What is referencing?
Referencing is a vital part of the academic writing process. It allows you to:
- acknowledge the contribution that other authors have made to the development of your arguments and concepts.
- inform your readers of the sources of quotations, theories, datasets etc that you've referred to, and enable them to find the sources quickly and easily themselves.
- demonstrate that you have understood particular concepts proposed by other writers while developing your own ideas.
- provide evidence of the depth and breadth of your own reading on a subject.
- avoid plagiarism.
When to reference
Whenever you quote, paraphrase or make use of another person’s work in your own writing, you must indicate this in the body of your work (a citation) and provide full details of the source in a reference list (all the sources you have referred to directly in your work) or a bibliography (all the sources you have read in the course of your research, not just those you have cited).
Your reference list should include details of all the books, journal articles, websites and any other material you have used.
You do not need to reference:
- your own ideas and observations
- information regarded as ‘common knowledge’
- your conclusions (where you are pulling together ideas already discussed and cited in the main body of your work).
Understanding when to cite references is an important part of your academic progression.
How to reference
The way that you cite references will depend on the referencing style you are using. There are many different referencing styles and you must ensure that you are following the appropriate style when submitting your work.
Check with your supervisor to be sure that you are following the specific guidelines required by your school.
Commonly used referencing styles at The University of Manchester include Harvard, APA, MHLA, MLA and Vancouver.
If you are submitting work for publication in books or journals, publishers’ websites will provide guidance on which referencing style you should follow.
Reference management software such as EndNote can help you in managing your references and formatting them correctly.
These referencing pages will provide you with a useful introduction to the principles of referencing in various styles.
My Learning Essentials
Citing it right: introducing referencing
What is referencing, and why do you need to do it? This online resource explores the principles behind referencing, highlighting why it is good academic practice and outlining when and how you need to reference your work.
View all workshops and online resources in this area on the
My Learning Essentials webpages.