Referencing – what? why? how? help?

What is referencing?

Referencing is an essential part of academic work. You must reference when you are quoting (where you provide text from an external source word for word) or paraphasing (rewriting in your own words) to show that you are using the work/research/theories/data from someone else.

When you cite in the text of your work (an in-text citation), you will also need to create a full reference for it at the end of your work, in a reference list. This gives the full details for the information source so that it can be traced by anyone who reads your work.

Information sources can include: journal articles, conference papers, government reports, books or specific chapters of books, newspaper articles, theses or web pages to name a few.


Why reference?

Referencing adds weight to your argument and helps you to avoid plagiarism: the use of other people’s information and ideas as if they were your own. Plagiarism is considered as unethical in the UK and is treated as misconduct by the University.

You are referencing in order to:

  • show anyone who reads your work your ability to select and refer to the most appropriate external sources which support your work.
  • support specific facts or claims which you make in your work.
  • enable the reader to locate where you obtained each quote or idea.

The benefits to you of referencing are:

  • It shows the range of reading that you have done. This is likely to gain you marks.
  • It can make your own arguments more convincing by supporting them with the ideas of acknowledged experts and data from credible sources.

How do I reference?

Harvard is the main referencing system used in the University. The other referencing systems used are APA (Psychology), Oscola (Law), MHRA (Conservatoire postgraduates), Chicago Style (English and Art-based Masters Programme in the School of Art) and various journal styles, including IEEE (some Computing and Engineering PhD students). All other students should use Harvard. More information about all the referencing systems used at BCU can be found on iCity here

Need help with referencing?

  • Use EndNote as you can now select BCU Harvard as an output style from within the desktop and web versions of EndNote. If you want training on how to use EndNote Web, IT offer workshops, check out their schedule for further details.


*This blog post has been adapted from information on the library’s icity pages.

*Photograph by Trudi Pledger