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London Metropolitan University

Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Science, Pharmacology and Herbal Medicinal Science

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.

Sources include anything you take information from eg books, journals, magazines, newspapers, websites, lectures, legislation, maps, television and radio programmes, works of art, dramatic performances, etc.

By referencing your sources you are demonstrating to your tutors the breadth of your research and reinforcing your own arguments. Using a wide range of sources is excellent academic practice and can improve your marks.

Cite Them Right guide


What do I do if the publication has no date?

What if there is no obvious author for an item on the Web?

There is no obvious publisher or place of publication, what should I do?

Can I mix referencing styles?

What is the difference between a bibliography and a reference list?

Referencing Styles Guides

In-text citation

The author and date of publication appear in brackets immediately after the idea, information or quote you are referencing, eg, Political reform is needed (Kruger, 2007).

In-text citations are usually included in your word count for all your assignments.


  • You need to include the page number in your text when you quote directly from a source, eg, For some, ‘going green’ is driven by the prospect of “pocketing substantial government subsidies” (Lawson, 2009, p. 118).
  • You also need to include the page number if you re-write an author’s specific idea or sentence using your own words, eg, Swetnam (2004, p. 95) has argued that consistency is of the utmost importance in referencing.
  • Where the author’s name appears in your essay, you do not need to put the name in brackets, eg, Luke (2008) highlights the importance of business to business pressure.

A reference list

This appears at the end of your assignment giving full publication details for all of the sources you referred to eg Kruger, D. (2007) On fraternity: politics beyond liberty and equality. London: Institute for the Study of Civil Society.

Your sources should be listed in alphabetical order by author surname in your reference list.

Your reference list is not included in your word count.

Harvard referencing varies in format. The guidance provided by London Met Library Service is based on the style in the book:

Pears, R. and Shields, G. (2019) Cite them right: the essential referencing guide, 11th edn. London: Macmillan Higher Education.

Vancouver style is a numeric referencing style commonly used in the sciences. There are two parts to this style:

  • Citing in the text - when, in your work, you use an idea from a book, journal article, etc., you must acknowledge this in your text. For each citation (that is each piece of work cited in your text) assign a number. Starting with number 1, assign the numbers in the order of citation. If you cite same piece of work again, use the same citation number. Write the number in brackets or as superscript.
  • The reference list – this is a list of all the sources cited in the text of your work. In Vancouver style this is sequentially numbered list at the end of your work. Each number on the reference list should match and refer to the one in the text.

Imperial College has a useful guide to using the Vancouver style.

Why reference?

All information, ideas and quotations from anything you have consulted in order to write an assignment at University must be correctly referenced as referencing enables your tutors and anyone else reading your work to check your sources and follow up information for themselves.

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 and images generated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) sites
  • 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)
  • text generated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) sites