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Referencing: Referencing basics


Referencing - What is it all about?

What is Referencing?

Referencing is a way of acknowledging that you have used the ideas and written material belonging to another author. It shows that you have undertaken an appropriate literature search and that you have carried out appropriate reading in order to show your knowledge, understanding and analysis of your topic.


Why Reference ?

  • Referencing is a way of acknowledging that you have used the ideas and written material written by another author. 

  • It shows that you have undertaken an appropriate literature search and that you have carried out appropriate reading for your essay, assignment or for a detailed research project.


What happens if I don't reference?

Research involves finding out what has been investigated already on a subject area. This means that you are providing background or history on your topic which helps your reader understand the context and also the stance you are taking. You may quote specific terms or the author's specific words in your text. If you don't specify the source or refer to any material you have used from textbooks, articles or from a variety of publications you might be accused of plagiarism.  Plagiarism means taking someone else's ideas and passing them off as your own, even if unintentionally. 

Referencing links directly to Copyright, which gives moral and economic rights to the creators of works. This is not just for authors but for musicians, artists and original creators of products or inventions.  By referencing correctly you are acknowledging these legal and moral rights.

Your reader needs to be able to identity and follow the research you have used. You need to reference all the sources you use in your coursework, including:

  • Books and ebooks
  • Journal articles: printed and electronic
  • Web pages
  • Blogs
  • Visual images and designs , including art, pictures,  photographs, tables and diagrams
  • Audio visual resources, including videos, films, podcasts and streaming services 
  • Newspapers: printed and electronic 
  • Conference papers
  • Pamphlets
  • Personal communications, such as emails, conversations, text messages, internet voice and videos calls
  • Interviews (if this is a personal interview, you must always ask permission of the interviewee before using such material)

How do I reference?

First we will look at 'Citing', also known as 'in-text citing', which is the use of direct quotation or paraphrasing within your work and explain more fully how to write a reference list at the end of your essay. 

A reference list provides the full details of the research you have use so that the reader can find the source if they want to read it.

How to Cite in text


Citing or 'In-text Citations'

When you have used an idea from a book, journal article or other source, you must acknowledge this in your text. This is referred to as 'citing' or 'in-text citations'.


When citing in your text, give brief details of the work you are citing.  You should state only the author or editor and the date of publication in your work (unless you are using a Numerical style of referencing such as IEEE).


In-text citation example:

Pintrich (2003) examines aspects of motivation that impact student learning. 

This is another example of in-text citation from a book.  You need to include the page number in your text when you quote directly from a


In-text citation
(McCabe, 2004) or to reference a specific page: (McCabe, 2004, p.51)

If the work has two or three authors or editors you must cite all names when citing in the body of your own work.


In-text citation example (more than one author):

Research shows that television has a huge impact on social behaviour in many parts of the world (Asamen and Berry, 1998).

Other example:

(Bazalgette, Rahilly and Trevelyan, 2015)


Do not include the title, URL, place of publication, or other information in your text, as full details of the item are written in your reference list at the end of your essay.

The way you format citations in your text will differ depending on which referencing style you use.  See the referencing guide for the style you use for your course, which will explain how to format in-text citations for that style and how to construct your references or bibliography.

Reference List and Referencing Styles for Different Subjects

Your Module Handbook provides guidelines on which Referencing Style to use. During term the Library will provide some Referencing workshops and also workshops on Referencing Management Systems.

Look out for announcements on Weblearn.


Reference List 

The reference list is a list of all the sources that have been cited in the assignment. You should check the terminology used as it may vary by school or department (it may be called a bibliography instead of a reference list). Look in your module handbook or ask your tutor. The list is inclusive showing books, journals, and other items, listed in one list, not in separate lists according to source type.


  • The list should be in alphabetical order by author or editor.

  • Books, paper journals articles, eJournal articles, and other sources, are laid out in a particular format that must be followed.

  • Your reference list contains all the items you have cited or directly quoted from.


 Always show your tutor a sample reference list or bibliography to confirm it is in the format they want.


Reference Style Guides  

Referencing Style

Referencing Guide

Used for Subject area or by School 


APA referencing guide



IEEE referencing guide

Some courses in Computing, but most now use Harvard. 


London Met Library Services Harvard Guide (based on Cite Them Right).

Harvard Style and Guides


Most of the courses at London Met including Business, Early Years, Education, Science, Social Sciences, Social Work, Health 



MHRA quick referencing guide.

The full MHRA referencing guide can be downloaded for free here.

MHRA tutorial from the University of Leeds

School of Art, Architecture and Design as well as the music courses in the School of Computing and Digital Media.



MLA guide from Purdue University

 English Literature and Creative Writing




OSCOLA guides:  Quick Guide  

Full Guide

Required for: all Law Modules

Vancouver Imperial College guide to the Vancouver Citing and Referencing Style.

A numeric referencing style used in the sciences. Note: School of Human Sciences mostly use Harvard (see above).


Note: Reference list or Bibliography. What is the difference?

Some schools prefer to know if there are items which you have consulted for your work, but not cited. You should always check with your tutor or the module handbook to see if this is required. You should also check the terminology used (it may be called a reference list instead of a bibliography).


These can be listed at the end of your assignment in a ‘bibliography’. These items should be listed in alphabetical order by author and laid out in the same way as items in your reference list. If you can cite from every source you consulted, you will only need a reference list. If you wish to show to your reader (examiner) the unused research you carried out, the bibliography will show your extra effort.

Frequently Asked Questions on Referencing


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Answers to some frequently asked Referencing Questions 

What do I do if the publication has no date?
Answer:   You write ‘no date’ in brackets
What if there is no obvious author for an item on the Web?
Answer:  You can use the organisation whose website it is as the corporate author. However, if there is no author and it is not a site belonging to an organisation, you need to think about whether the information on the website is credible enough to use in your academic work.
There is no obvious publisher or place of publication, what should I do?
Answer:  If you have no publishing details you should write 'mimeo' in place of publisher and publication date.
Can I mix referencing styles?
Answer:   No. You must only use one referencing style. Be consistent!
What is the difference between a bibliography and a reference list?
Answer: A reference list is a list of all the sources you have cited from. A bibliography is a list of items you have read but not cited.
If you are unsure of the layout of a source in your reference list check the information in the referencing guide for the style you are using. If a type of source you have used is not listed, contact your librarian.