are also software programs, for example, Endnote and Refworks that are designed to manage references. They include the facility to incorporate 'author, date' insertions within your text, and to format reference lists automatically.
Learn about: Reference services, selecting the right reference source, types of reference sources, where and how to find reference sources, and reference sources available via the Web.
The function of libraries is three-fold. Libraries acquire information, organize that information in a way it can be retrieved, and disseminate the information the library has acquired. Reference services fulfills this last function. Reference services may vary from library to library, but most libraries have an information or Reference Desk where assistance from a librarian is available. Almost all libraries provide reference services via the telephone and many libraries offer email, text, or chat services with a reference librarian.
There are three main types of reference assistance:
- Assistance or instruction with using the library, including locating materials, using the catalog, using computers to access information, and using basic reference sources.
- Assistance identifying library materials needed to answer a question.
- Providing brief, factual answers to questions, such as addresses, statistics, phone numbers, etc. that can be quickly located.
Reference sources such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, almanacs, atlases, etc. are research tools that can help you with your paper or project. Reference sources provide answers to specific questions, such as brief facts, statistics, and technical instructions; provide background information; or direct you to additional information sources. In most libraries, reference sources do not circulate and are located in a separate reference collection. This practice makes reference sources readily available and easily accessible.
Reference sources are designed to be consulted rather than read through. Their design is generally dependent on the type of information and treatment provided. Reference materials can be arranged alphabetically, topically, or chronologically. Many will contain cross listed information and more than one index. If it is not obvious how a reference source is organized, take a moment to look through the explanatory or how-to-use information, which is usually presented at the beginning of the book, or in HELP screens for online products.
There are thousands of reference sources available that cover practically every subject. Although the term reference "book" is frequently used, reference sources can be books, serials, on-line databases or the Internet. A large part of using reference sources well is choosing the right one.
Despite the wide variety available, reference sources can be categorized into a handful of groups. Think about the kind of information you need and how you will use it. If you are unsure which reference tool is best suited to your information need, a reference librarian will be able to assist you.
Quick guide for selecting the right type of reference source (Collins, 151):
|For information about...||Choose...|
|General information/Overview of topic||Encyclopedias|
|Names & addresses of people, organizations, institutions, companies||Directories|
|Profiles of people||Biographical Dictionaries|
|Places/Maps||Gazetteers or Atlases|
|Facts and Statistics||Almanacs|
|Formula, Tables, How-To-Do-It||Handbooks and Manuals|
|A person's work||Reviews or Criticisms|
|Dates, outlines, historical timelines||Historical tables, Chronologies, Historical yearbooks|
|Periodical Articles||Indexes or Abstracts|
|Books and other sources||Bibliographies or Guides to Literature...|
Types of Reference Tools
Two major categories of reference materials are general and subject. General sources include all subjects and present overviews of topics. Reference materials focused on specific subjects can provide more in-depth coverage.
There are reference sources that provide information on specific subjects as well as general sources that provide information on many subjects. In general, reference sources are either general or subject specific. If you need an overview of a subject, perhaps a general information source will suit your needs. If you need specialized information, a subject specific tool may be better suited.
The following reference sources and others are available in the main Reference Collection on Level 4 of Rasmuson Library, and/or via the Internet.
Dictionaries provide information about words.
- General dictionaries are the most familiar to us. You may even own one. This group includes Webster's International Dictionary, the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, and the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. These sources generally provide definitions, pronunciations, syllabication, and usage.
- Historical dictionaries provide the history of a word from its introduction into the language to the present. The Oxford English Dictionary is an excellent example of this type of dictionary.
- Etymological dictionaries are dictionaries which emphasize the anaylsis of components of words and their cognates in other languages. These dictionaries emphasize the linguistic and grammatical history of the word usage. The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology is an example of an etymological dictionary.
- Period or scholarly specialized dictionaries focus on a particular place or time period. For example, try the Dictionary of Alaskan English if you would like to know when the word "cheechako" was first used.
- Foreign language dictionaries are fairly self-explanatory. We've all looked up words in a French or Spanish or other Western European language. Don't forget other wonderful dictionaries, such as the Yup'ik Eskimo Dictionary or the Inupiat Eskimo dictionary.
- Subject dictionaries focus on word definitions in a subject area, such as finance, law, botany, electronics, physics, etc.
- Other dictionaries include dictionaries of slang, abrreviations, synonyms, antonyms, abbreviations, acronyms, reversals, rhyming, idioms, phrases, and guides to correct usage. Dictionary of Acronyms and Abbreviations, The Macmillan Dictionary of Historical Slang, Roget's II: The New Thesaurus, The American Language, Strunk's Elements of Style.
Dictionaries, like other reference sources, may belong to more than one category. For example, an English-Russian engineering dictionary is both a foreign language and a subject dictionary.
Dictionaries may be abridged or unabridged. Abridged dictionaries are smaller and contained the most commonly used words. Unabridged dictionaries try to include all words in current usage. Like other reference sources, dictionaries may become outdated as language evolves. Care should be taken to carefully identify the publication date and focus of the dictionary selected. General dictionaries begin with LC call numbers starting with AG. Specialized dictionaries will have subject specific call numbers.
Encyclopedias provide general background information; they are a good place to start researching a topic that you know little about. Large subject areas or disciplines are covered in broad articles that explain basic concepts. These overview articles often contain references to more specific aspects of the larger topic and may include a bibliography that leads you to more in-depth sources. Encyclopedias may be general or subject specific.
- General encyclopedias usually arrange articles alphabetically by topic. Look for an accompanying index which may list cross-references to other articles. Included in this category are Encyclopaedia Britannica, The Cambridge Encyclopedia , Encyclopedia Americana, and the Columbia Encyclopedia. General encyclopedia LC call numbers begin with AE.
- Subject encyclopedias are available for almost every academic discipline. They provide more in-depth and technical information than general encyclopedias. Subject encyclopedias generally assume some prior knowledge of the subject. There is no general rule for how these tools are arranged. Look for an index. A few examples of subject encyclopedias include the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Encyclopedia of World Art, Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and the Encyclopedia of Archaeology. Subject encyclopedias will have subject specific call numbers.
Directories provide names, addresses, affiliations, etc. of people, organizations, or institutions. They can be used to verify addresses, name spellings, and provide contact information. As in other reference sources, directories may be general or focused on a particular subject.
Biographical dictionaries contain short articles about people's lives. Biography resources have call numbers that begin with CT.
- General biographical dictionaries include Current Biography, Dictionary of American Biography, Who's Who, Encyclopedia of World Biography, etc.
- Subject biographical dictionaries may focus on a subject area or group. These sources include Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Contemporary Authors, Biographical Dictionary of Psychology , New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Women of Science, etc.
Gazetteers or Atlases
Geographic information is located in gazetteers, atlases and maps. Geography resources have call numbers that begin with G.
- Atlasescontain collections of maps. They provide information on geographical/political changes. There are world, national, and thematic atlases and these may be current or historical.
- World atlases include National Geographic Atlas of the World.
- National atlases: National Atlas of the United States, Atlas of the American Revolution.
- Thematic atlases focus on a specific subject area, such as astronomy or agriculture. Examples include, The Oxford Economic Atlas of the World and the Environmental Atlas of Alaska.
- Gazetteersare sometimes referred to as geographical dictionaries and provide descriptions of places, but no maps.
- General gazetteers include Webster's New Geographical Dictionary, The Columbia Lippincott Gazetteer of the World, Gazetteer of Undersea Features, etc.
- Regional gazetteers, such as Dictionary of Alaska Place Names, by D. Orth, focus on a specific geographical region and are good places to look if you want to know the location of a town, its population, or where its name came from.
Sometimes atlases and gazetteers are combined, as in the Alaska Atlas and Gazetteer, by DeLorme Mapping, which publishes similar products for the other states.
Almanacs contain statistics and facts about countries, events, personalities, or subjects. Almanac resources have call numbers that begin with AY.
- General almanacs include the Statistical Abstract of the United States, The New York Public Library Desk Reference, World Almanac (an American focus), Information Please Almanac (print ed. called Time Almanac), Whitaker's Almanak (United Kingdom focus).
- Subject almanacs include The Weather Almanac, The Almanac of Renewable Energy, Political Reference Almanac, Alaska Almanac, and more.
Handbooks and manuals are subject area tools. Handbooks provide facts, terms, concepts, movements, etc. of a topic. Manuals provide detailed instructions on a particular subject, such as how-to-do something or how something works.
- Handbooks: Handbook of North American Indians, Guide to Alaska Trees, Words and Ideas: A Handbook for College Writing, Handbook of Mathematical Formulas, MLA Handbook For Writers of Research Papers.
- Manuals: Manual of Photography, Manual for Environmental Impact Evaluation, Alaska Craftsman Home Building Manual, United States Government Manual.
Review & Criticism Sources
These tools provide reviews or critiques of a person's work.
- General: Book Review Digest (OCLC FirstSearch, hereafter called FirstSearch), MLA (FirstSearch), New York Times Book Review, Contemporary Literary Criticism.
- Subject: Children's Literature Review, Popular Music Record Reviews.
Historical Tables, Chronologies, Historical Yearbooks
Historical tables and chronologies present historical facts in different formats. Historical tables provide facts chronologically in columns with each column representing another geographical area or other major area, such as history, economics, religions. etc. Chronologies use narrative form to present facts. Historical tables and chronologies may span long or very short time periods. Historical yearbooks provide facts and statistics for a single year and may be published annually.
- Historical Tables: The Timetables of History, Historical Tables, 58 BC-AD 1985.
- Chronologies: Chronology of World History, The New York Public Library Book of Chronologies, Chronology of the Expanding World, 1492-1762, A Chronology of the People's Republic of China from October 1, 1949, Annals of European Civilization, 1501-1900.
- Historical Yearbooks: The Statesman's Year-Book.
Indexes & Abstracts
Indexes and abstracts lead to additional sources of periodical articles. Indexes only provide author, title, and subject information. Abstracts tend to be more descriptive. Some online index databases also include the full-text of the article.
- General: Reader's Guide to Periodic Index (FirstSearch), Book Review Index, Periodicals Abstracts (FirstSearch).
- Subject: Art Abstracts (FirstSearch), New York Times Index (ABI Inform), Biography Index (FirstSearch), Chemical Abstracts.
Bibliographies lead to other information sources. They are lists of books and other materials that provide author, title, and publication information. Annotated bibliographies also include a brief description or summary of the item. Bibliographies are available on almost every topic and may focus on specific persons, groups, subjects, or time periods. Many bibliographies are selective and do not attempt to include all publications. Bibliographies are sometimes referred to as "Guides to the Literature ..."
Examples: American Fiction, 1774-1850, Bibliography of Education, Utilization of Wood Residues: An Annotated Bibliography, A Bibliography of Sir Walter Scott, MLA Bibliography (FirstSearch), Current Bibliographies in Medicine (NLM), Alutiiq Ethnographic Bibliography (ANKN).
The Ready Reference Collection contains reference sources that are used most frequently. The Ready Reference shelves are located adjacent to the Reference Desk. The collection includes reference tools such as The Encyclopedia of Associations, The Encyclopedia of Associations, The Dictionary of Alaska Place Names, Style guides (MLA, APA, Chicago), a thesaurus, The Physician's Desk Reference, Alaska phone directories, Black's Law Dictionary, World Almanac, The Merck Manual of Medical Information, Zip Code Directories, etc.
Where to find Reference Materials
All materials in the Reference Collection can be found by searching the library catalog. Once you determine what type of reference source you need, simply do a subject or keyword search for that tool. All items with a REF location code in the call number are located in the main Reference Collection on Level 4 (main floor). The Alaska Collection (Level 2) and Government Documents Collection (Level 5) also have Reference Collections, and their location codes are AK REF and DOCS REF respectively.
Try a subject search such as "dictionaries" or "bibliographies".
Or, try a subject search on your field of interest and look for reference subheadings.
From the BROWSE search in the library catalog type in your term(s), then click Subject.
Now look for types of reference sources: bibliographies, dictionaries, manuals, handbooks, etc...(Refer to Guide for Selecting the Right Type of Reference Source shown above.)
Or, limit your subject search to your field of interest such as:
- astronomy dictionaries
- astrophysics bibliography
- chemistry abstracts
Or try a keyword search such as "shakespeare AND bibliography".
Other options include:
Browse the reference section. The Reference Collection at Rasmuson Library is near the Reference Desk on Level 4. The collection is arranged by Library of Congress (LC) system, starting with general encyclopedias, which can be found on the low shelves, directly behind the Ready Reference Collection. The print indexes fill several shelves on the south end.
Ask a Reference Librarian. Ask in-person at the Reference Desk or send your question via email, text, or chat. A librarian will respond to your question via e-mail.
Search the Internet. Many university web sites and Internet "virtual libraries" provide access to web reference resources. These subject directories provide access to reliable sources that have already been evaluated according to the criteria of the authors of the site. Or locate reference sources on the Web using a search engine.
There are good and bad sources available via the Internet. Always evaluate your sources carefully.
A recommended Google search to look for reference resources is:
Collins, Donald, Diane Catlett, and Bobbie Collins. Libraries and Research: A Practical Approach, 3rd ed. Dubuque. IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1994.