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How to Write References?

1. Preface

This guide is an introduction to writing references and covers the most common types of material in both print and electronic form: books, chapters in books, internet resources, conferences and their papers, official publications, dissertations and theses, journal articles, printed music, letters and e-mails, lecture notes, sound recordings, videos (and DVDs), images, pictures and illustrations and maps.

It is never possible to cover everything in one guide so for difficult points or if you have questions you should try the following:

1.Subject-specific reference guides which may be produced by your Faculty or School.

2.Faculty Learning or Resource Centre.

3.Academic Skills Centre (in Galton and Edge Learning Centres and at Millennium Point).

4.Other publications on the subject, including web-based ones.

Tip – Saving Time

Make sure that you get all the reference information you need while you still have the source material (e.g. book) in front of you. You will waste a lot of time if you have to have to go back and find this information later. For example: if you make a photocopy, check that you have the page numbers; if you interview someone, make a note of the date; if you print a web page, make a note of the full web address and the date on which you accessed it.


The Faculty of Health, in particular, has strict guidelines on confidentiality. To quote from their Undergraduate and Postgraduate Course Handbooks (2004):-“In all assessed work, if the patient/client‟s name or that of a member of staff or institution is included in any part of the work, including appendices, it will fail. The work will be deemed a “technical fail” and will receive a zero mark.”

2. Introduction

Why should I include references in my work?

1.It shows the range of reading that you have done. This gains you marks.

2.You may support your arguments with the opinion of acknowledged experts and use data from reputable sources. This can make your own arguments more convincing.

3.It is a basic academic requirement to show details of the sources of your information, ideas and arguments. Doing so means that you cannot be accused of plagiarism, i.e. stealing from another person‟s work.

When should I include references in my work?

1.Whenever you quote someone else‟s work. This does not just include words but also tables, charts, pictures, music, etc.

2.When you rewrite or summarise someone else‟s work in your own words.

Why should I give such detailed information?

The purpose of the details provided is to make it easy for someone else to follow up and trace the materials which you have used. Without full references, your tutor may be led into thinking you are trying to take credit for someone else‟s work i.e. plagiarism.

What are the most important points about my list of references?

1.Keep it accurate. This means that the marker/tutor does not waste time if they wish to consult the items you have listed. If your list is full of errors you will lose marks.

2.Provide all the relevant details. This makes it is easy for the marker to identify the items which you have listed. Again, if some of the important information is missing you will lose marks.

3.Use a consistent format for your references. This will ensure that it is easy to locate a reference within your reading list.

Are there systems for doing this?

Yes, there are well-known systems but which you use will depend upon the requirements of your Faculty, School or Department. Your student handbook should provide this information but if in doubt check with your tutor or your Faculty Learning or Resource Centre.

The system used by most Faculties, Schools and Departments is the Harvard Referencing System and this is the system that the majority of this guide deals with. Psychology courses use the APA system, which is similar to Harvard.

There are also numerical methods (including footnotes) which may be required or acceptable on your course; Law and English, for example use numerical referencing. Check on your course what exactly is required.

What do I need to include in the full reference at the end of my assignment?

The most important parts of a reference are as follows:

a) The person(s) or organization who „wrote‟ the work: - the author(s) or originator(s).Of course, this maybe the composer, artist, director, sculptor, architect, etc. depending on the format of the work.

b)Anyone who edited, translated or arranged the item.

c)The name of the work: - usually the title.

d)Any additional information about the name of the item: - usually the subtitle.

e) The person who puts the work into its physical or electronic format: - usually the publisher.

f)The date when the work was made available or published (not necessarily when it was written, etc.).

g)The place of publication (if known).

h)Physical details of the item such as page numbers, type of material – CD, DVD, poster, computer file, etc.

i)Any additional information helpful to locate the works (such as a web address, a catalogue number, the title of a series, etc.).

Read on to learn how to organise these pieces of information into a properly-structured full reference.

3. The Harvard Referencing System

3.1 How do I cite an item in the text of my assignment?

If your School uses the Harvard system, you need to provide the following information if you mention another piece of work, book etc. in your assignment.

Surname of author(s) or name of organization, followed by the date of publication in round brackets.

e.g. “As with any investment, working capital exposes the business to risk” (McLaney 2003).

Do not put the author‟s first name or initial. It is usually not necessary to give any other information about the source, such as what format it is, title, publisher etc.

Do the same for websites. Do not put the website address within your text; only in your list at the end.

If there is no author give either:

A statement that the work is anonymous (Anon)

followed by the date in round brackets:

e.g. Anon. (2006) states that …

It is best to avoid this if at all possible.


Title followed by the date in round brackets.

e.g. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica (2003), this ...

If the author produced more than one work in the same year use letters to indicate this (arrange the items in the list of references alphabetically by their title first)e.g.  Singh (2004a) claims that ...Singh (2004b) is of the opinion that ...

When citing a secondary source, for example, when including source material from a work you haven‟t read, as cited in another work which you have read, this must be indicated in your text. For example:

e.g. Smith, cited by Laycock and Shaw (2006), believes that ..

In your list of references only include the actual source you consulted, i.e.

Laycock and Shaw.

It is usually advised to avoid secondary references whenever possible.

Page Numbers

Page numbers should be included in your in-text references for books, when you can indicate precisely on a page or pages the information that you are using. Direct quotes from books, therefore, should always include the page number. This can be indicated by p./pp., or more commonly nowadays, by a colon, :.

e.g.  Shah (2002, p.33) indicates that ...

Jones (2000, pp.17-20) disputes this claim.

Wheeler (2007: 122) argues for ...

3.2General rules for full references at the end of text


a) Single authors

Family name first, then a comma and space followed by initial(s). e.g. John, A.

b) Two authors

List the authors in the form above with “and” between them. e.g. Mohammed, A. and Khan, J.

c)Three or more authors:

List the authors as above with commas after each initial and “and” before the final surname.

e.g. Pryce-Jones, T., Patel, V. and Brown, P.

In your list of references you must always list all the authors. In your text, if there are three or more authors, just put the surname of the first author, followed by „et al‟ (which means „and the others‟).

e.g. Petrus et al (2009) investigated ...


Editors are treated the same as authors except that ed. or eds. is put in brackets after the editor‟s or editors‟ name(s).

e.g. Walker, T. (ed.)


When is an author not an author?

The chairmen or chairwomen of government or other reports are not authors*, and neither are compilers, illustrators (unless their art is the significant part of the work rather than the text), translators, arrangers, photographers (unless the photographs are a significant part of the work and flagged as such) and writers of prefaces, forewords or introductions.


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