Referencing 101

The good, the bad and the ugly

Referencing is often considered by many to be one of the most challenging aspects of tranisitioning into university education. However, it needn't be so difficult and importantly, it's also the easiest marks.

The idea behind referencing is that you are acknowledging and providing credit to the author. For instance, you may be referencing an idea, theme, concept or data and by including this citation you give credit that you are referencing the work of someone else.

Academically, the main purpose behind citations and referencing is for a few reasons:

  • a) It demonstrates breadth and depth of reading and shows to the marker that you have reviewed, read and selected specific literature for inclusion in your submission
  • b) It helps to support your overall argument and is able to substantiate your discussion with evidence
  • c) As alluded to earlier, you acknowledge that this isn't your work

Importantly, failure to reference appropriately may lend itself to consideration towards Academic Misconduct which can have significant ramifications for your studies and ultimately to your course progression.

Whilst there are a variety of ways you can reference (APA/Harvard etc), some general advice will be offered as there are plenty of university guides on how to reference specifically and these are worth consulting.

Of note: Much of what is to follow lends itself towards APA referencing considering this is the authors background, however, it is applicable to other styles but you will need to assess this yourself.

Key Ideas for APA

In-text citations

Generally there are two ways to offer in-text citations:

  • Discussion or content (Author, Year) OR Author (Year) discussion or content.

  • Many assessment rubrics will include some commentary such as "The submission varies the referencing style" and this is primarily what is being referred to when you see that on a rubric. It allows you to emphasise different aspects ie Smith (Year) suggest (can vary this word depending upon what you are referencing, explain/argue/identified/found are some good examples) that x,y,z.... versus ... x,y,z (Smith, Year).

Reference List

The best advice I can offer is to consult the library guide regarding academic referencing for your institution and your referencing format (APA/Harvard). By and large, they are an excellent source of information and will explicitly advise you on how to reference: websites, books, journal articles (periodicals) and other formats.

Endnote / Other citation software

I don't personally use citation software so this might be a somewhat biased response. However, the thing to be mindful is that when you are utilising citations from Endnote or online sources that they actually match the intended format. From my experience, even when you select APA citation style, the citation that populates does not conform to APA convention and as a marker it is easy to see that these references have been done automatically. Unfortunately for the student, they are wrong and I cannot award marks.

In summary, referencing is an important part of your academic development. Please take five minutes to ensure your references are accurate and correctly cited. There is no reason that you shouldn't be aiming for a HD criterion with referencing as it's easy marks and when you can score easy marks, this is always beneficial.