What is Referencing?
When you're doing a piece of work like an essay or an assignment, you will probably use other peoples' work to help inform yours. You need to acknowledge all sources of information (other people's work) that you use so that readers (markers!) can tell what is your original work and what material you have used from elsewhere. Referring to other people's work like this is called referencing.
Why Do You Need to Reference?
Several reasons, including:
- Giving credit to other people for doing the work (how would you like it if someone used your work and didn't give you credit?).
- To avoid plagiarism
- To show your tutor/teacher you did some research for your work
- To provide evidence supporting your argument
- To get a few extra marks for your work (depending upon the marking scheme)
- To let readers find the original source without any difficulty
Do You Have to Reference Everything You Use?
No, if something is common knowledge, then you don't have to reference it. Common knowledge is stuff everybody knows or should know. Examples:
- The first world war started in 1914
- Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland
- Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the Moon
Just be aware that what is common knowledge in the circles you move in might not be common knowledge to everyone else. For example, suppose you keenly follow the GAA, you might assume everyone knows Ballygunner were the 2022 All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling Champions. That will be common knowledge in the parish of St Mary's Ballygunner in Waterford City, but not necessarily elsewhere. If in doubt, reference it!
How Do You Reference?
There are two different bits:
- A reference in the text every time you mention someone's work, called an in-text citation
- At the end of your work, a list (called a reference list) of all pieces of work that you have used, giving enough information for the reader to find the original
Is there a Referencing Standard?
Yes, in fact there are many different standards! The one used in further education and training is called Harvard style. There's a handbook for learners
What Does an In-Text Citation Look Like?
All you need is the author's surname and year of publication, so it'll look like:
"Jones (2023) talks about the importance of referencing" or
"You need to reference other people's work or else might be accused of plagiarism (Jones, 2023)"
What Does a Reference List Entry Look Like?
It depends - there are many different information sources you could use and they have different formats. For example, books don't have web addresses and websites don't have page numbers. You do need to include:
- year of publication*
- title (1)*
- title (2) if title (1) above is part of something bigger - if you refer to a newspaper article, title (1) would be the title of the article and title (2) would be the name of the newspaper
- volume number
- issue number
- page numbers
- place of publication
- name of publisher
- URL (if the work you're referencing is available online)
- date you last accessed the work (if the work you're referencing is available online)
* means the information is required. Anything else will depend on the format of the information source.
For a book a reference list entry would look something like
- Jones, A. (2023). Referencing made easy. Dublin, Library Press
For a website
- Jones, A. (2023) Referencing made easy Available at www.referencing.com (last accessed 01/01/23)
For a journal article
- Jones, A. (2023) Referencing made easy The Journal of Referencing 1 (1) pp1-10
Are There Any Apps You Can Use to Help You Reference?
If you're happy using apps, the Library recommends using Zotero or Mendeley to keep track of your references. These apps:
- can store your references in folders that you can access online
- store the full-text of a reference if it's available
- Create formatted reference list entries
- Created format reference lists
Other apps are available, but Zotero and Mendeley are probably the best
Three Things to Remember
- Always, always, always cite all the sources that you use.
- Each in-text citation needs a reference list entry and vice versa
- Don't get too hung up on formatting, just be consistent and include enough information for people to find the source