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Referencing and Citation Styles: Home

What is referencing?

Referencing is an essential part of academic writing. Its an ethical practice that fulfils the standards of academic conduct that members of a research or scholarly community are expected to uphold. Its purpose is to acknowledge the original source of ideas and work that is not the author's own, to point the reader to the original documents so that they can determine independently whether the attributed sources support the author’s argument as written, and to help identify the author's own ideas and arguments from that of their sources. 

Referencing generally has two key elements;

  • An in-text marker that indicates to the reader that a particular concept, phrase or idea is attributable to someone else, and;
  • A complete reference list giving the full citation details for all sources referred to in the document.

The manner in which you are required to write the in-text citation and the reference list is determined by the reference system and citation style.

Referencing systems

There are two common systems for referencing;

Note systems

These involve the use of sequential numbers as in-text markers that refer to either footnotes or endnotes.

  • Footnotes:  these are notes included at the end of each page.
  • Endnotes: these are notes on a separate page at the end of a paper (not to be confused with EndNote, a reference management system).

Common note systems include Chicago 17th A and Vancouver.

Parenthetical systems

Also known as Author-date or Harvard referencing, parenthetical referencing involves the use of a partial reference contained within parenthesis as in-text markers (such as the author and date). The complete reference is then included in a list on the last page of the document.

Common parenthetical systems include APA, Harvard, and MLA.

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Building a reference

A reference entry generally has four main elements each of which answers a key question about a work which helps to uniquely identify it.

  • Author: Who created the work?
  • Date: When was the work published? 
  • Title: What is the work called?
  • Retrieval information: Where can I find the work?

Using these elements together allows us to build a reference even when there is no specific example for it in a style manual.

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