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Referencing Styles

Why reference?

When you use the ideas of another person in your work, you must acknowledge this. Referencing allows the reader to find the same sources of information that you did, to enable them to read more on the topic or to check your interpretation. It is also important to give credit where it is due. Referencing makes it clear when you are drawing your own conclusions from the evidence presented, or where you are quoting or paraphrasing from another person's work. Most importantly, by referencing you avoid plagiarism.

Plagiarism is to pretend that ideas or language of other people are your own. In your assignments, you imply that all of the ideas and language are your own, unless you explicitly indicate otherwise. If you fail to make clear that sections of your work are not your own, then you are guilty of plagiarism. Plagiarism is stealing, and is a very serious offence.

When to reference?

You must reference when:

  • quoting the exact words of another writer
  • paraphrasing - putting the work of another writer into your own words
  • summarising - using ideas or material directly based on the work of another writer

Where to reference?

Referencing involves:

  • citing references (i.e., identifying and acknowledging your sources) within your essay
  • produce a Reference List or Bibliography at the end of your assignment

Quoting vs. referring

Writing styles provide methods for you to cite (refer to the original source of) the information you quote from or refer to in your paper. The difference between quoting and referring may seem small, but it is significant; therefore, some Writing styles emphasize the former, while others focus on the latter.

You should provide a quotation from a source when the wording of the original is important. If the author makes a point in a particularly insightful, original, or concise way, then you should allow that author's words to speak for themselves. This is most often done in humanities disciplines, such as the study of history and literature, because often the words used are as important as the meaning they convey. Thus, the primary Writing style used in the humanities, that of the Modern Language Association (MLA), allows for page numbers alone to appear after quotations; the author and work are usually clear from the context in which the quotation appears.

In the scientific disciplines, by contrast, quotation is less often used than reference. The purpose of referring to the previous research of others is to establish findings and evaluate results; the word choice of individual scientists is less important. Therefore, the Writing style established by the American Psychological Association (APA) provides for author and date to be provided after a reference; the page number is omitted unless a quotation is included (it often isn't).

An example may be helpful here. The author of the first passage wishes to capture the flavor of the original by quoting; the author of the second simply wishes to refer to the original to help make a point.


In the state of nature, Hobbes considered "the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" (207).


Theories of the primitive state of nature abounded at this time (Hobbes, 1651).

The question of when to refer and when to quote is one that can only be answered within the context of the purpose of your paper. If you are writing a literary analysis, direct quotation of the text will allow you to perform a more specific, concrete analysis. If you are writing a research project, however, it is much more important that you refer to previous research and provide summaries of findings.

Methods of referencing

There are two main methods of referencing articles in journal and book publications. These are known as the Harvard (author-date) and Vancouver (author-number) reference systems. Many professional publications often have their own house style which introduce specific variations within these general conventions.

Harvard (author-date) style

This system uses the author's name and date of publication in the body of the text, and the bibliography is given alphabetically by author. There are many variations on the style - examples are below:


"The author has discussed the implications of these proposals on the National Health Service in another paper (Loft, 1991). Other writers have commented on related issues, notably Lane (1992, 1994) and Lewis (1995, p.54). "

Names and dates are enclosed in parentheses unless the author's name is part of the sentence. If two papers are cited by the same author, and both are published in the same year, the first should be referenced as (Loft 1997a), then (Loft 1997b), and so on.

Vancouver (author-number) style

The Vancouver system differs from Harvard by using a number series to indicate references. Bibliographies list these in numerical order as they appear in the text. The main advantage of the Vancouver style is that the main text reads more easily, and some editors consider this to be less obtrusive. Additionally, references in the bibliography are directly correlated to numbers, saving the reader time in searching alphabetically for the first author of a reference.

Vancouver style is so named as it is based on the work of a group, first meeting in Vancouver in 1978, which became the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). The style was developed by the US National Library of Medicine (NLM) and adopted by the ICMJE as part of their 'uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals'. The NLM has an ICMJE page which gives sample references for 41 different circumstances, and should be considered as the authoritative style.


"The author has discussed the implications of these proposals on the National Health Service in another paper (1). Other writers have commented on related issues, notably Lane (2,3) and Lewis (4). "

References in the Vancouver style would be cited in numerical order as below. This is a more economical style than Harvard, and excessive punctuation, spacing and formatting is absent. Journal names are abbreviated.

(1) Annas GJ. New drugs for acute respiratory distress syndrome. N Engl J Med. 1997;337:435-9.

(2) Grinspoon L, Bakalar JB. Marijuana: the forbidden medicine. London: Yale University Press; 1993.

(3) Feinberg TE, Farah MJ, editors. Behavioural neurology and neuropsychology. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 1997.

What are Writing styles?

Writing styles have been established to provide you with a way to give credit for work that you have used in writing your paper. It is important to cite sources not only to give credit where it's due, but also to allow the reader of your work to locate the sources you have consulted. In short, the reader of your paper must be able to use the information you provide, both in the text and in appended list(s), to duplicate the research you have done.

A Writing style is a standard approach to the citation of sources that the author of a paper has consulted, abstracted, or quoted from. It prescribes methods for citing references within the text, providing a list of works cited at the end of the paper, and even formatting headings and margins. Different academic disciplines use different Writing styles; your instructor may require you to use a particular style, or may allow you use one of your choosing. It is important to fully understand the Writing style to be used in your paper, and to apply it consistently.

Academic writing styles

  • APA: psychology, education, and other social sciences.
  • MLA: literature, arts, and humanities.
  • Turabian: designed for college students to use with all subjects.
  • Chicago: used with all subjects in the "real world" by books, magazines, newspapers, and other non-scholarly publications.

What is APA?

General APA (American Psychological Association). When editors or teachers ask you to write in “APA style,” they do not mean writing style. They are referring to the editorial style that many of the social and behavioral sciences have adopted to present written material in the field.

Editorial style consists of rules or guidelines that a publisher observes to ensure clear and consistent presentation of written material. Editorial style concerns uniform use of such elements as

  • punctuation and abbreviations
  • construction of tables
  • selection of headings
  • citation of references
  • presentation of statistics
  • as well as many other elements that are a part of every manuscript

The American Psychological Association has established a style that it uses in all of the books and journals that it publishes. Many others working in the social and behavioral sciences have adopted this style as their standard as well.



What is MLA?

MLA (Modern Language Association) style recommended by the association for preparing scholarly manuscripts and student research papers concerns itself with the mechanics of writing, such as punctuation, quotation, and documentation of sources. MLA style has been widely adopted by schools, academic departments, and instructors for nearly half a century.


It is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (6th ed.) and the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (2nd ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.

What is Chicago/Turabian?

The Chicago Manual of Style documentation system is used in both the humanities and the social sciences. A bit more complex than either the MLA or the APA, it offers two approaches for documenting sources: 1) a notes system and, 2) an author/date system similar to the APA. This guide explains the Author/Date system. A separate guide explains the Chicago Manual of Style (Notes System)

Chicago style, sometimes referred to as Turabian, is used in many of the social sciences, including history and political science. This will introduce you to the three main citation features of Chicago: in-line citation, footnotes/endnotes, and content notes. Also, this handout will discuss the construction of a bibliography. Examples of citations for various kinds of sources appear at the end of this handout (further examples are available on the Chicago Manual of Style). Note that this handout will focus on the note/bibliography system of citation, rather than the author-date system.

There are various ways of setting out references / bibliographies for an assignment. “Harvard Style” is a generic term for any referencing style which uses in-text references such as(Smith, 1999) and a reference list at the end of the document organized by author name and year of publication. There is no manual of the “Harvard Style” and there are many versions of the “Harvard Style”. For example, the commonly used APA Style is a “Harvard Style”. In this guide, we are using a “Harvard Style” based on an Australian style manual (AGPS style) but now revised by Snooks & Co, 2002. The style is based on the author-date system for books, articles and “non-books”.

What is AMA?

The American Medical Association style (AMA style) conforms to the uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals (also referred to as the Vancouver group) for bibliographic references. The writing style is commonly used by medicine, health, and biological science students.