Referencing: Referencing overview

Why reference?

When writing assignments it is important to reference your work properly. Why?

  • To acknowledge the work of others. This avoids plagiarism.
  • To easily allow those reading your work to find the documents you have referred to.
  • To demonstrate breadth of knowledge – this will strengthen your work and help you achieve a better mark!

What is referencing?

There are two parts to referencing:

  1. The citation. The citation is an abbreviation of your reference which usually includes the author(s) and year of publication or a numeric notation. It is included in the text and demonstrates the source of the idea or research that you are referring to. It is important to correctly cite other people’s work to avoid committing plagiarism.
  2. The reference. The reference includes full details of the item you have cited and is included in an alphabetical list at the end. This information enables those reading your work to easily find what you have read.

Citations - using your own words

If you have read something and wish to refer to the ideas/research expressed in that work, you might summarize it or put it into your own words, as a citation. For example:

    There is some dispute about who invented the Internet, but usually the same three names are mentioned (Jones, 2002).

This demonstrates that this idea was by Jones and was published in 2002. The student has read the whole work, and has summarised it in their own words, so it is not a quote.

Alternatively, you may wish to include the author’s name in your text. For example:

    There is some dispute about who invented the Internet, but usually the same three names are mentioned by Jones (2002).

Both examples are correct. You may choose one over the other depending on the flow of the sentence or writing style.

Citations - using direct quotes

You may wish to directly quote somebody else by using their exact words. The following is a direct quote from Brown, 1997, and is distinguished as such by using “quotation marks”. For example:

      “The most important invention in Man’s evolution is not the Internet, but the bicycle.” (Brown, 1997, p.69).

However, if you were to use the above without quotation marks and without acknowledging the source then the following could be identified as plagiarism:

       It could be said that the most important invention in Man's evolution is not the Internet, but the bicycle as it has made
      such an enduring environmental impact on human society.

Short quotations can be included as a running part of your text. Longer quotations should be separate and indented from the main body of your text.

When directly quoting you should also include the page number from where you found it - this will help those reading your work to easily locate it.

Be careful not to use too many direct quotations.  Remember, you are being marked for your work - the more quotations you add, the less there is of your work to mark.

References and bibliographies

The reference list at the end of your work will include details of all the citations used in your text. If you have read something but not explicitly referred to it in the text, this should go in your bibliography.

Sometimes you will be asked only for a reference list, not a bibliography, so check the instructions for each piece of work.

Imagine yourself as the person reading your work:

  • each reference should include all the information needed for the reader to find the exact item you have read
  • make it as easy as possible for the reader to link from the citation to the reference
  • be consistent in your referencing style

Referencing and Avoiding Plagiarism Library Online Modules

There are a range of Library Online Learning resources with guidance and, often, activities. These are available for access in Brightspace:

RefUnderstanding and avoiding plagiarism online module

Getting help with referencing

Module/course handbook: Always check this first, or ask your module leader. Make sure you know which referencing style you should be using and follow any advice your subject gives you.

Cite them right: Cite them right is an online resource, accessed via the Library, that contains advice on referencing different sources in a variety of different referencing styles. You can access this resource via the Library catalogue or search 'Cite them right' in the Library Search

Ask your librarian: You can ask the Academic Liaison Librarian for your subject area for advice about referencing. To contact your librarian take a look at the Academic Liaison Librarian: Meet The Team guide for subject areas and contact information.  Alternatively, you can visit the LibSmart Point for guidance without an appointment: See box below

Guidance on using Generative AI

The Library has produced guidance on using generative AI in assignments to complement University guidelines

You will also find examples here on how to acknowledge and reference generative AI in your work when required. 

Which style should I use?

There are many referencing styles, so it is important you know which to use for your assignment or research. If you are an undergraduate or taught postgraduate your module guide or module/block leader will be able to confirm this for you.

If you are a Doctoral Researcher, you should discuss and agree your referencing style with your supervisor. 

LibSmart Point

Opening hours

Academic Liaison Librarians are available between 1pm-4pm, Monday to Friday term-time to discuss queries about using library resources and referencing.

Outside of these times, you can use the Library chat service and your query will be picked up by another member of Brunel Library staff or our friendly co-op support staff, who provide us with 24/7 chat coverage.

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