Guidelines on Referencing Literature in Academic Writing

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Guidelines on referencing literature in academic writing

Please read the following document very carefully. Students often come across problems when referencing literature in their coursework. Bad or inaccurate referencing affects the quality of presentation of the work at the very least, and at worst leads to accusations of plagiarism and possible failure of coursework.

Referencing well is important for the following reasons:

acknowledging the academic sources you have used to inform your arguments •demonstrating wide and relevant reading
demonstrating how your thoughts contribute to the field and link to other research/ writing •avoiding plagarism – inadvertent or otherwise
contributing to a high standard of presentation.

These are all criteria on which academic writing is assessed.

Remember also that your references need to tally with the books / articles etc quoted in the bibliography and that your references serve as a route for the reader to follow up your arguments. The following rules are therefore designed to make that as easy as possible.

There are few basic and simple rules / principles to guide you in referencing in your text which are outlined below, with examples, all in a different font. (NB: the examples are not all real so do not quote them!!)

1. When do I reference?

When you are using ideas or information / data from the literature you must refer to the relevant authors. You need to do this EACH TIME you are using an idea from the literature you are reading. It does not matter whether you have referred to the author before, elsewhere in the text – each time the reference must be complete in line with the following guidelines. Otherwise you may be guilty, inadvertently, of appropriating someone else’s ideas, which counts as plagarism.

2. Referring to a work without directly quoting from it.

When you use an idea from an author, without using their own words, you need to acknowledge that author by citing the name and the date of publication.

There are two ways of doing this.


If the author’s name is integral to the sentence (ie serves some grammatical purpose) then add the author’s name and the date of publication in brackets.

Eg :

Bentall (2003) argues that teachers’ understandings of the training process need to be explored and built on during training.


In her research Bentall (2003) found that teachers’ existing understandings of the training process were a major influence on how they learned during training.

In both the above examples if you took out the author’s name the sentence would not make sense, so the name serves a grammatical function in that sentence and therefore stays outside the brackets.


If the author’s name is not integral to the sentence then place the author’s name and date of publication both within brackets. Place this information in the sentence after the idea you are referring to.

For example:

It is recognised that teachers’ understandings of the training process need to be explored (Bentall 2003).


It is recognised that teachers’ understandings of the training process need to be explored (Bentall 2003) and their existing understandings of content acknowledged (Calderhead 1992).

In these two examples you could take out the authors’ name and the sentence would make grammatical sense.

NOTE : the author’s name and date come within the sentence. DO NOT place the brackets after the full stop as this will imply that the authors’ name and publication date refer to what is happening in the next sentence. It is not usual to start an English sentence with something in brackets that serves no grammatical function.

3. Paraphrasing

When you are referring to an author without direct quotation be careful that your paraphrasing of their ideas is entirely in your own words. The aim is to sum up their idea so that you communicate the meaning of it. Taking their sentence and changing 3...
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