Referencing is an important part of university assignments; if you fail to credit quotes and ideas to the people they belong to, you may end up failing a module.

Here, we tell you everything you need to know about referencing, with mention of the most commonly used referencing system: Harvard.


What is referencing?

Referencing is a convention used within an academic community to indicate where ideas, theories, quotes, facts and any other evidence and information have been used within an assignment. Referencing also ensures that the work you are presenting is, indeed, fact and not simply your own opinion.


Why do I need to reference?

It is essential to reference thoroughly to ensure appropriate credit has been given to the sources and authors that have been used to support your research. By clearly referencing your sources, you are demonstrating the research that you have undertaken to support your ideas, providing evidence along the way.

More importantly, correctly referencing your sources avoids your work from being suspected of plagiarism, a serious academic offense and a form of academic theft.


What do I need to reference?

All the information that you have used which is a secondary resource, i.e. not penned by yourself, needs to be referenced and includes:

  • Quotations - Using someone else’s written or spoken word
  • Paraphrased text - Information converted from someone else’s ideas into your own words
  • Summaries - When you summarise someone else’s work or ideas
  • Statistics - Including other forms of data
  • Images - Pictures, graphs, multimedia, tables
  • Visuals - Designs, plans and sketches

This list is not exhaustive, so always remember that if you use anything in your work authored by someone else, please acknowledge their work by referencing or citing them correctly.


How do I reference?

There are two types of citation that need to used:

In-text citations:

Used when directly quoting or paraphrasing a source. They are located in the body of the work and contain a fragment of the full citation.

Reference lists or bibliography:

Reference lists or bibliographies are located at the end of the work and display full citations for sources used in the assignment. They are created to allow readers to locate original sources themselves. Each citation in a reference list includes various pieces of information including:

  • Name of the author(s)
  • Year published
  • Title
  • City published
  • Publisher
  • Pages used

Generally, Harvard Reference list citations follow this format:

SURNAME, Initials. (Publication year in brackets) Book title – italicised or underlined. Series title and volume if applicable. Edition (if not the first). Place of publication: publisher. 

Now that you've read everything you need to know about referencing, have a look at our post on top five tips for delivering a presentation.