Guide to Referencing

Referencing sources in your work

Referencing your work is important for any student or an author for a piece of writing. As a student writing assignments, essays and other projects crediting the authors for work you have included in your own work, or other sources you have used is essential to avoid allegations of plagiarism. In addition to this, referencing your work shows that you have taken a professional approach to your piece of writing.

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When readers and assessors see the references you have used they can see you have acknowledged external sources and can consult the sources of information if required. This will impress assessors in particular and can gain you marks along the way. As such it is worthwhile to take the time out to learn the basic principles for referencing. Once you have mastered the basics to referencing, the more complex aspects to correct referencing will develop.

There are many ways and formats to writing references. Although the following is a guide will explain the most commonly used referencing format that is used in academics – Harvard Referencing. The examples you will find below will show the basic principles to referencing and will get you used to learning these principles for yourself. The examples used will focus on books, journals, newspapers and websites; as these are often the most common sources of information used.

Please note, you do not always need to use the Harvard Referencing style to reference your work. So long as you acknowledge external sources using the correct version of whichever format you choose, this is fine. We have just instructed you on this system as this is what you will find throughout many of the learning materials and courses from Virtual Learning Centre, and of course because this is the most commonly used.

Harvard Referencing in Context

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So, we have explained the importance of using references and the reason for why we use this style in particular at Virtual Learning Centre. Now to demonstrate the use of these references in the context of a piece of work.

This extract of work below is taken from a student’s piece of work studying Human Resource Management:

“The physical health of employees is a topic of great interest due to the many possible consequences on home, work and/or social life of the individual. As such much research is now focusing on particular stressors in the workplace which contribute to the development of physical illnesses (Schnall, Schwartz, Landsbergis, Warren, and Pickering, 1998). Some researchers concentrate on the individual characteristics of employees alone as the main contributing factor (Linden, Keijsers, Eling, and Schaijk, 2005), whereas some focus on the characteristics of the job itself (Lambert, Cluse-Tolar, and Hogan, 2007), while others have incorporated both the individual characteristics and job characteristics together as contributing factors to job stress and, subsequently, physical illness (Schwartz, Pickering and Landsbergis, 1996).”

As you can see from the above extract the student has acknowledged the external sources well and has shown they have taken a professional and respectful approach to ensuring the authors of the sources that were used were credited properly.

This has been done correctly, however the information that can be extracted from these references in the text alone are limiting. The references show the authors of the work and the dates, although from this information alone readers (and assessors) cannot see the titles of the work.

Seven Elements to Correct Referencing

For a reference to be complete and informative for readers there are 7 main elements that must be present:

  • The authors of the text, or editors of the text
  • The year of publication
  • The title of the publication
  • Information on what type of source the text is from for instance a book, article etc
  • Where the text was published
  • Who published the text
  • And, the relevant pages the specific text the reference was taken from

Including all of these elements is important, although the place for this is not in the actual text; rather this more detailed information should be located at the end of your writing in a section called ‘references’.

An example of how an entire piece of writing should look is shown below. You will see the title of the work, the writing itself, and then a separate section dedicated to references.

(the title of the work is not the correct title, for data protection reasons)

Human Resources Extract Title

The physical health of employees is a topic of great interest due to the many possible consequences on home, work and/or social life of the individual. As such much research is now focusing on particular stressors in the workplace which contribute to the development of physical illnesses (Schnall, Schwartz, Landsbergis, Warren, and Pickering, 1998). Some researchers concentrate on the individual characteristics of employees alone as the main contributing factor (Linden, Keijsers, Eling, and Schaijk, 2005), whereas some focus on the characteristics of the job itself (Lambert, Cluse-Tolar, and Hogan, 2007), while others have incorporated both the individual characteristics and job characteristics together as contributing factors to job stress and, subsequently, physical illness (Schwartz, Pickering and Landsbergis, 1996).

 

References:

Schnall, P. L., Schwartz, J. E., Landsbergis, P. A., Warren, K., and Pickering, T. G. (1998) A longitudinal study of job strain and ambulatory blood pressure: Results from a three-year follow-up. Psychosomatic Medicine, 60, 697-706.

 

Schwartz, J. E., Pickering T. G., and Landsbergis, P. A. (1996). Work-related stress and blood pressure: current theoretical models and considerations from a behavioural medicine perspective.Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 1, 3, 287-310.

 

Lambert, E. G., Cluse-Tolar, T., and Hogan, N L. (2007). This job is killing me: The impact of job characteristics on correctional staff job stress. Applied Psychology in Criminal Justice, 3, 2.

 

Linden, D., Keijsers, G., Eling, P., and Schaijk, R. (2005). Work, Stress and Attentional Difficulties: An initial study on burnout and cognitive failures. Work and Stress, 19, 1, 23-36.

As you will see from the references in the text above all 7 elements to a complete reference are included, and there is a separate references section for this.

 

 

References in Detail

You may notice some of the references above are in italics toward the end of each reference. You may also notice, there are specific places for commas, full stops, colons and so on. These are all essential, yet very small, pieces of information which all provide further insight into the text in a meaningful way. This is explained below.

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Referencing a Book

When referencing a book there are various elements to the source that will need to be considered when writing up your reference both in the text and in the references section. One very important element is the difference when you are referencing a source with one, two, or three or more authors. Examples are shown below:

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The author of the source will be included in the text itself, with the year, and sometimes the page number (if this is relevant). The full reference will then be included in the References section including all the important information.

Note:

  • The title of the book is in italics. This in itself will inform the reader that the source is a reference for a book, rather than a journal or some other source type.
  • The name of the author reads their surname first, with a comma, then the initial of their first name followed by a full stop. The comma identifies the surname, and the full stop identifies the end of their entire name.
  • The location of where the book was published is included before the publication company, and it distinguished by a colon.

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Again, the author of the source will be included in the text itself, with the year, and the page number where relevant. The full reference will then be included in the References section including all the important information.

Note:

  • The same principles from above applies, in addition to the following
  • When there are two or more authors, the same principle applies regarding distinguishing the names; though there will be a comma included after the full stop to show that this is not the end of the authors of the source altogether.
  •  ‘and’ is used rather than the word ‘&’ itself.

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Here all the authors of the source are included in the text the first time it is cited. Following this first instance of the citation being used, the authors are shortened to ‘et al.’ then the year. The full reference will then be included in the References section including all the important information.

Note:

  • The same principles from above applies, in addition to the following
  • When citing the source initially, all the names are included; after this first citation the surname of the first author is included with the word ‘et al’ included after.
  • Et al is used with a full stop after the ‘al’ and the ‘et al’ is not in italics.

Journal

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As with the previous references the author of the source will be included in the text itself, with the year, and the page number where relevant. The full reference will then be included in the References section including all the important information.

Note:

  • The same principles from above applies, in addition to the following
  • For journals (which are explained further below) the volume, issue (or part number) and page number is also included in the full references
  • The issue number is included in brackets
  • The same principles apply for multiple authors

Newspaper

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When referencing newspapers, the basic principles as outlined above still apply regarding including the 7 important elements to a complete reference. As with the previous references the author of the source will be included in the text itself, with the year, and the page number where relevant. The full reference will then be included in the References section including all the important information.

Note:

  • The same principles from above applies, in addition to the following
  • The source of the information – the newspaper title – is written as italics
  • The same principles apply for multiple authors

Website

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In the text give the author of the article source and the year. If this is not available try to answer this as best you can. In the full references sections, again, try to answer as much of the 7 elements to references as you can, giving the URL of the source of information, and the date accessed.

Note:

  • The same principles from above applies, in addition to the following
  • For websites the year of publication (or when the article was updated) is written in brackets, with the title of the site is in italics
  • The same principles apply for multiple authors

Final Tips for Correct Referencing

  • When referencing, particularly when you have just started to learn the principles of referencing, you may find the task quite daunting. As long as you remember the basic principles, and the 7 important elements to correct referencing you should be fine.
  • If you do get stuck and are not sure of the exact way to reference a particular source look for help outside of this guide. There are many sources available for instance: Neville, C. (2010)The Complete Guide To Referencing And Avoiding Plagiarism. 2nd Ed. Berkshire: Open University Press. This book will give you great insight into correct referencing to acknowledge sources properly.
  • Remember the point of referencing is to make sure you credit the authors of the sources of information that you used correctly. References show that you have acknowledged the sources and are happy to disclose where you located your information included in your writing.
  • Think of your references as a way of a reader being able to look at your work, find the full reference for the cited source and then use your full reference only to locate the source for themselves.
  • Finally, when you are referencing make sure you write down the full reference every time you quote a source. If you leave all the references to the end of writing your article it will become very difficult to remember where you found your information from, and more importantly where to find the information for yourself again.

 

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