When you are writing a piece of work and use someone else's words or ideas you must say to the reader when you do so. Referencing is a standard and consistent method of acknowledging all of the sources of information that you have looked at when preparing your written assessment work.
Why do you have to reference?
- To avoid plagiarism
- Provide evidence to support the assertions and claims in your own assignments.
- Add credibility to your writing
- Create distance from the original source by quoting it in order to show readers that the words, ideas or opinions are not your own
- Expand the breadth and depth of your writing
- It shows anyone reading (or marking!) your work that you were able to find and use sources that support your argument.
- It properly credits the people who came up with the ideas or did the work that you used in your assignment. If someone used your work or your ideas, wouldn't you want to be acknowledged?
- It allows your work to be fact checked. People who read your work can use the details in the reference list to retrieve the sources that you used.
- It will help you get better marks
What needs to be referenced?
Whenever you use anything from another source - words, facts, opinions, results etc - in your work, you need to reference it. It doesn't matter if you copy words directly or put someone else's facts, ideas, etc. into your own words, you have to reference anything that you have taken from another source.
There is an exception. If something is common knowledge, then it doesn't need to be referenced. Common knowledge is something that is generally and widely known. Some types of common knowledge:
- Known date and time information
- Known geographical information
- Known historical information
- Information known to a particular group of people
Some examples of common knowledge
- There are 365 days in a year
- Dublin is the capital of Ireland
- World War 2 started in 1939
- The head of the Irish government is called the Taoiseach
A good rule of thumb is that anything you know before you start writing is common knowledge and therefore doesn't need to be referenced and anything you find out during your work has to be referenced. Here's a flow chart that might help:
How to Reference
There are two strands to referencing:
- Every time you refer to someone else's ideas in the text of your work, you must mention it. This called a citation or an in-text citation. The in-text citation consists of the author's name and the year of publication e.g
- "...Harvard referencing isn't really one style at all" (Smith, 2019)
- At the end of your work, you must provide a detailed list (called a reference list or bibliography) of all of the sources that you mention in your text. The reference list gives the full publication details of the source, allowing the reader to go and find the source if they wish.
- Smith, J (2019) How to reference sources using the Harvard Style. Dublin: Penguin
Secondary referencing is when you mention a source which itself is mentioned in another text. For example, you read Jimmy Murphy's 2014 article on memory and find that he mentions Shelia Kelly's 2011 article on memory testing and want to include this in your work, then you'd write something like:
"Kelly's 2011 study (cited in Murphy, 2014), found that depending upon how memory is tested, older people have as good memories as younger people."
Author Surname Year, cited in Author Surname Year
"Kelly's 2011 study (cited in Murphy, 2014)".
In your reference list, you only cite the source that you consulted (Murphy 2014), you do not reference Kelly's article.
There are many different kinds of referencing styles. These are often specialised for use in particular academic areas and have their own rules for properly citing sources.
One of the most commonly used styles is called Harvard Referencing. Harvard Referencing isn't really one style at all, as it allows for lots of little variations; it's more of a guide. Every educational institution might have a slightly different way of referencing via Harvard, so it's important to consistently follow the style recommended to you.
These pages will show you how to provide, using the Harvard method, in-text citations and references for all the different sources that you might use in your work. There are pages for
- In-text citation rules
- Reference list rules
- Examples of how to reference books
- Examples of how to reference electronic books (eBooks)
- Examples of how to reference journal articles
- Examples of how to reference newspapers and magazines
- Examples of how to reference websites
- Examples of how to reference other information sources
- A description of software that can help you manage your referencing
- A glossary of terms used in referencing
- Some referencing links which might be useful