How to Write References
Why Cite References?
Citing bibliographical references means:
CITING acknowledging within your text the document from which you have obtained information.
BIBLIOGRAPHY is the list of publications you consulted.
REFERENCE is the detailed description of the document from which you have obtained the information.
Honest and professional citation of references provides part of the framework for sound written research:
because you must acknowledge the sources you have used to establish your arguments and criticisms;
the references enable other people to identify and trace the sources you have used for your ideas;
- and it helps avoid charges of plagiarism because it makes clear when you are using someone else's ideas and words.
There are two principal components to citing references
- the way you acknowledge, cite the source in your text
- the way you list your sources at the end of your work to enable identification, i.e. the bibliography (or reference list )
There are a variety of systems for bibliographies. Once you have selected a system it is important that you stick to it consistently.
Most subjects and Faculties within the University have a preferred system. Please see the below for details. If your subject or Faculty does not appear in the list on this page, please contact your tutor for advice.
QEC, the University of Stirling's Quality Enhancement Committee approved the adoption of standard styles for subjects. The style for each subject is listed below.
You can use RefWorks, the University of Stirling supported referencing software, to help you create bibliographies and with Write-N-Cite a RefWorks tool, insert citations into your essay as you write!
See our RefWorks and Write-N-Cite guide. Or visit RefWorks' own guide.
Below are the different styles subjects have chosen with links to further information and example bibliographies and in-text citation guidelines.
The QEC approved Recommendation for Standard styles was as follows:
10. QEC is invited to:
Approve the adoption of standard styles for all subjects within all Faculties. We recognise that in some Faculties there are a number of disparate subjects (e.g., Faculty of Arts and Humanities includes law which has very different referencing needs from the rest of the Faculty) so we do not suggest limiting the number of standard styles within a Faculty. Our primary aim is to make things less complex for the students. RefWorks offers many different styles to choose from and we are not proposing to restrict subjects in their choice, only that a Faculty or subject, choose from the list offered by RefWorks. The list can be found here: http://www.refworks.com/content/products/output_style.asp (this includes such styles as APA 6th edition; Chicago 16th edition; Harvard British Standard 2010; MLA and Vancouver).
Plagiarism (from the Latin plagiarius meaning a kidnapper, literary thief) is a very serious offence and at University of Stirling is considered to be Academic Misconduct. In summary: you must not represent the ideas of other people as your own - this applies to published works and the work of other students.
The University of Stirling's Guide to to plagiarism pages are designed to help you to understand more fully what plagiarism is and how you can develop practices to avoid it.
You may also find useful the tutorial "Avoiding Plagiarism" (designed by University of Leicester) about how to understand, and avoid plagiarism.
The following points are based on Stirling University's Policy on Plagiarism:
- It is not sufficient merely to list a source in an appended bibliography, or in the body of an assignment to express a general indebtedness. To avoid a charge of plagiarism, all debts must be specifically, precisely and accurately referenced in accordance with good academic practice.
- When a source is directly quoted word-for-word, the passage quoted should be placed within quotation marks or indented and the source accurately referenced, in parenthesis, in a footnote, or in an endnote, according to a recognised system. There must be no ambiguity about where the quotation ends or begins.
- The source of any data cited (e.g. figures, tables, charts) should be made explicit.
- When ideas, or an argument, are reproduced from a source in a general or paraphrased way, the source must be acknowledged.
Remember that these rules apply to all the different sources of information you have used, for example: a lecture or tutorial, books, journal articles, web sites, newspapers, a television programme, a friend's essay.
If you think about where you found your information and reference your work properly, then accidental plagiarism can be avoided.
Journal Title Abbreviations
In the examples in this guide the journal titles used have been given in full, however in many sources and databases the journal title is given in an abbreviated form, and it can be difficult to know what it means.
Fortunately journal title abbreviations are standardised. There are a number of useful sources you can use to check the standard abbreviation:
Please see our OSCOLA Introduction and OSCOLA Help pages.
RefWorks has information about working with footnotes and endnotes. It is essential to check the formatting of your bibliography, to ensure that it meets the requirements of the style used by your Faculty. If you are a History students and require a 'short reference', titles can be manually shortened in RefWorks.
The following sources provide additional information on writing references and may be helpful if you are uncertain about how to treat a particular publication type or style. However, please be aware that there is no definitive standard for all referencing guidance and these sources may vary with RefWorks bibliography and citation styles.
There are a variety of accepted systems for bibliographies and you can check these by consulting books about writing essays and theses in the Education section of the Library. At Stirling, these books are located at K 8.135, at the Highland and Western Isles campuses these books are located at LB 2369. For example:
ACHTERT, W.S. and GIBALDI, J., 1985. The MLA style manual. New York: Modern Language Association of America.
BECKER, H.S., 2007. Writing for social scientists: how to start and finish your thesis, book or article. 2nd edn. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
BRITISH STANDARDS INSTITUTION, 2010. Information and documentation: guidelines for bibliographic references and citations to information resources: BS ISO 690-2010. London: ISO.
COUNCIL OF BIOLOGY EDITORS. COMMITTEE ON FORM AND STYLE, 1994. Scientific style and format: the CBE manual for authors, editors, and publishers.6th edn. Cambridge: CUP.
MODERN HUMANITIES RESEARCH ASSOCIATION, 2008. MHRA style guide: a handbook for authors, editors, and writers of theses. 2nd edn. London: Modern Humanities Research Association.
NEVILLE, C., 2007. The complete guide to referencing and avoiding plagiarism. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
PEARS, R. and SHIELDS, G.J., 2010. Cite them right: the essential referencing guide. 8th edn. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
TURABIAN, K.L., 2007. A manual for writers of research papers, theses, and dissertations: Chicago style for students and researchers. 7th edn. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Referencing electronic sources
The publications above will include details on referencing types of publications and sources not covered in this guide e.g. Newspaper articles, videos, etc. Many of the web sites below cover electronic sources.
There are also a number of useful websites for referencing information; many of them cover both printed and electronic formats. For example the particularly helpful:
Guide to referencing: Harvard - from the University of the West of England
APA (American Psychological Association) Formatting and Style Guide - from the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University, Indiana
Create an APA Reference List - from the University of Wisconsin
Referencing@Portsmouth is an online citation tool which gives information about the APA (5th & 6th eds), OSCOLA and Vancouver styles
MLA (Modern Language Association) Formatting and Style Guide - from the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University, Indiana
Audiovisual Citation: British Universities Film & Video Council Guidelines for Referencing moving images and sound this guide includes information about referencing from film, television, radio, audio such as podcasts, media clips such as YouTube and new media sources such as webcasts and webinars
The Chicago Manual of Style Quick Guide. This is an online guide to the referencing style used by students studying Religious Studies in the Division of Literature and Languages
Abbreviations/ terms used
Common abbreviations and terms used in references:
|col.||column (plural, cols.)|
|comp.||compiler (plural, comps.)|
|ed.||edition; edited by; editor (plural, eds.)|
|et al.||et alii : Latin for 'and others'|
|ibid.||ibidem : Latin for 'in the same place'. This word can only be used in |
the next consecutive reference in a list after an earlier reference to the same work.
For example :
1. Leggett, J. The carbon war: global warming and the end of the oil era.
2nd edition. London, Penguin, 2000.
2. ibid. p. 65
3. Ledwith, S. and Manfredi, S. Balancing gender in higher education - a study of the experience of
senior women in a 'new' UK university. European Journal of Women's Studies, 7 (1), 2000. pp. 7-33
|n.d.||no date (of publication known)|
|n.p.||no place (of publication known)|
|no.||number (plural nos.) In America, the symbol # is often used|
|op. cit.||opere citato : Latin for 'in the work cited' |
For example :
1. Brennan, A.A. Environmental decision making. In: Berry, R. J. ed.
Environmental dilemmas: ethics and decisions. London, Chapman & Hall, 1993. pp. 1-19.
2. Leggett, J. The carbon war: global warming and the end of the oil era.
2nd edition. London, Penguin, 2000. pp. 25-27
3. Brennan, A.A. op. cit. p. 45
|p.||page (plural pp.)|
|supp.||supplement (plural, supps.)|
|Trans.||translator ; translated by|
|vol.||volume (plural, vols.)|
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.