The “Joys” of Academic Referencing

selfie Everybody loves a good 1500 word essay, but by far the best part about academic writing is the referencing that comes with it. Yes, we are kidding. But seriously, referencing is a very important skill to have when studying at university, as it ensures that your work gives credit where it’s due. Avoiding plagiarism is a very important thing when writing academia. There are a number of different referencing styles that are in use at the university, and whichever you use depends on your course. Here in this post we’ll give you a brief overview about 285736_514505705244967_163577496_nreferencing, including the styles we use, where to find help, and some of our tips on how to do it best.

APA (American Psychological Association) referencing is (arguably) the most common style used at the university currently, and is comprised of in-text references with an author and year, with all detailed information in the end reference list. Australian (or Harvard) referencing is a growing style over the last couple of years, which has the same idea (an author and year in-text) but differs with the placement of punctuation. MLA citation style instead uses an author and a page number for in-text citations, again with a detailed reference list, although the information is in a different order. Chicago referencing style is the odd one out in this group, as it uses a number to indicate a reference, and then at the bottom of every page will be the actual in-text reference, consisting of author, title and page number. All of these styles can read about at either the General Guide to Academic Referencing or the Study Skills website.

Here are the best steps to take in order to start with your referencing:

  • Find out which referencing style you need to use — check your course description or ask your lecturer!
  • If you aren’t familiar with the style, we recommend having a look at the Study Skills website or the General Guide to Academic Referencing.
    • If you want to get some more information before you start, you can definitely come and see the ASK service, or, if you are just starting your course, the library will run classes at the start of the semester about study skills, including referencing.
  • Once you have an idea of the components of the referencing style, you are ready to begin!

Everyone works differently. Some people like to put in notes while writing about where they got their information, and others like to do the references as they go along. Whichever way works best for you, go for it — we recommend to do them as you go so you don’t get confused about where you got what information (this saves you time later having to look up the information again!) as well as stops you getting slapped at the end with all the referencing you will need to do.


The reference list is probably the scariest thing about referencing and comes right at the end of any piece of literature you write. It has detailed information that is specific to the type of source you used; whether it be a website, journal article, video, or many other options. In-text citations are generally quite basic in information — the bulk will go in the reference list.

What we recommend is finding an example or a template for the reference type and style you are after (for example, a journal article for APA referencing), and replace the information in that example with your own specific source. This way, the punctuation and structure will be correct and most of the hard work is done for you — punctuation in reference lists can be really nit-picky, so you have to try your best and copy the examples to a tee!

There are some programs that can give you a helping hand in your referencing adventures. One such program is Refworks. You can save your source’s information to your Refworks profile as you go to keep track on your gathered information. Microsoft Word also has an inbuilt feature that allows you to make a list of sources and produces in-text references. But beware: these programs are not sentient beings and are subject to mistakes. Make sure you always check them to make sure they’re not playing games.

Some of the common mistakes made with referencing are:

  • This includes CaPItalS, full stops and commas. You need to make sure they’re in the right place. Another thing — be careful of your use of and/&. In academic writing, you should (almost) never use &, but in references its use can be commonplace.
  • Things such as italics, double-spacing and indents are important as well as the text.
  • When you can’t find information, don’t just leave it out! Often for missing info there is a placeholder (such as n.d. if there is no date in APA referencing).
  • Putting the author’s name back to front — check your style for specifics on how the author should be written.
  • Make sure you choose the correct template for your source! Don’t use a journal article template if your resource is a book.

Referencing can take some time but it’s a necessary part of what we have to do at university to ensure that people get the credit they deserve. As long as you follow all the guides and ask for help if you are stuck, you should be able to get through it just fine.

  • Cam & Pat

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