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A referencing guide is a guide of rules telling you how to acknowledge the thoughts, ideas, and works of others in an exceptional way. Referencing is a vital part of successful Academic Writing, and avoiding plagiarism is key to your assignments and research.

Why references?

Referencing is the process of linking what you read with what you write. It is necessary to reference all your sources:

  • To avoid plagiarism by acknowledging that you have used the ideas and work of others.
  • To enable you or someone else to find the source of your information easily.
  • To sharpen your arguments and add reliability by referring to skillful ideas.
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What is referencing?

At university, you are required to research on a subject matter widely and build your knowledge on the expertise of others. Referencing supports the sources used to develop your ideas and may incorporate words, video, audio, images, statistics or websites. Quality information strengthens your arguments and supplements credibility. Referencing allows you and your readers to locate your sources, evade plagiarism and exhibit academic integrity.

Which referencing style should I use?

In some cases, a particular university or discipline uses a conventional method of reference, but even in those cases, it is still possible that a particular instructor may demand a different style.

Students should check their course of study profile or ask their educator.

The researchers who are presenting a document for publication in a journal should check the journal's instructions for authors, which will normally be available on the journal's website.

Styles of referencing

Specific academic discipline prefers particular referencing styles because they work better with the kind of texts that are most commonly used in that discipline. For example, English Literature and Film, Theatre and Television both choose the MHRA (Modern Humanities Research Association) style because it is good at dealing with repeated references to a literary text, but while English Literature uses the classic version of MHRA, Film, Theatre, and Television prefer the author-date version.

OSCOLA has rules for citing legal texts; therefore, the school of law favors this referencing style. Others styles that are used include Oxford, Harvard, APA, MLA, Vancouver, and Chicago. Here we include the brief details of each style of referencing used by different departments. You should always check your course handbook to see which is the preferred style. Remember that if you are considering modules in various departments or schools, they may each prefer a different referencing style.


  • American Meteorological Society (AMS) style - The Department of Meteorology recommend using the AMS style for citations.
  • Harvard referencing - Also known as ‘author-date’ style. In Harvard style, the in-text citation can be in brackets in the body of the text or footnotes and uses the author's surname and the date of publication, with the page number if it is a reference to a particular page. Full specifications are only listed in the bibliography or reference list. Harvard is a style rather than a system or set of rules, therefore the preferred punctuation and formatting of the text may differ.
  • APA referencing - APA style stands for American Psychological Association. APA referencing is a variant on Harvard style. Most of the rules are the same, with brief author-date citations in brackets in the body of the text and full citations in the reference list. It is usual to insert a reference list only rather than a bibliography in APA style. Citations for websites are also slightly different, with no need to enter a date accessed. Vancouver referencing- In Vancouver referencing is a numeric referencing style, where each source is given a number which compares to the order in which it comes out in the text. If the same source is referred to again in the text, the same number is used. The reference list includes a single numbered list of citations with full details. You may also include a separate bibliography, alphabetically ordered by author, which lists works that you have used as a part of your research for your assignment but not cited in the text.
  • Oxford referencing - In Oxford referencing, in-text citations are in footnotes. Full details should be enclosed in the footnotes for the first mention of a text. After this, a compressed version can be used.
  • MHRA is referencing for English Literature - MHRA referencing distinguishes between citations for primary texts, i.e., poems, novels, etc., and secondary texts, i.e., citation works, additional information. Most in-text citations are in footnotes. Full details should be added in the footnotes for the first mention of a text for both primary and secondary texts. After this, a shortened version can be used, either in brackets in the body of the text or footnotes. Whichever method you choose, be consistent.

MHRA referencing for film, Theatre, and television- Film, theatre, and television prefers the author-date version of MHRA referencing. In-text citations are brief and placed in brackets in the body of the text NOT in footnotes. Full details are listed in the bibliography.

  • OSCOLA referencing - OSCOLA stands for Oxford Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities. It is preferred by the School of Law as it has rules for dealing with the kind of sources that law students will frequently use, including cases, statues and command papers. In-text citations are located in footnotes, with a format set of abbreviations for the main sources. Punctuation is kept to a minimum, and there are specific rules for dealing with subsequent mentions.
  • Chicago style - Chicago style referencing extends two options for citations: either to list concise citations in the body of the text as in Harvard referencing or to list them in footnotes as in Oxford referencing. So if you are required to use Chicago style referencing, it is especially important to check which format your department wants you to use. You should be able to get more information in your course or module handbook. If you cannot find anything there, do ask your course tutor.

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Regardless of what subject you are writing about, you should use the style your university and tutor recommend, and you must not mix and match.

  • Plagiarism - When you quote or paraphrase, other authors work without including a reference to it you are plagiarizing. With the use of online services like Turnitin is it very easy to detect plagiarism; also it is very easy for your professor to spot it just by reading your work. You are not being graded on your ability to write facts or show off what you know. Any assumptions or facts that you state in your academic writing must have someone else credible work back you up. Plagiarism does not only mean cheating, but it is also mainly used to describe forgetting or not realizing to include a reference to others work or theories.

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