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Use this guide to learn how to search effectively for information sources

What is Referencing

Referencing is a standardised method of acknowledging sources of information and ideas that you have used in your assignments, in a way that uniquely identifies their source. Direct quotations, facts and figures, as well as ideas and theories, from both published and unpublished works, must be referenced.

Referencing is necessary to avoid plagiarism, to verify quotations, and to enable readers to follow-up and read more fully the cited author's arguments. Therefore you need to reference:

  • to show where your information came from
  • to allow your reader to identify your sources and verify your data
  • to show the extent of your research
  • to strengthen your academic argument
  • to avoid plagiarism

Tip!  Other guides that will help you learn about the importance of referencing are Avoiding Plagiarism, Referencing with APA and Using Mendeley.

Steps to Referencing

At the time of reading the literature, record all of the information (descriptive elements) necessary to create a citation either using referencing software or record manually. It is vital to be accurate and clear at this stage to save time later on. 

The data you record should include:

  • Author(s)/editor(s)
  • Title
  • Edition (1st, 2nd, reprint ed. revised ed. etc.)
  • Page numbers for direct quotations
  • Place of publication
  • Publisher
  • Date of publication
  • Web address if online resources and Date Accessed 

It is vital to be accurate and clear at this stage to save time later on.

You may decide to maintain a master reference list on your computer in a separate document or as a database.

You may wish to write all details on the print copy of an article or keep a system of filing cards for each reference item you use.

Tip! For large research projects where it is necessary to maintain a central library of references and organise your references in folders or groups, we recommend you use referencing software e.g. Mendeley or Zotero.

Construct your citations within the text of your essay using the appropriate guidelines for the citation style you are using.

The styles most commonly used at the IOE are Harvard and APA.

Tip! Check your programme handbook to verify which citation style you are expected to use.

You are expected to use in-text citations and create a list of references at the end of your essay or paper.

Be sure to balance your use of direct quotations, paraphrasing and summarising.

Tip!The difference between a reference list and bibliography is as follows:  a bibliography also provides a detailed list of references but it also includes readings you may have consulted and not cited.  It is therefore a larger group of works than a reference list. Sometimes this list will be annotated to tell the reader why the author considers the work worthy to be in the bibliography.  This is an annotated bibliography.