How to Reference in an Essay (9 Strategies of Top Students)
Are you feeling overwhelmed by referencing?
When you’re first asked to do referencing in an essay it can be hard to get your head around it. If it’s been a while since you were first taught how to reference, it can be intimidating to ask again how to do it!
I have so many students who consistently lose marks just because they didn’t get referencing right! They’re either embarrassed to ask for extra help or too lazy to learn how to solve the issues.
So, here’s a post that will help you solve the issues on your own.
Already think you’re good at referencing? No worries. This post goes through some surprising and advanced strategies for anyone to improve no matter what level you are at!
In this post I’m going to show you exactly how to reference in an essay. I’ll explain why we do it and I’ll show you 9 actionable tips on getting referencing right that I’m sure you will not have heard anywhere else!
The post is split into three parts:
- What is a Reference and What is a Citation?
- Why Reference? (4 Things you Should Know)
- How to Reference (9 Strategies of Top Students)
If you think you’ve already got a good understanding of the basics, you can jump to our 9 Advanced Strategies section.
Part 1: What is a Reference and What is a Citation?
What is a citation.
An in-text mention of your source. A citation is a short mention of the source you got the information from, usually in the middle or end of a sentence in the body of your paragraph. It is usually abbreviated so as not to distract the reader too much from your own writing. Here’s two examples of citations. The first is in APA format. The second is in MLA format:
- APA: Archaeological records trace the original human being to equatorial Africa about 250,000–350,000 years ago (Schlebusch & Jakobsson, 2018) .
- MLA: Archaeological records trace the original human being to equatorial Africa about 250,000–350,000 years ago (Schlebusch and Jakobsson 1) .
In APA format, you’ve got the authors and year of publication listed. In MLA format, you’ve got the authors and page number listed. If you keep reading, I’ll give some more tips on formatting further down in this article.
And a Reference is:
What is a Reference?
A reference is the full details of a source that you list at the end of the article. For every citation (see above) there needs to be a corresponding reference at the end of the essay showing more details about that source. The idea is that the reader can see the source in-text (i.e. they can look at the citation) and if they want more information they can jump to the end of the page and find out exactly how to go about finding the source.
Here’s how you would go about referencing the Schlebusch and Jakobsson source in a list at the end of the essay. Again, I will show you how to do it in APA and MLA formats:
- APA: Schlebusch, C. & Jakobsson, M. (2018). Tales of Human Migration, Admixture, and Selection in Africa. Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics , 11 (33), 1–24.
- MLA: Schlebusch, Carina and Mattias Jakobsson. “Tales of Human Migration, Admixture, and Selection in Africa.” Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics , vol. 11, no. 33, 2018, pp. 1–24.
In strategy 1 below I’ll show you the easiest and fool proof way to write these references perfectly every time.
One last quick note: sometimes we say ‘reference’ when we mean ‘citation’. That’s pretty normal. Just roll with the punches. It’s usually pretty easy to pick up on what our teacher means regardless of whether they use the word ‘reference’ or ‘citation’.
Part 2: Why Reference in an Essay? (4 Things you Should Know)
Referencing in an essay is important. By the time you start doing 200-level courses, you probably won’t pass the course unless you reference appropriately. So, the biggest answer to ‘why reference?’ is simple: Because you Have To!
Okay let’s be serious though … here’s the four top ‘real’ reasons to reference:
1. Referencing shows you Got an Expert’s Opinion
You can’t just write an essay on what you think you know. This is a huge mistake of beginning students. Instead this is what you need to do:
Top Tip: Essays at university are supposed to show off that you’ve learned new information by reading the opinions of experts.
Every time you place a citation in your paragraph, you’re showing that the information you’re presenting in that paragraph was provided to you by an expert. In other words, it means you consulted an expert’s opinion to build your knowledge.
If you have citations throughout the essay with links to a variety of different expert opinions, you’ll show your marker that you did actually genuinely look at what the experts said with an open mind and considered their ideas.
This will help you to grow your grades.
2. Referencing shows you read your Assigned Readings
Your teacher will most likely give you scholarly journal articles or book chapters to read for homework between classes. You might have even talked about those assigned readings in your seminars and tutorials.
Great! The assigned readings are very important to you.
You should definitely cite the assigned readings relevant to your essay topic in your evaluative essay (unless your teacher tells you not to). Why? I’ll explain below.
- Firstly, the assigned readings were selected by your teacher because your teacher (you know, the person who’s going to mark your essay) believes they’re the best quality articles on the topic. Translation: your teacher gave you the best source you’re going to find. Make sure you use it!
- Secondly, by citing the assigned readings you are showing your teacher that you have been paying attention throughout the course. You are showing your teacher that you have done your homework, read those assigned readings and paid attention to them. When my students submit an essay that has references to websites, blogs, wikis and magazines I get very frustrated. Why would you cite low quality non-expert sources like websites when I gave you the expert’s article!? Really, it frustrates me so, so much.
So, cite the assigned readings to show your teacher you read the scholarly articles your teacher gave to you. It’ll help you grow your marks.
3. Referencing deepens your Knowledge
Okay, so you understand that you need to use referencing to show you got experts’ opinions on the topic.
But there’s more to it than that. There’s actually a real benefit for your learning.
If you force yourself to cite two expert sources per paragraph, you’re actually forcing yourself to get two separate pieces of expert knowledge. This will deepen your knowledge!
So, don’t treat referencing like a vanity exercise to help you gain more marks. Actually view it as an opportunity to develop deeper understandings of the topic!
When you read expert sources, aim to pick up on some new gems of knowledge that you can discuss in your essays. Some things you should look out for when finding sources to reference:
- Examples that link ideas to real life. Do the experts provide real-life examples that you can mention in your essay?
- Facts and figures. Usually experts have conducted research on a topic and provide you with facts and figures from their research. Use those facts and figures to deepen your essay!
- Short Quotes. Did your source say something in a really interesting, concise or surprising way? Great! You can quote that source in your essay .
- New Perspectives. Your source might give you another perspective, angle or piece of information that you can add to your paragraph so that it’s a deep, detailed and interesting paragraph.
So, the reason we ask you to reference is at the end of the day because it’s good for you: it helps you learn!
4. Referencing backs up your Claims
You might think you already know a ton of information about the topic and be ready to share your mountains of knowledge with your teacher. Great!
So, should you still reference?
You need to show that you’re not the only person with your opinion. You need to ‘stand on the shoulders of giants.’ Show what other sources have said about your points to prove that experts agree with you.
You should be saying: this is my opinion and it’s based on facts, expert opinions and deep, close scrutiny of all the arguments that exist out there .
If you make a claim that no one else has made, your teacher is going to be like “Have you even been reading the evidence on this topic?” The answer, if there are no citations is likely: No. You haven’t.
Even if you totally disagree with the experts, you still need to say what their opinions are! You’ll need to say: “This is the experts’ opinions. And this is why I disagree.”
So, yes, you need to reference to back up every claim. Try to reference twice in every paragraph to achieve this.
Part 3: Strategies for How to Reference in an Essay (9 Strategies of Top Students)
Let’s get going with our top strategies for how to reference in an essay! These are strategies that you probably haven’t heard elsewhere. They work for everyone – from beginner to advanced! Let’s get started:
1. Print out your Reference Style Cheat Sheet
Referencing is hard and very specific. You need to know where to place your italics, where the commas go and whether to use an initial for full name for an author.
There are so many details to get right.
And here’s the bad news: The automated referencing apps and websites nearly always get it wrong! They tell you they can generate the citation for you. The fact of the matter is: they can’t!
Here’s the best way to get referencing right: Download a referencing cheat sheet and have it by your side while writing your essay.
Your assignment outline should tell you what type of referencing you should use. Different styles include: APA Style, MLA Style, Chicago Style, Harvard Style, Vancouver Style … and many more!
You need to find out which style you need to use and download your cheat sheet. You can jump onto google to find a cheat sheet by typing in the google bar:
Download a pdf version of the referencing style cheat sheet, print it out, and place it on your pinboard or by your side when writing your essay.
2. Only cite Experts
There are good and bad sources to cite in an essay.
You should only cite sources written, critiqued and edited by experts. This shows that you have got the skill of finding information that is authoritative. You haven’t just used information that any old person popped up on their blog. You haven’t just gotten information from your local newspaper. Instead, you got information from the person who is an absolute expert on the topic.
Here’s an infographic listing sources that you should and shouldn’t cite. Feel free to share this infographic on social media, with your teachers and your friends:
3. Always use Google Scholar
Always. Use. Google. Scholar.
Ten years ago students only had their online university search database to find articles. Those university databases suck. They rarely find the best quality sources and there’s always a big mix of completely irrelevant sources mixed in there.
Google Scholar is better at finding the sources you want. That’s because it looks through the whole article abstract and analyses it to see if it’s relevant to your search keywords. By contrast, most university search databases rely only on the titles of articles.
Use the power of the best quality search engine in the world to find scholarly sources .
Note: Google and Google Scholar are different search engines.
To use Google Scholar, go to: https://scholar.google.com
Then, search on google scholar using keywords. I’m going to search keywords for an essay on the topic: “What are the traits of a good nurse?”
If you really like the idea of that first source, I recommend copying the title and trying your University online search database. Your university may give you free access.
4. Cite at least 50% sources you found on your Own Research
Okay, so I’ve told you that you should cite both assigned readings and readings you find from Google Scholar.
Here’s the ideal mix of assigned sources and sources that you found yourself: 50/50.
Your teacher will want to see that you can use both assigned readings and do your own additional research to write a top essay . This shows you’ve got great research skills but also pay attention to what is provided in class.
I recommend that you start with the assigned readings and try to get as much information out of them, then find your own additional sources beyond that using Google Scholar.
So, if your essay has 10 citations, a good mix is 5 assigned readings and 5 readings you found by yourself.
5. Cite Newer Sources
As a general rule, the newer the source the better .
The best rule of thumb that most teachers follow is that you should aim to mostly cite sources from the past 10 years . I usually accept sources from the past 15 years when marking essays.
However, sometimes you have a really great source that’s 20, 30 or 40 years old. You should only cite these sources if they’re what we call ‘seminal texts’. A seminal text is one that was written by an absolute giant in your field and revolutionized the subject.
Here’s some examples of seminal authors whose old articles you would be able to cite despite the fact that they’re old:
- Education: Vygotsky, Friere, Piaget
- Sociology: Weber, Marx, C. Wright Mills
- Psychology: Freud, Rogers, Jung
Even if I cite seminal authors, I always aim for at least 80% of my sources to have been written in the past 10 years.
6. Reference twice per Paragraph
How much should you reference?
Here’s a good strategy: Provide two citations in every paragraph in the body of the essay.
It’s not compulsory to reference in the introduction and conclusion . However, in all the other paragraphs, aim for two citations.
Let’s go over the key strategies for achieving this:
- These two citations should be to different sources, not the same sources twice;
- Two citations per paragraph shows your points are backed up by not one, but two expert sources;
- Place one citation in the first half of the paragraph and one in the second half. This will indicate to your marker that all the points in the whole paragraph are backed up by your citations.
This is a good rule of thumb for you when you’re not sure when and how often to reference. When you get more confident with your referencing, you can mix this up a little.
7. The sum total of your sources should be minimum 1 per 150 words
You can, of course, cite one source more than once throughout the essay. You might cite the same source in the second, fourth and fifth paragraphs. That’s okay.
But, you don’t want your whole essay to be based on a narrow range of sources. You want your marker to see that you have consulted multiple sources to get a wide range of information on the topic. Your marker wants to know that you’ve seen a range of different opinions when coming to your conclusions.
When you get to the end of your essay, check to see how many sources are listed in the end-text reference list. A good rule of thumb is 1 source listed in the reference list per 150 words. Here’s how that breaks down by essay size:
- 1500 word essay: 10 sources (or more) listed in the reference list
- 2000 word essay: 13 sources (or more) listed in the reference list
- 3000 word essay: 20 sources (or more) listed in the reference list
- 5000 word essay: 33 sources (or more) listed in the reference list
8. Instantly improve your Reference List with these Three Tips
Here’s two things you can do to instantly improve your reference list. It takes less than 20 seconds and gives your reference list a strong professional finish:
a) Ensure the font size and style are the same
You will usually find that your whole reference list ends up being in different font sizes and styles. This is because you tend to copy and paste the titles and names in the citations from other sources. If you submit the reference list with font sizes and styles that are not the same as the rest of the essay, the piece looks really unprofessional.
So, quickly highlight the whole reference list and change its font to the same font size and style as the rest of your essay. The screencast at the end of Step 8 walks you through this if you need a hand!
b) List your sources in alphabetical order.
Nearly every referencing style insists that references be listed in alphabetical order. It’s a simple thing to do before submitting and makes the piece look far more professional.
If you’re using Microsoft Word, simply highlight your whole reference list and click the A>Z button in the toolbar. If you can’t see it, you need to be under the ‘home’ tab (circled below):
You’ve probably never heard of a hanging indent. It’s a style where the second line of the reference list is indented further from the left-hand side of the page than the first line. It’s a strategy that’s usually used in reference lists provided in professional publications.
If you use the hanging indent, your reference list will look far more professional.
Here’s a quick video of me doing it for you:
9. Do one special edit especially for Referencing Style
The top students edit their essays three to five times spaced out over a week or more before submitting. One of those edits should be specifically for ensuring your reference list adheres to the referencing style that your teacher requires.
To do this, I recommend you get that cheat sheet printout that I mentioned in Step 1 and have it by your side while you read through the piece. Pay special attention to the use of commas, capital letters, brackets and page numbers for all citations. Also pay attention to the reference list: correct formatting of the reference list can be the difference between getting the top mark in the class and the fifth mark in the class. At the higher end of the marking range, things get competitive and formatting of the reference list counts.
A Quick Summary of the 9 Top Strategies…
Follow the rules of your referencing style guide (and that cheat sheet I recommended!) and use the top 9 tips above to improve your referencing and get top marks. Not only will your referencing look more professional, you’ll probably increase the quality of the content of your piece as well when you follow these tips!
Here’s a final summary of the 9 top tips:
Strategies for How to Reference in an Essay (9 Strategies of Top Students)
- Print out your Reference Style Cheat Sheet
- Only cite Experts
- Always use Google Scholar
- Cite at least 50% sources you found on your Own Research
- Cite Newer Sources
- Reference twice per Paragraph
- The sum total of your sources should be minimum 1 per 150 words
- Instantly improve your Reference List with these Three Tips
- Do one special edit especially for Referencing Style
Chris Drew (PhD)
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 13 Secondary Data Examples
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 31 Instinct Examples (In Humans and Animals)
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ Montessori vs Reggio Emilia vs Steiner-Waldorf vs Froebel
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 15 Meritocracy Examples
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A Quick Guide to Harvard Referencing | Citation Examples
Published on 14 February 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on 15 September 2023.
Referencing is an important part of academic writing. It tells your readers what sources you’ve used and how to find them.
Harvard is the most common referencing style used in UK universities. In Harvard style, the author and year are cited in-text, and full details of the source are given in a reference list .
Harvard Reference Generator
Table of contents
Harvard in-text citation, creating a harvard reference list, harvard referencing examples, referencing sources with no author or date, frequently asked questions about harvard referencing.
A Harvard in-text citation appears in brackets beside any quotation or paraphrase of a source. It gives the last name of the author(s) and the year of publication, as well as a page number or range locating the passage referenced, if applicable:
Note that ‘p.’ is used for a single page, ‘pp.’ for multiple pages (e.g. ‘pp. 1–5’).
An in-text citation usually appears immediately after the quotation or paraphrase in question. It may also appear at the end of the relevant sentence, as long as it’s clear what it refers to.
When your sentence already mentions the name of the author, it should not be repeated in the citation:
Sources with multiple authors
When you cite a source with up to three authors, cite all authors’ names. For four or more authors, list only the first name, followed by ‘ et al. ’:
Sources with no page numbers
Some sources, such as websites , often don’t have page numbers. If the source is a short text, you can simply leave out the page number. With longer sources, you can use an alternate locator such as a subheading or paragraph number if you need to specify where to find the quote:
Multiple citations at the same point
When you need multiple citations to appear at the same point in your text – for example, when you refer to several sources with one phrase – you can present them in the same set of brackets, separated by semicolons. List them in order of publication date:
Multiple sources with the same author and date
If you cite multiple sources by the same author which were published in the same year, it’s important to distinguish between them in your citations. To do this, insert an ‘a’ after the year in the first one you reference, a ‘b’ in the second, and so on:
Prevent plagiarism, run a free check.
A bibliography or reference list appears at the end of your text. It lists all your sources in alphabetical order by the author’s last name, giving complete information so that the reader can look them up if necessary.
The reference entry starts with the author’s last name followed by initial(s). Only the first word of the title is capitalised (as well as any proper nouns).
Sources with multiple authors in the reference list
As with in-text citations, up to three authors should be listed; when there are four or more, list only the first author followed by ‘ et al. ’:
Reference list entries vary according to source type, since different information is relevant for different sources. Formats and examples for the most commonly used source types are given below.
- Entire book
- Book chapter
- Translated book
- Edition of a book
- Print journal
- Online-only journal with DOI
- Online-only journal with no DOI
- General web page
- Online article or blog
- Social media post
Sometimes you won’t have all the information you need for a reference. This section covers what to do when a source lacks a publication date or named author.
No publication date
When a source doesn’t have a clear publication date – for example, a constantly updated reference source like Wikipedia or an obscure historical document which can’t be accurately dated – you can replace it with the words ‘no date’:
Note that when you do this with an online source, you should still include an access date, as in the example.
When a source lacks a clearly identified author, there’s often an appropriate corporate source – the organisation responsible for the source – whom you can credit as author instead, as in the Google and Wikipedia examples above.
When that’s not the case, you can just replace it with the title of the source in both the in-text citation and the reference list:
Harvard referencing uses an author–date system. Sources are cited by the author’s last name and the publication year in brackets. Each Harvard in-text citation corresponds to an entry in the alphabetised reference list at the end of the paper.
Vancouver referencing uses a numerical system. Sources are cited by a number in parentheses or superscript. Each number corresponds to a full reference at the end of the paper.
A Harvard in-text citation should appear in brackets every time you quote, paraphrase, or refer to information from a source.
The citation can appear immediately after the quotation or paraphrase, or at the end of the sentence. If you’re quoting, place the citation outside of the quotation marks but before any other punctuation like a comma or full stop.
In Harvard referencing, up to three author names are included in an in-text citation or reference list entry. When there are four or more authors, include only the first, followed by ‘ et al. ’
Though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a difference in meaning:
- A reference list only includes sources cited in the text – every entry corresponds to an in-text citation .
- A bibliography also includes other sources which were consulted during the research but not cited.
Cite this Scribbr article
If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the ‘Cite this Scribbr article’ button to automatically add the citation to our free Reference Generator.
Caulfield, J. (2023, September 15). A Quick Guide to Harvard Referencing | Citation Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved 21 November 2023, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/referencing/harvard-style/
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Other students also liked, harvard in-text citation | a complete guide & examples, harvard style bibliography | format & examples, referencing books in harvard style | templates & examples, scribbr apa citation checker.
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Reference Your Essay
Referencing is a system that allows you to acknowledge the contributions and work of others in your writing by citing your sources. A feature of academic writing is that it contains references to the words, information and ideas of others.
All academic essays MUST contain references. Referencing guards against plagiarism , a serious academic offence. Plagiarism is copying someone else's words or ideas and presenting them as your own.
Make sure you are familiar with the referencing style your faculty or school requires. Most have guides specifying the system they prefer. Often Schools/Faculties don't mind which system you use as long as it is consistent . If this is the case, use the system you are most comfortable with.
Remember to list all the books and articles you use for the essay in a Reference List. This is a list of all works cited in your essay and should be the final page.
Next step: Editing your essay
Essay and assignment writing guide.
- Getting started
- Research the topic
- Organise your ideas
- Write your essay
- Reference your essay
- Edit your essay
- Hand in your essay
- Essay and assignment planning
- Answering assignment questions
- Editing checklist
- Writing a critical review
- Annotated bibliography
- Reflective writing
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10 Referencing Skills
Reference any and all materials you have used within your written work that are from a published text, video, or recording.
A referencing style is a set of rules on how to acknowledge the thoughts, ideas and works of others in a particular way. Referencing is a crucial part of successful academic writing, avoiding plagiarism and maintaining academic integrity in your assignments and research  .
You will need the author’s name (all authors); the year of publication; the chapter or journal article title; the book or journal name; editors names if it is an edited text; in a journal you will need the volume number and issue number; page ranges are needed for book chapters and journal articles; the publisher is needed for a book; if it is an online book, a DOI in needed. See the link in the “HOW?” section below for specific details of how to reference different types of texts.
Primarily to avoid plagiarism , plus you should also give credit where credit is due. It demonstrates evidence of your research and reading of academic sources for your assessments and adds the weight of expert knowledge to your own arguments/points/claims. It is good academic practice and demonstrates academic integrity. It also allows readers of your work to seek information from your sources or complete further reading.
Whenever you are searching for academic articles or books for your assessment, always take notes of the required referencing information. An in-text citation must be included in your written work each time you use materials ( sources ) that are not your own. You must also provide an end-of-text reference list that corresponds with all citations used in-text. Only sources cited in-text should appear in the reference list and no other sources you may have examined though not included in the finished assessment.
The University of Queensland provides all relevant style guides. UQ College Academic English uses APA (7th edition). Each edition of a style has variances, so ensure you have asked your lecturers/tutors which specific style and edition you are required to use for your particular courses.
APA 7th style guide – library link
What is a reference list?
All works that include the ideas, words and images of other authors need to include citations . The full reference for each brief citation must be listed on a new page at the end of the written work, with the heading – References (centered on the page).
The following information is included in the UQ Library style guide for APA (7th ed.) . Visit the style guide and access the full information via the “reference List” tab on the left-hand side of the screen.
- No specific font type or size required. Recommendations include Calibri size 11, Arial size 11, Lucida size 10, Times New Roman size 12, Georgia size 11 or Computer Modern size 10 (LaTeX). NOTE: It should align with the rest of the assignment.
- The reference list is double line-spaced .
- A reference list is arranged alphabetically by author last name .
- Each reference appears on a new line.
- Each item in the reference list is required to have a hanging indent from the second line onward .
Zarate, K., Maggin, D. M., & Passmore, A. (2019). Meta‐analysis of mindfulness training on teacher well‐being. Psychology in the Schools , 56(10), 1700–1715. https://doi.org/10.1002/pits.22308
- References should not be numbered.
- If a reference has no author, it is cited by title, and included in the alphabetical list using the first significant word of the title ( not A, An, or The).
- If you have more than one item with the same author, list the items chronologically, starting with the earliest publication date.
- If there is no date, the abbreviation n.d. may be used. It is extremely rare to not find a publication date; if it is a website, use the date the page was last updated, found at the very bottom of the page or home page.
- Use the full journal name , not the abbreviated name, and type it as it appears in the journal – use appropriate capitalization.
- Web addresses or DOI s can either be live links (blue and underlined) or as normal black text with no underline. If the work containing the reference list is to be made available online, use the live link format.
What is the difference between a reference list and a bibliography?
- A reference list only includes the sources (books, articles, and web pages, etc.) that are cited in the text of the document (essay, report).
- A bibliography includes all sources consulted, even if they are not cited in the document. This is more frequently used for research and PhD students.
Example Reference List (An extended list is available via the UQ Library style guide)
American Psychological Association. (2020). Journal article references. https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/references/examples/journal-article-references
American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association : the official guide to APA style (7th ed.).
McAdoo, T. (2020, March 16). How to create an APA style reference for a canceled conference presentation . American Psychological Association. https://apastyle.apa.org/blog/canceled-conferences
Melbourne University Law Review Association & Melbourne Journal of International Law. (2010). Australian guide to legal citation . (3rd ed.). https://law.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/1586203/FinalOnlinePDF-2012Reprint.pdf
Also see Chapter 14 – Integrating Sources and Academic Integrity
- https://guides.library.uq.edu.au/referencing ↵
the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own
Digital Object Identifier
source material is where you use the information and ideas of others in your own academic writing - they can be text, speech, images, websites, videos.
The brief form of the reference that you include in the body of your work (essay, report). Follow the referencing style guide for exact details.
Contains details of all the sources cited in a text, usually presented in alphabetical order and found at the end of a work.
A brief reference to a source, embedded within a text. Refer to the referencing style guide for instructions.
Academic Writing Skills Copyright © 2021 by Patricia Williamson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
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APA In-Text Citations and Sample Essay 7th Edition
This handout focuses on how to format in-text citations in APA.
Proper citation of sources is a two-part process . You must first cite each source in the body of your essay; these citations within the essay are called in-text citations . You MUST cite all quoted, paraphrased, or summarized words, ideas, and facts from sources. Without in-text citations, you are technically in danger of plagiarism, even if you have listed your sources at the end of the essay.
In-text citations point the reader to the sources’ information on the references page. The in-text citation typically includes the author's last name and the year of publication. If you use a direct quote, the page number is also provided.
More information can be found on p. 253 of the 7th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.
Direct quotation with the author named in the text.
Heinze and Lu (2017) stated, “The NFL shifted its responses to institutional change around concussions significantly as the field itself evolved” (p. 509).
Note: The year of publication is listed in parenthesis after the names of the authors, and the page number is listed in parenthesis at the end of the quote.
Direct Quotation without the Author Named in the Text
As the NFL developed as an organization, it “shifted its responses to institutional change around concussions significantly” (Heinze & Lu, 2017, p. 509).
Note: At the end of the quote, the names of the authors, year of publication, and page number are listed in parenthesis.
Paraphrase with 1-2 Authors
As the NFL developed as an organization, its reactions toward concussions also transformed (Heinze & Lu, 2017).
Note: For paraphrases, page numbers are encouraged but not required.
Paraphrase with 3 or More Authors
To work toward solving the issue of violence in prisons begins with determining aspects that might connect with prisoners' violent conduct (Thomson et al., 2019).
Direct Quotation without an Author
The findings were astonishing "in a recent study of parent and adult child relationships" ("Parents and Their Children," 2007, p. 2).
Note: Since the author of the text is not stated, a shortened version of the title is used instead.
When using secondary sources, use the phrase "as cited in" and cite the secondary source on the References page.
In 1936, Keynes said, “governments should run deficits when the economy is slow to avoid unemployment” (as cited in Richardson, 2008, p. 257).
Long (Block) Quotations
When using direct quotations of 40 or more words, indent five spaces from the left margin without using quotation marks. The final period should come before the parenthetical citation.
At Meramec, an English department policy states:
To honor and protect their own work and that of others, all students must give credit to proprietary sources that are used for course work. It is assumed that any information that is not documented is either common knowledge in that field or the original work of that student. (St. Louis Community College, 2001, p. 1)
If citing a specific web document without a page number, include the name of the author, date, title of the section, and paragraph number in parentheses:
In America, “Two out of five deaths among U.S. teens are the result of a motor vehicle crash” (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2004, Overview section, para. 1).
Here is a print-friendly version of this content.
Learn more about the APA References page by reviewing this handout .
For information on STLCC's academic integrity policy, check out this webpage .
For additional information on APA, check out STLCC's LibGuide on APA .
A sample APA essay is available at this link .
- Plagiarism checker Do The Check
- Academic editing Ask For Help
- Samples database View Samples Base
How to reference in an essay: APA and MLA style with Examples
29 Jan 2019
If you were asked to write an APA or MLA essay, don’t worry, it’s not as terrifying as it might seem at first. Before preparing an APA essay, it’s necessary to summarize the information you about this style. The same rule concerns another essay format, called MLA. APA format is an official publication style of the American Psychological Association and is used in different subjects. It differs from other formats not only by its unique type of content structuring but also reference standards.
The following tips offer some useful guidelines that will help you create a properly formatted paper and get the desired A grade!
How to reference an essay in APA?
A citation is an essential phase in completing any paper. But except its importance, this may also turn out to be very difficult. To ease your writing process, follow a couple of simple tips.
The initial step students should make is to choose a perfect topic for their academic writing. It needs to be specific enough, but not too specific, unless you want to turn your research into the next part of “Mission: Impossible”. In case you take something easy to work with because the Internet is filled with information about your subject, it can happen that everything has already been told earlier.
After beginning the process, the traditional question may arise, “ How to start an essay? ” But don’t worry, we have your back. In the introduction, get your readers acquainted with what your work is about. This only seems hard at the beginning, but as soon as you start, the work shall go smoothly.
Next comes the interesting part, and that is – the research. Start your research as early as possible. Reference correctly in your essay, quote a website, book, article – any source you’ve used to complete your piece. But be careful using internet resources as they can contain untruthful facts and terminology.
According to the rules from the custom essay writing service , your essay should contain a reference list. The reference list is where you state all links and works you have used in your essay. References should be listed alphabetically by the last name of a writer, and placed at the end of your document.
If you want to memorize how to reference in an essay, follow this format: Authors, Date, Title, Publication Information. The main writer(s) of the cited material should be placed before the date and title. If there is more than one author, put them in the same order found on the resource. Put the first and middle initials and the entire last name. The reference in essay examples below gives an image of how your reference list should look and help you avoid some common mistakes. So let’s get down to them!
Smith, J. K. (Date). Title.
Smith, J. K., & Sampson, T. (Date). Title.
Smith, J. K., Sampson, T., & Hubbard, A. J. (Date). Title.
When the contributor is unknown:
If the citation has no an author, write down the resource by its title or use a word or two in brackets. Titles should be highlighted in italics or underlined – put titles of articles and sections in quotes.
Sometimes you can use "Anonymous" to represent the main and only writer. Consider it to be the name of the writer (Anonymous, 2001). Use it in your reference list as you do with other items.
How to reference an essay in MLA?
The main divergence of MLA referenced essays in comparison to other essay formats is referring to the other authors’ work using what is known as parenthetical citation. This technique includes placing a relevant piece of information in parentheses after a quote.
According to the law essay writing service , if the creator is an organization or a governmental agency, put it in the signal phrase or a parenthetical quotation when citing for the first time. If you’re lucky enough and there exists an abbreviation of the quoted organization, include it in brackets during the initial time you cited the piece, and further, keep using the abbreviations only.
First time referring: (Federation for American Immigration Reform [FAIR], 2000)
Further referring: (FAIR, 2000)
Contributors with the same surname:
To prevent confusion, use the initials with the authors’ surnames.
(E. Stevens, 2001; L. Stevens, 1998)
More than two works of the same writer in the same year:
If you need to image two sources produced by the same writer in the same year, put the lower-case letters (a, b, c) with the year to order them. It’s very convenient to lower-case letters in the in-text citation.
The research by Mierzwiak (2004a) illustrated that…
Introductions, prefaces and afterwards:
When referring to one of these pieces in your composition, state the corresponding writer and year.
(Funk & Kolln, 1992)
When it’s necessary to use an abstract of an interview or personal speech, refer the respondents’ names, the fact confirming it was a friendly conversation and the date it happened. Although since this is not a reliable source, do not include it in your list of references.
Earlier it seemed to be hard referring to electronic documents, but no more. You can refer the same as any other document by using the author-date style.
Kenneth (2000) explained…
Undisclosed writer and undisclosed date:
If you don’t have neither details about the creator, nor date, use the title in your signal phrase and the abbreviation "n.d." (for "no date").
It goes without saying that students are perfect in tutoring ("Tutoring and APA," n.d.).
So, as you see, writing a reference list is not a problem if you know what to do and where to look. Use this guide to write your papers, and enjoy your high grades right away!
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How to Write an Academic Essay with References and Citations
Written by Scribendi
If you're wondering how to write an academic essay with references, look no further. In this article, we'll discuss how to use in-text citations and references, including how to cite a website, how to cite a book, and how to cite a Tweet, according to various style guides.
You might need to cite sources when writing a paper that references other sources. For example, when writing an essay, you may use information from other works, such as books, articles, or websites. You must then inform readers where this information came from. Failure to do so, even accidentally, is plagiarism—passing off another person's work as your own.
You can avoid plagiarism and show readers where to find information by using citations and references.
Citations tell readers where a piece of information came from. They take the form of footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical elements, depending on your style guide. In-text citations are usually placed at the end of a sentence containing the relevant information.
A reference list , bibliography, or works cited list at the end of a text provides additional details about these cited sources. This list includes enough publication information allowing readers to look up these sources themselves.
Referencing is important for more than simply avoiding plagiarism. Referring to a trustworthy source shows that the information is reliable. Referring to reliable information can also support your major points and back up your argument.
Learning how to write an academic essay with references and how to use in-text citations will allow you to cite authors who have made similar arguments. This helps show that your argument is objective and not entirely based on personal biases.
How Do You Determine Which Style Guide to Use?
Often, a professor will assign a style guide. The purpose of a style guide is to provide writers with formatting instructions. If your professor has not assigned a style guide, they should still be able to recommend one.
If you are entirely free to choose, pick one that aligns with your field (for example, APA is frequently used for scientific writing).
Some of the most common style guides are as follows:
AP style for journalism
Chicago style for publishing
APA style for scholarly writing (commonly used in scientific fields)
MLA style for scholarly citations (commonly used in English literature fields)
Some journals have their own style guides, so if you plan to publish, check which guide your target journal uses. You can do this by locating your target journal's website and searching for author guidelines.
How Do You Pick Your Sources?
When learning how to write an academic essay with references, you must identify reliable sources that support your argument.
As you read, think critically and evaluate sources for:
Keep detailed notes on the sources so that you can easily find them again, if needed.
Tip: Record these notes in the format of your style guide—your reference list will then be ready to go.
How to Use In-Text Citations in MLA
An in-text citation in MLA includes the author's last name and the relevant page number:
How to Cite a Website in MLA
Here's how to cite a website in MLA:
Author's last name, First name. "Title of page."
Website. Website Publisher, date. Web. Date
With information from a real website, this looks like:
Morris, Nancy. "How to Cite a Tweet in APA,
Chicago, and MLA." Scribendi. Scribendi
Inc., n.d. Web. 22 Dec. 2021.
How Do You Cite a Tweet in MLA ?
MLA uses the full text of a short Tweet (under 140 characters) as its title. Longer Tweets can be shortened using ellipses.
MLA Tweet references should be formatted as follows:
@twitterhandle (Author Name). "Text of Tweet." Twitter, Date Month, Year, time of
With information from an actual Tweet, this looks like:
@neiltyson (Neil deGrasse Tyson). "You can't use reason to convince anyone out of an
argument that they didn't use reason to get into." Twitter, 29 Sept. 2020, 10:15 p.m.,
How to Cite a Book in MLA
Here's how to cite a book in MLA:
Author's last name, First name. Book Title. Publisher, Year.
With publication information from a real book, this looks like:
Montgomery, L.M. Rainbow Valley. Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1919.
How to Cite a Chapter in a Book in MLA
Author's last name, First name. "Title of Chapter." Book Title , edited by Editor Name,
Publisher, Year, pp. page range.
With publication information from an actual book, this looks like:
Ezell, Margaret J.M. "The Social Author: Manuscript Culture, Writers, and Readers." The
Broadview Reader in Book History , edited by Michelle Levy and Tom Mole, Broadview
Press, 2015,pp. 375–394.
How to Cite a Paraphrase in MLA
You can cite a paraphrase in MLA exactly the same way as you would cite a direct quotation.
Make sure to include the author's name (either in the text or in the parenthetical citation) and the relevant page number.
How to Use In-Text Citations in APA
In APA, in-text citations include the author's last name and the year of publication; a page number is included only if a direct quotation is used:
(Author, 2021, p. 123)
How to Cite a Website in APA
Here's how to cite a website in APA:
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Year, Month. date of publication). Title of page. https://URL
Morris, N. (n.d.). How to cite a Tweet in APA, Chicago, and MLA.
Tip: Learn more about how to write an academic essay with references to websites .
How Do You Cite a Tweet in APA ?
APA refers to Tweets using their first 20 words.
Tweet references should be formatted as follows:
Author, A. A. [@twitterhandle). (Year, Month. date of publication). First 20 words of the
Tweet. [Tweet] Twitter. URL
When we input information from a real Tweet, this looks like:
deGrasse Tyson, N. [@neiltyson]. (2020, Sept. 29). You can't use reason to convince anyone
out of an argument that they didn't use reason to get into. [Tweet] Twitter.
How to Cite a Book in APA
Here's how to cite a book in APA:
Author, A. A. (Year). Book title. Publisher.
For a real book, this looks like:
Montgomery, L. M. (1919). Rainbow valley.
Frederick A. Stokes Company.
How to Cite a Chapter in a Book in APA
Author, A. A. (Year). Chapter title. In Editor Name (Ed.), Book Title (pp. page range).
With information from a real book, this looks like:
Ezell, M. J. M. (2014). The social author: Manuscript culture, writers, and readers. In
Michelle Levy and Tom Mole (Eds.), The Broadview Reader in Book History (pp. 375–
394). Broadview Press.
Knowing how to cite a book and how to cite a chapter in a book correctly will take you a long way in creating an effective reference list.
How to Cite a Paraphrase in APA
You can cite a paraphrase in APA the same way as you would cite a direct quotation, including the author's name and year of publication.
In APA, you may also choose to pinpoint the page from which the information is taken.
Referencing is an essential part of academic integrity. Learning how to write an academic essay with references and how to use in-text citations shows readers that you did your research and helps them locate your sources.
Learning how to cite a website, how to cite a book, and how to cite a paraphrase can also help you avoid plagiarism —an academic offense with serious consequences for your education or professional reputation.
Scribendi can help format your citations or review your whole paper with our Academic Editing services .
Take Your Essay from Good to Great
Hire an expert academic editor , or get a free sample, about the author.
Scribendi's in-house editors work with writers from all over the globe to perfect their writing. They know that no piece of writing is complete without a professional edit, and they love to see a good piece of writing transformed into a great one. Scribendi's in-house editors are unrivaled in both experience and education, having collectively edited millions of words and obtained numerous degrees. They love consuming caffeinated beverages, reading books of various genres, and relaxing in quiet, dimly lit spaces.
Have You Read?
"The Complete Beginner's Guide to Academic Writing"
APA Style and APA Formatting
How to Research a Term Paper
MLA Formatting and MLA Style: An Introduction
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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts
MLA Formatting and Style Guide
Welcome to the Purdue OWL
This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.
Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.
MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (9 th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.
The following overview should help you better understand how to cite sources using MLA 9 th edition, including how to format the Works Cited page and in-text citations.
Please use the example at the bottom of this page to cite the Purdue OWL in MLA. See also our MLA vidcast series on the Purdue OWL YouTube Channel .
Creating a Works Cited list using the ninth edition
MLA is a style of documentation that may be applied to many different types of writing. Since texts have become increasingly digital, and the same document may often be found in several different sources, following a set of rigid rules no longer suffices.
Thus, the current system is based on a few guiding principles, rather than an extensive list of specific rules. While the handbook still describes how to cite sources, it is organized according to the process of documentation, rather than by the sources themselves. This gives writers a flexible method that is near-universally applicable.
Once you are familiar with the method, you can use it to document any type of source, for any type of paper, in any field.
Here is an overview of the process:
When deciding how to cite your source, start by consulting the list of core elements. These are the general pieces of information that MLA suggests including in each Works Cited entry. In your citation, the elements should be listed in the following order:
- Title of source.
- Title of container,
- Other contributors,
- Publication date,
Each element should be followed by the corresponding punctuation mark shown above. Earlier editions of the handbook included the place of publication and required different punctuation (such as journal editions in parentheses and colons after issue numbers) depending on the type of source. In the current version, punctuation is simpler (only commas and periods separate the elements), and information about the source is kept to the basics.
Begin the entry with the author’s last name, followed by a comma and the rest of the name, as presented in the work. End this element with a period.
Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. Routledge, 1994.
Title of source
The title of the source should follow the author’s name. Depending upon the type of source, it should be listed in italics or quotation marks.
A book should be in italics:
Henley, Patricia. The Hummingbird House . MacMurray, 1999.
An individual webpage should be in quotation marks. The name of the parent website, which MLA treats as a "container," should follow in italics:
Lundman, Susan. "How to Make Vegetarian Chili." eHow, www.ehow.com/how_10727_make-vegetarian-chili.html.*
A periodical (journal, magazine, newspaper) article should be in quotation marks:
Bagchi, Alaknanda. "Conflicting Nationalisms: The Voice of the Subaltern in Mahasweta Devi's Bashai Tudu." Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature , vol. 15, no. 1, 1996, pp. 41-50.
A song or piece of music on an album should be in quotation marks. The name of the album should then follow in italics:
Beyoncé. "Pray You Catch Me." Lemonade, Parkwood Entertainment, 2016, www.beyonce.com/album/lemonade-visual-album/.
*The MLA handbook recommends including URLs when citing online sources. For more information, see the “Optional Elements” section below.
Title of container
The eighth edition of the MLA handbook introduced what are referred to as "containers," which are the larger wholes in which the source is located. For example, if you want to cite a poem that is listed in a collection of poems, the individual poem is the source, while the larger collection is the container. The title of the container is usually italicized and followed by a comma, since the information that follows next describes the container.
Kincaid, Jamaica. "Girl." The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories, edited by Tobias Wolff, Vintage, 1994, pp. 306-07.
The container may also be a television series, which is made up of episodes.
“94 Meetings.” Parks and Recreation, created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, performance by Amy Poehler, season 2, episode 21, Deedle-Dee Productions and Universal Media Studios, 2010.
The container may also be a website, which contains articles, postings, and other works.
Wise, DeWanda. “Why TV Shows Make Me Feel Less Alone.” NAMI, 31 May 2019, www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/May-2019/How-TV-Shows-Make-Me-Feel-Less-Alone . Accessed 3 June 2019.
In some cases, a container might be within a larger container. You might have read a book of short stories on Google Books , or watched a television series on Netflix . You might have found the electronic version of a journal on JSTOR. It is important to cite these containers within containers so that your readers can find the exact source that you used.
“94 Meetings.” Parks and Recreation , season 2, episode 21, NBC , 29 Apr. 2010. Netflix, www.netflix.com/watch/70152031?trackId=200256157&tctx=0%2C20%2C0974d361-27cd-44de-9c2a-2d9d868b9f64-12120962.
Langhamer, Claire. “Love and Courtship in Mid-Twentieth-Century England.” Historical Journal , vol. 50, no. 1, 2007, pp. 173-96. ProQuest, doi:10.1017/S0018246X06005966. Accessed 27 May 2009.
In addition to the author, there may be other contributors to the source who should be credited, such as editors, illustrators, translators, etc. If their contributions are relevant to your research, or necessary to identify the source, include their names in your documentation.
Foucault, Michel. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. Translated by Richard Howard , Vintage-Random House, 1988.
Woolf, Virginia. Jacob’s Room . Annotated and with an introduction by Vara Neverow, Harcourt, Inc., 2008.
If a source is listed as an edition or version of a work, include it in your citation.
The Bible . Authorized King James Version, Oxford UP, 1998.
Crowley, Sharon, and Debra Hawhee. Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students. 3rd ed., Pearson, 2004.
If a source is part of a numbered sequence, such as a multi-volume book or journal with both volume and issue numbers, those numbers must be listed in your citation.
Dolby, Nadine. “Research in Youth Culture and Policy: Current Conditions and Future Directions.” Social Work and Society: The International Online-Only Journal, vol. 6, no. 2, 2008, www.socwork.net/sws/article/view/60/362. Accessed 20 May 2009.
Quintilian. Institutio Oratoria. Translated by H. E. Butler, vol. 2, Loeb-Harvard UP, 1980.
The publisher produces or distributes the source to the public. If there is more than one publisher, and they are all are relevant to your research, list them in your citation, separated by a forward slash (/).
Klee, Paul. Twittering Machine. 1922. Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Artchive, www.artchive.com/artchive/K/klee/twittering_machine.jpg.html. Accessed May 2006.
Women's Health: Problems of the Digestive System . American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2006.
Daniels, Greg and Michael Schur, creators. Parks and Recreation . Deedle-Dee Productions and Universal Media Studios, 2015.
Note : The publisher’s name need not be included in the following sources: periodicals, works published by their author or editor, websites whose titles are the same name as their publisher, websites that make works available but do not actually publish them (such as YouTube , WordPress , or JSTOR ).
The same source may have been published on more than one date, such as an online version of an original source. For example, a television series might have aired on a broadcast network on one date, but released on Netflix on a different date. When the source has more than one date, it is sufficient to use the date that is most relevant to your writing. If you’re unsure about which date to use, go with the date of the source’s original publication.
In the following example, Mutant Enemy is the primary production company, and “Hush” was released in 1999. Below is a general citation for this television episode:
“Hush.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer , created by Joss Whedon, performance by Sarah Michelle Gellar, season 4, Mutant Enemy, 1999 .
However, if you are discussing, for example, the historical context in which the episode originally aired, you should cite the full date. Because you are specifying the date of airing, you would then use WB Television Network (rather than Mutant Enemy), because it was the network (rather than the production company) that aired the episode on the date you’re citing.
“Hush.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon, performance by Sarah Michelle Gellar, season 4, episode 10, WB Television Network, 14 Dec. 1999 .
You should be as specific as possible in identifying a work’s location.
An essay in a book or an article in a journal should include page numbers.
Adiche, Chimamanda Ngozi. “On Monday of Last Week.” The Thing around Your Neck, Alfred A. Knopf, 2009, pp. 74-94 .
The location of an online work should include a URL. Remove any "http://" or "https://" tag from the beginning of the URL.
Wheelis, Mark. "Investigating Disease Outbreaks Under a Protocol to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention." Emerging Infectious Diseases , vol. 6, no. 6, 2000, pp. 595-600, wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/6/6/00-0607_article. Accessed 8 Feb. 2009.
When citing a physical object that you experienced firsthand, identify the place of location.
Matisse, Henri. The Swimming Pool. 1952, Museum of Modern Art, New York .
The ninth edition is designed to be as streamlined as possible. The author should include any information that helps readers easily identify the source, without including unnecessary information that may be distracting. The following is a list of optional elements that can be included in a documented source at the writer’s discretion.
Date of original publication:
If a source has been published on more than one date, the writer may want to include both dates if it will provide the reader with necessary or helpful information.
Erdrich, Louise. Love Medicine. 1984. Perennial-Harper, 1993.
City of publication:
The seventh edition handbook required the city in which a publisher is located, but the eighth edition states that this is only necessary in particular instances, such as in a work published before 1900. Since pre-1900 works were usually associated with the city in which they were published, your documentation may substitute the city name for the publisher’s name.
Thoreau, Henry David. Excursions . Boston, 1863.
Date of access:
When you cite an online source, the MLA Handbook recommends including a date of access on which you accessed the material, since an online work may change or move at any time.
Bernstein, Mark. "10 Tips on Writing the Living Web." A List Apart: For People Who Make Websites, 16 Aug. 2002, alistapart.com/article/writeliving. Accessed 4 May 2009.
As mentioned above, while the MLA handbook recommends including URLs when you cite online sources, you should always check with your instructor or editor and include URLs at their discretion.
A DOI, or digital object identifier, is a series of digits and letters that leads to the location of an online source. Articles in journals are often assigned DOIs to ensure that the source is locatable, even if the URL changes. If your source is listed with a DOI, use that instead of a URL.
Alonso, Alvaro, and Julio A. Camargo. "Toxicity of Nitrite to Three Species of Freshwater Invertebrates." Environmental Toxicology , vol. 21, no. 1, 3 Feb. 2006, pp. 90-94. Wiley Online Library, doi: 10.1002/tox.20155.
Creating in-text citations using the previous (eighth) edition
Although the MLA handbook is currently in its ninth edition, some information about citing in the text using the older (eighth) edition is being retained. The in-text citation is a brief reference within your text that indicates the source you consulted. It should properly attribute any ideas, paraphrases, or direct quotations to your source, and should direct readers to the entry in the Works Cited list. For the most part, an in-text citation is the author’s name and the page number (or just the page number, if the author is named in the sentence) in parentheses :
When creating in-text citations for media that has a runtime, such as a movie or podcast, include the range of hours, minutes and seconds you plan to reference. For example: (00:02:15-00:02:35).
Again, your goal is to attribute your source and provide a reference without interrupting your text. Your readers should be able to follow the flow of your argument without becoming distracted by extra information.
How to Cite the Purdue OWL in MLA
The Purdue OWL . Purdue U Writing Lab, 2019.
Contributors' names. "Title of Resource." The Purdue OWL , Purdue U Writing Lab, Last edited date.
The new OWL no longer lists most pages' authors or publication dates. Thus, in most cases, citations will begin with the title of the resource, rather than the developer's name.
"MLA Formatting and Style Guide." The Purdue OWL, Purdue U Writing Lab. Accessed 18 Jun. 2018.
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- Sources of Information
- Assessing Internet Information
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- What is Theory?
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- Effective Reading
- Critical Reading
- Note-Taking from Reading
- Note-Taking for Verbal Exchanges
- Planning an Essay
- How to Write an Essay
- The Do’s and Don’ts of Essay Writing
- How to Write a Report
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For information on how to reference this website for non-academic purposes, see the SkillsYouNeed referencing guide .
Citing and referencing information can be daunting for students who do not understand the principles.
There are numerous ways to reference. Different institutions, departments or lecturers may require different styles so check with your teacher, lecturer or instructor if you are unsure.
Bad referencing is a common way for students to lose marks in assignments so it is worth taking the time and effort to learn how to reference correctly.
Why Do We Cite and Reference?
When writing any academic essay, paper, report or assignment, you need to highlight your use of other author's ideas and words so that you:
- Give the original author credit for their own ideas and work
- Validate your arguments
- Enable the reader to follow up on the original work if they wish to
- Enable the reader to see how dated the information might be
- Prove to your tutors/lecturers that you have read around the subject
- Avoid plagiarism
There are many different styles of referencing, including Harvard, APA (from the American Psychological Association), Chicago and Vancouver. The Harvard referencing system is of the most popular styles and the remainder of this article deals with this system. However, your university may prefer the use of a different system so check with your lecturer or in your course information as to which referencing style to use.
What is Plagiarism?
- Presenting another's ideas as if they are your own – either directly or indirectly
- Copying or pasting text and images without saying where they came from
- Not showing when a quote is a quote
- Summarising information without showing the original source
- Changing a few words in a section of text without acknowledging the original author
Plagiarism is a serious academic offence. You are likely to be awarded 0% for an assignment which has evidence of plagiarism. If you continue to plagiarise then you may be excluded from your course.
Most universities will want a signed declaration with submitted work to say that you have not plagiarised.
Universities use anti-plagiarism software to quickly find plagiarised work. This software usually draws on huge databases of web sources, books, journals and all previously submitted student work to compare your work to so you will be found out.
Therefore, if you plagiarise, you are likely to be caught so don't take the risk and reference properly.
When writing an essay, report, dissertation or other piece of academic work, the key to referencing is organisation. As you go along, keep notes of the books and journal articles you have read and the websites you have visited as part of your research process.
There are various tools to help here. Your university may be able to provide you with some specialist software (Endnote – www.endnote.com ) or you can simply keep a list in a document or try Zotero ( www.zotero.org ) a free plugin for the Firefox browser.
What Needs to be Recorded?
Record as much information as possible in references to make finding the original work simple.
Include the author/s name/s where possible. You should write the surname (last name) first followed by any initials. If there are more than three authors then you can cite the first author and use the abbreviation 'et al', meaning 'and all'.
For one, two or three authors: Jones A, Davies B, Jenkins C
For more than three authors Jones A et al.
For some sources, especially websites, the name of the author may not be known. In such cases either use the organisation name or the title of the document or webpage.
Example: SkillsYouNeed or What Are Interpersonal Skills.
Date of Publication
You should include the year of publication or a more specific date if appropriate, for journal or newspaper articles/stories. For webpages look for the when the page was last updated. Include dates in brackets (2020) after author information. If no date can be established, then put (no date).
Title of Piece
Include the title of the piece; this could be the name of the book, the title of a journal article or webpage. Titles are usually written in italics . For books you should also include the edition (if not the first) to make finding information easier. Often when books are republished information remains broadly the same but may be reordered, therefore page numbers may change between editions.
Usually only relevant for books, but for these you should include the publisher name and place of publication.
If you are referencing a particular part of a book, then you should include the page number/s you have used in your work. Use p. 123 to indicate page 123 or pp. 123-125 to indicate multiple pages.
URL and Date Accessed
For webpages you need to include the full URL of the page (http://www... etc.) and the date you last accessed the page. The web is not static and webpages can be changed/updated/removed at any time, so it is therefore important to record when you found the information you are referencing.
Once you have recorded the information, you have everything you need in order to reference correctly. Your work should be both referenced in the text and include a reference list or bibliography at the end. The in text reference is an abbreviated version of the full reference in your reference list.
If you are directly quoting in your text you should enclose the quote in quotation marks, and include author information:
"Communication is simply the act of transferring information from one place to another." SkillsYouNeed (2019)
For longer direct quotations it may be neater to indent the quotation in its own paragraph.
Your reference list should then include the full version of the reference:
SkillsYouNeed (2022) What is Communication? [online] available at www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/what-is-communication.html (Accessed October 14 2022)
For a book you would use, in your text:
“Long before the twelfth century rhetoricians had collected quotations, particularly from classical authors, into anthologies called florilegia…” (Clanchy, M.T, 1993)
The reference list would then include the full reference:
Clanchy, M.T. (1993) From Memory to Written Record England 1066 – 1307 Oxford, Blackwell, p. 115
The same rules also apply when you are referencing indirectly and you have not included a direct quote. If you have used the ideas of another source, reference both in your text at the relevant point and in your reference list or bibliography at the end of your document.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
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When quoting you may sometimes want to leave out some words , in which case use … (three dots).
"Communication is … transferring information from one place to another"
If you need to add words to a quote for clarity, then square brackets are used:
“Communication is simply the act [in communication skills] of transferring information from one place to another.”
You can use [sic] to note an original error and/or foreign spelling , SkillsYouNeed is a UK site and therefore uses UK spellings:
"The color [sic] of the water..."
Continue to: Common Mistakes in Writing Sources of Information
See Also: Note-Taking for Reading What is Theory? | Writing an Essay | Punctuation
Writing Better University Essays/Referencing
By referencing the sources you use in your essay, you do a number of things. First of all, you comply with an academic convention. Secondly, you make your essay look more professional. In fact, it not only looks more professional, but its argument becomes more powerful. Thirdly, you allow others to check your sources. This is often only a hypothetical issue, but a look through the list of your references will allow others to judge your argument quickly. Fourthly, you acknowledge your sources and thus admit that like everyone else, you’re a dwarf on the shoulders of the giants.
The essential bits of referencing require you to provide enough information to others so that they can identify the source. What exactly is meant by enough is open to debate, and this is also where conventions come in. Essential is that you do provide references. Ideally, you would do so properly. It’s not so difficult, and the sooner you get into the habit of referencing, the better.
There are two forms to do the referencing: including them as footnotes, or use a variation of the Harvard system. Your institution may have a preference, or even a house style. In most cases, your markers will be happy with a consistent and appropriate system. The Harvard system is also known as author/date, and will be described here in more detail.
- 1 Inside the Text
- 2 At the End
- 3 Problem Cases
- 4 Plagiarism
- 5 Citations and Quotations
- 6 When to Put the References
Inside the Text [ edit | edit source ]
Within your essay, whenever you make a statement that is essentially based on somebody else’s work, you should attribute the source. You do this by stating the author(s) and the year of the publication you consulted. Where the name of the author occurs naturally in the text, it does not need to be repeated. The references are usually included at the end of a sentence, or where inappropriate in a place where the text flow is not interrupted too much, such as in front of a comma. This may be necessary, for example, if only the first half of your sentence is based on someone else’s work.
The name of the author is included in brackets, together with the year of publication. Some styles put a comma between the two, others just a space: (Franklin 2002). Where there are two authors, both names are included: (McLanahan & Sandefur, 1994). Some styles prefer the word and , others prefer the ampersand (& symbol). Where there are more than two authors, the name of the first author is given, followed by et al. (which literally means and others ): (Almeder et al. , 2001). Some styles put et al. into italics, others don’t.
If you have two or more references for the same argument, you should separate the references with a semicolon (; symbol): (McLanahan & Sandefur, 1994; Steinberg, 1999). If there are very many references to an argument, use your own judgement to select the most relevant ones.
What should you reference? Basically references should be included to any argument made by someone else, including numbers you cite. However, statements of general nature need not be attributed to anyone. A statement that the sky is blue alone does not require a reference. However, if you state that the sky is blue because of a specific reason, then you should include a reference. If you use the exact words of an author (quotation), you’ll need to give the number of the page where you copy from. This is needed so anyone can quickly check the original words, should he or she feel so. See the separate section on quotes.
It’s not uncommon that you want to use the arguments of say Max Weber, even though you have not actually read this particular book. Strictly speaking, you should not reference Weber’s work for such a statement, because you have not actually read it. Can you really be sure this is what Weber said or meant? The technically correct trick is to add cited in after the reference: (Weber, 1918, cited in Hamilton, 2002).
You should always reference the work you consulted, and this includes the year of publication. Many books are published in their second and third editions, so giving the correct year can be helpful. Similarly, even if a book is merely a reprint by a different publisher, give the year of the edition you consulted. The page numbers may differ. If it’s just a second print of the exact same book, use the original date. Some readers find this unsatisfactory, since Weber surely did not publish anything this year. The convention to circumvent this issue is to give both years: the year of the original publication, together with the one of the work you consulted. Sometimes slashes are used between the dates (/ sign), others prefer the used of square brackets ([ and ] sign): Burke (2004/1774) or Burke (2004 ).
Another small issue occurs where an author published more than one book or article in a single year, and you want to cite more than one of them. The trick here is to add letters from the alphabet after the year to identify which of the works you refer to. Use the letter a for the first of your references, the letter b for the second and so on: (McManus, 1994a) and (McManus, 1994b) are two different works.
To sum it up, inside the text, you give the family name of the author, followed by the year of the publication. Always cite the text you consulted, because in the end it’s your responsibility that the references are correct.
At the End [ edit | edit source ]
At the end of your essay you should include a list of references. Such a list of references provides more details than just the name of the author and the year of publication. It’s this list that allows identifying the work cited. Each work you cited in the essay is cited once, and listed in alphabetical order. Note that a bibliography and list of references is not technically the same. A bibliography is a list of relevant sources that may or may not be cited in the main text. References are the sources you cited, even if they are rather trivial. Use the heading references for your references.
For books, you put the family name of the author(s) and their initials, followed by the year of publication in brackets, the title in italics, the place of publication, and finally the name of the publisher. If there are editors, give their names instead of the authors’. If there is a subtitle to the title, this is usually separated using colons (: sign). Where there are more than four authors, it’s common to use et al. after the first three, but some styles insist on citing all authors. Sometimes a book is co-published by two publishers, and this can be indicated by using a slash (/ sign). Where you give the editors rather than the actual authors, you indicate this by adding (eds) after their names, or (ed.) if there is only one. The title is capitalized. For example:
Chapters in a book are cited separately, especially if the book is edited. You give the family name of the author and his or her initial, the year, the name of the chapter in single speech marks (‘ and ’ sign; not capitalized), followed by the word in , and the name and year of the editor(s). If you cite only one chapter, you can give the whole reference at the end; otherwise it’s enough to give the name and year of the editor. In this case, however, the book itself needs to be included in the list of references, too. For example:
An entry in a printed encyclopaedia or a dictionary can be cited if it was a chapter in a book. The editors are often given on the front of the reference book. For example:
Journal articles are cited in a way that is quite similar to chapters in a book. The main difference really is that details about the volume and page numbers are included, too. The reference starts with the name and initial of the author, the year in brackets, the title of the article in single speech marks (not capitalized), followed by the name of the journal in italics (capitalized), and further details. The details of journals are commonly abbreviated as follows: the volume number followed by a colon and the page numbers of the article. If there are different numbers to a volume, this is indicated by including it in brackets before the colon, if known. Online journals may not have page numbers. For example:
Pages on the internet should be cited where used. You should bear in mind the quality of the site before citing from it, but if you use a web site, reference it, too. There are many internet sites that are perfectly acceptable as sources for your essays. The reference includes the name of the author and initial, the year in brackets, the title of the document in italics, the word online in square brackets, the place of publication, the publisher, the words available from : followed by the URL, and the date when the document was accessed in brackets. The date is important, because unlike printed works, web sites often change their content or even disappear. Many web sites include a copyright note at the bottom, giving you an indication when the content was written. For example:
Newspaper articles are very similar to journal articles in the way they are cited. The key difference is that rather than the volume, the date is given. The reference therefore includes the name and initial of the author, the year of publication in brackets, the title in single speech marks, the name of the newspaper in italics (capitalized), the date, and finally the page where the article was found. For one page it’s customary to use the abbreviation p. , for articles running over two or more pages, the abbreviation pp. is common. For example:
Handouts from a lecture can be referenced and should be referenced if they are used as the basis of what you write. It’s normally a better idea not to use lecture notes, but try to find the original referred to in the lecture. Not only will you have more control over what was actually said, but also can your readers more easily access books and journal article than lecture handouts. The reference to a lecture handout includes the name and initial of the lecturer, the year in bracket, the title of the handout in single speech marks, the words lecture notes distributed in followed by the name of the course in italics, the word at and the name of your institution, the place, and date of the lecture. For example:
Personal conversations are not commonly considered good sources, but if they are what you use as the basis of your essay, you should include such conversations. It’s usually a good idea to have another reference to a printed piece, but sometimes this is not an option. In terms of giving the reference, personal conversations are very easy: the name of the person you spoke to, the year in brackets, the words conversation with the author and the date of the conversation. For example:
The same format can also be used for personal e-mail, or instant messengers. Once again, bear in mind the credibility of your sources. With e-mail messages it’s customary to include the e-mail address of the sender in brackets after the name, but it’s essential that you obtain consent from the author. The subject line of the e-mail is often included as the title. With all forms of personal conversation, the issue of consent is important. It’s always a very good idea to check with the author first.
Problem Cases [ edit | edit source ]
There are sometimes cases that are not so straightforward as the average book or journal article. For everything there is a solution in the academic conventions. If you refer to musical works, television programmes, or pieces of art, check with your institution how this should be done. If everything else fails, remember the function of referencing, and provide a reasonable amount of information for others to chase the work. Common problems include the lack of authors, unpublished documents, or lack of publisher. Where there is no author, often there is an organization. Put the name of the organization. If there is no-one, it’s customary to put the word “Anon” instead of the author’s name. For example:
Sometimes the year of a document is not known. Where you have a rough idea, you can put a c before the date, such as in (c.1999). Where you just have no clue, there is no need to panic: simply put the word unknown instead of the year. Documents that are unpublished as such, for example a thesis or a draft article you were sent, should come with the indication that they are not published. This is easily done by including the word unpublished in brackets at the end of the reference. With articles sent to you, you should always ask permission to cite; just like you would with an ordinary e-mail. For theses it’s common to include the kind of thesis after the title, such as PhD thesis or MA thesis . Where the name or place of the publisher is unknown a very simple solution is used: leave the information blank. This is particularly an issue with internet sites. Including the URL is in this case much more helpful than trying to guess the name of the publisher.
Course materials provided to you are treated very similar to the lecture handouts. Give the name of the author, the year in brackets, the course code if there is one, the course title in italics (capitalized), the kind of material and its title in single speech marks, place of publication, and publisher. For example:
The capitalization of titles may seem a bit confusing, but it follows a simple logic: it’s the main title that is capitalized. In the case of a book, the main title is that of the book. In the case of journal articles, on the other hand, the main title is thought to be that of the journal itself. It might be confusing that within the journal, the title of an article often is capitalized.
Capitalization is not very hard to achieve. Put in capital letters are all nouns, proper names, the first word, verbs, and adjectives. This is in fact almost everything. Not put in capital letters are words like and , in , or , or with . Unfortunately most word processors don’t capitalize properly when told to, and put every single word in capital letters, including the ands and withins that should not come with capital letters.
Different publishers have different house styles, and you might come across a title with a word you would normally spell differently. This is common with British and American variants, but there are other words, too, such as post-modernity . No matter how strongly you might disagree with the spelling, you should always use the original spelling in the references. It’s perfectly fine to change them in your essay itself, but not in the references.
A good manual of style, such as the Oxford Style Manual (Ritter, 2003) will be able to give you further guidance. Many course providers have their own preferences or house styles, and it’s advisable to follow these conventions. Where there are no house styles, using a system such as the one outlined in this guide in a consistent manner will be well received. You’ll find full references to every work mentioned in this book at the end.
Plagiarism [ edit | edit source ]
It’s difficult to write about referencing without mentioning plagiarism. Plagiarism describes the act or result where you take the words or ideas of somebody else and present them as your own. Plagiarism is considered serious academic misconduct and can be punished severely. Most importantly, however, your reputation is on the line.
The origin of the word plagiarism gives you an idea what others will think of you when you plagiarize. The word goes back to the Latin plagiārius , a thief and kidnapper—in particular a child snatcher and somebody abducting slaves. The modern use in academia brands you a literary thief (OED, 2005).
There are a number of reasons why plagiarism occurs. The worst case is deliberate plagiarism (for whatever reason). Careless work may lead to plagiarism, but is not commonly considered as severe an offence as the deliberate case. Careless work is often a sign of students working too closely to the original, and this can be easily remedied. Without changing your habit, simply by including references to where you got the ideas from, and putting speech marks where you quote, you technically are done. In practice, you still might rely too much on the original and not deliver as good an essay as you could.
Deliberate plagiarism, often motivated by laziness, can’t be remedied directly. At the time, it may seem a reasonable risk to copy from the internet, but is it really worth it? Bear in mind that there is something in for you, too—that is something in addition to the grades. The more you write, the easier it gets.
If you work too closely to the original, there is a simple solution: don’t write the essay with the books in front of you. By so doing, there is very little danger that you copy word by word. In a way, you force yourself to make the material your own: and that is a good thing—it makes a better argument, your essay will be more original, and not least, you’ll also get better grades. Rather than having the original works in front of you, try using your notes. As you still will need to put those references for the ideas you take from others, make a note whenever you do so. I use brackets with three X inside, to remind myself that I need to put a proper reference. Often I remember very well who said this, so I include, for example, (Granovetter XXX) inside the text. When checking the essay, it’s hard not to notice the triple X; and there is always the search facility in the word processor. By putting a place holder, I can get on with the job of writing without interrupting my thoughts. Equally important, I leave some traces indicating to myself that there is some more work to be done: finding the proper reference, for example.
If you think plagiarism is hard to detect by your marker, think again. There are a great number of signs that give plagiarized work away. Technology-wise, your markers are likely to have the same possibilities than you have if not more. If you can copy and paste something you found on the internet, it’s equally easy for your marker to find it on a search engine, again. It would, of course, be possible, to change plagiarized work to the extent that the deed is no longer easy to spot. Usually, however, this is just as much work as writing the essay yourself.
Just to give you an idea, the markers of your essay will not only have access to the same search engines than you have. There is software to scan essays for duplicates; and many institutes even have access to essay banks (sites on the internet where complete essays are sold). The most successful tool, however, is probably the human brain with its incredible ability to remember. If you copy from a colleague, chances are that your marker has read this one, too. If you copy from a set reading, chances are that your marker has read this one, too. Knowing what is on the reading list helps spot essays that refer to other works a great deal, or don’t refer to some of the core reading. Your marker can estimate how many readings you had time to read, or whether you’re likely to have read a great number of papers on the Belgian perspective of whatever issues is set in the question. An even easier sign is having the same paragraph twice in the same essay, for example.
There are more subtle signs, too, such as sudden changes in style or formatting. Many people are unaware of how idiosyncratic one’s writing style is. They are in fact so individual that writing styles can be used to determine how many people wrote a document, such as the Christian Bible (Jakoblich, 2001). Writing style includes the tenses we use, the level of formality, our own choice of words, the kinds of metaphors we put, whether we use American or British English, choices over punctuation, the length of sentences, or the use of specialist terms. Typographic signs include font size, choices of where to break paragraphs, spaces in between lines, and things like proper m- and n-dashes (when copying from electronic articles).
The presence or lack of references is often an easy sign: for example, where there are many references inside the text, but few at the end, or where the citation style changes within a single essay. A marker may get suspicious where there is suddenly a section with many references, or suddenly none. Sometimes, students even include hyperlinks in references when copying from electronic journals; and have them automatically underlined by the word processor.
Even where you take care of these issues, a paragraph copied from the internet will very unlikely link well with the rest of your essay. The style may be inappropriate, or just different. Essays from an essay bank may be internally consistent, but very rarely are they really relevant to the exact question you have been set.
In summary, you can avoid plagiarism easily. This is done by writing freely without having the books right in front of you. Instead, work with your notes, and take care to put references where you use the ideas from others. Don’t use the internet to copy from, no matter how tempting it is. It will hardly ever be worth it.
Citations and Quotations [ edit | edit source ]
There is an important difference between citations and quotations. Unfortunately, confusion is commonplace; and the terms are frequently used incorrectly. Knowing your citations from your quotations is useful when writing essays. It’s essential, in fact, if you want to reference properly.
Citations are about ideas you take from others. Quotations are about the exact words used by others. This is really the whole distinction. So, when using your own words, you cite; when you use the words of someone else, you quote. “Why can’t a man be more like a woman?” (Blankenhorn, 1995, p.117) is a quotation, because I use the exact same words Blankenhorn did. However, when stating that families in the US are increasingly defined by the absence of a father (Blankenhorn, 1995), I only use the idea, not the exact words.
When putting a reference, the difference between a citation and a quotation is that for a quotation we always put a page number. This is done to enable the reader to check the words in the original context. In the list of references at the end of the text, there is no difference.
Short quotations are included in the text, and enclosed by speech marks. Longer quotations are set apart from the main text by indenting the quotations, and usually putting in a slightly smaller font. Longer means about 3 to 4 lines or more. For example:
When quoting someone else, you should take great care to copy the words exactly. Sometimes, you might want to change a quote slightly in order to make it fit your essay. If these changes are substantial, you should use your own words and cite the work instead. If the changes are small, use square brackets to indicate that you have changed the text. For example, you might quote Rawls (1999, p.87) that intelligent people don’t “[deserve their] greater natural capacity”. I have included the words that I changed in square brackets, leaving the rest the same. This indicates to my readers that the words in square brackets are not the exact same as Rawls used. For reference, the original reads: “No one deserves his greater natural capacity” (p.87). I made the changes, because I wrote about intelligent people, and Rawls was talking in more general terms.
Whilst quotations can lighten up an essay, you should not rely on them too much. Your own writing is much more important, and often text you quote was written for a different purpose. The consequence is that the quotations may be relevant in content (what is being said), but in terms of style don’t fit well with what you wrote. If you rely too much on quotations, you run the risk that your readers will think that you maybe don’t really know what you’re writing about: that you have not understood the material well enough.
When to Put the References [ edit | edit source ]
When writing an essay, particularly when writing an extended essay, it’s easiest to put the references whilst you write. This is the case, because you still know where you got the idea from. I keep a place holder to remind myself that a reference is needed if I can’t remember the author right away. Often, I will know at least some of it, and write this down. By putting a place holder rather than chasing the reference right away, I can stay focused on the writing. However, I also indicate that the essay is not completed. Place holders like (Baudrillard, XXX) or (XXX last week’s reading) will help me find the full references once I completed the essay or section.
References are needed whenever you write an academic piece of writing. Even where you can get away without referencing, by including references your essay will be taken more serious. It’s a good habit to put references all the time, so when you really need to—such as in your thesis—you’ll not struggle, or spend days trying to find out how to reference a chapter in a book.
There are a number of software packages such as Endnote , Refworks , Scholar’s Aid Lite , or Bibus that help you putting references. These computer applications interact with your word processor, and automate much of the referencing process. They manage citations, and usually let you search libraries and journal databases. Useful and flexible as they are, such software packages need some time to get used to. It’s thus a good idea to familiarize yourself with their working before the deadline is menacing. For example, make sure you know how to put page numbers for quotations.
Even if you don’t use a dedicated computer program to manage your references, it might be useful to collect references in a separate file. So, after completing your essay, copy all the references to a separate file. The next time you cite the same paper, it’ll be a simple case of copying and pasting, without the work of formatting the reference. Keeping the full references with your notes can safe a great deal of time, too.
Next: Exam essays
- Book:Writing Better University Essays
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Department of History
Essay writing and referencing, in this section:, essay writing checklist, referencing, presentation.
Here are some of the things you need to think about in preparing an essay. Few of them are iron rules. Good essays come in many forms, and a good essay writer will sometimes ignore some of these guidelines. But to become a good essay writer you would probably do well to start by following them.
Please remember that writing an essay involves skills of discussion and argument which differ from those that might be used in the informal setting of a seminar. In the first place, argument and analysis in essays will usually have to be more carefully structured than the comments you might make in a seminar or tutorial discussion. In essays, you should demonstrate awareness of more than one argument, acknowledge differences in the views of historians, and adopt a critical appreciation of evidence and its sources. You should also provide the necessary scholarly underpinning for your analysis by showing the sources of your information and arguments in bibliographies and footnotes.
On questions of presentation, footnoting, etc. you should follow the advice given from the department.
The Essay Question
- Have you really answered the question?
- Have you thought what might lie behind the question, e.g. if it asks 'Was the First World War the main cause of the Russian Revolution?', have you thought about what alternative explanations might be suggested?
- Is each paragraph clearly related to the overall question, raising a new topic and moving the argument forward?
- The ultimate test is that if you left the title off the top of your essay, could a friend guess the question from your answer?
- Have you made an argument or is the essay simply relating what happened?
- Is your argument logical, coherent and clear?
- Are you contradicting yourself?
- Are you using appropriate evidence to back up each part of your argument?
- Are you aware of counter-arguments?
- Have you combined evidence and ideas from several different sources at each stage of the argument, or are you merely summarising what your sources say one by one?
- Have you done enough reading? Six books/article/chapters is suggested for a short essay; ten or more for a long one.
- Are you up to date on the historical debate? Do not rely only on the older texts.
- Have you listed in the bibliography all the sources you used, and only those sources?
From reading academic articles and books, you should be familiar with the scholarly practice of making references in the text to other people's work and providing listings of relevant source material at the end of the text.
Why is this done?
- To enable someone reading the document to find the material you have referred to or consulted
- To demonstrate your width of reading and knowledge about a subject
- To support and/or develop points made in the text
- To avoid accusations of plagiarism: using somebody else's work without acknowledging the fact
A citation style is a system for formatting references, whether in the main text of an essay, in the footnotes, or in the bibliography. It covers such things as the order of information in the citation style, the length of the citation, and the use of capitalisation and italics.
A common style used in the humanities is known as the MHRA style, so-called because it is administered by the Modern Humanities Research Association, a scholarly association based in the UK. Below are some examples of citations formatted in the MHRA style.
Tom McArthur, Worlds of Reference: Lexicography, Learning and Language from the Clay Tablet to the Computer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), p. 59.
A chapter in an edited book:
Martin Elsky, ‘Words, Things, and Names: Jonson’s Poetry and Philosophical Grammar’, in Classic and Cavalier: Essays on Jonson and the Sons of Ben , ed. by Claude J. Summers and Ted-Larry Pebworth (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1982), pp. 31–55 (p. 41).
A journal article:
Robert F. Cook, ‘Baudouin de Sebourc: un poème édifiant?’, Olifant , 14 (1989), 115–35 (pp. 118–19).
These examples are taken from the MHRA Style Guide, the third (2013) edition of which is available here . For a short summary of the guide, see pages 3 to 8. For more detail on referencing, see pages 58 to 82.
Another citation style often used by historians is the one in the Chicago Manual of Style , published by the University of Chicago Press and currently in its seventeenth edition. This style is subtly different from the MHRA style, as you can see by comparing these citations with the ones above:
Tom McArthur, Worlds of Reference: Lexicography, Learning and Language from the Clay Tablet to the Computer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 59.
Martin Elsky, “Words, Things, and Names: Jonson’s Poetry and Philosophical Grammar,” in Classic and Cavalier: Essays on Jonson and the Sons of Ben , ed. Claude J. Summers and Ted-Larry Pebworth (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1982), 41.
Robert F. Cook, “Baudouin de Sebourc: un poème édifiant?”, Olifan t 14 (1989): 118–19.
Which citation style should you use? The History Department does not favour one particular style, but it does require that students:
- Use the same style throughout any given essay
- Use a recognised style for citations rather than inventing your own style – the MHRA and Chicago style guides are examples.
- Use footnotes for citations rather than in-text citations, such as the in-text citation style administered by the American Psychological Association (the APA style is widely used in the social sciences but rarely in the humanities)
- Include a bibliography at the end of each essay, ie. a list of the works you have cited in the course of the essay
The Department has no rules about how assessments should be presented and formatted. What is important is to ensure that your writing is clearly readable on a screen, which makes it easier for markers to focus on the merits of your argument and writing rather than be distracted by poor presentation. Please check with your tutor in case there are specific requirements for a particular module. If you aren’t sure where to begin, the following are suggested guidelines for how you might format and present your assessments:
- Your font should usually be font size 12 in a standard font (e.g., Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman).
- There should be standard margins (e.g., the default for Microsoft Word is 2.54cm) on all sides of the page.
- The line spacing for the text of your essay should be double-spaced.
- The line spacing for the footnotes should, however, be single-spaced.
- Work should be left aligned or justified, rather than centred or right aligned.
- Number each page of your essay.
- Title pages and/or coversheets are not required, but you should include the title or question at the beginning of the assessment.
- Numbers up to one hundred, when occurring in normal writing, should be written out in words rather than numerals.
- When there are many figures, it is better to use words only for numbers up to nine.
- Spell out 'per cent' rather than using the % sign in your text.
- Instead of (for example) '22nd of June 1941', the correct format for dates would be '22 June 1941'.
Home / Guides / Citation Guides / MLA Format / How to Cite an Essay in MLA
How to Cite an Essay in MLA
The guidelines for citing an essay in MLA format are similar to those for citing a chapter in a book. Include the author of the essay, the title of the essay, the name of the collection if the essay belongs to one, the editor of the collection or other contributors, the publication information, and the page number(s).
Citing an Essay
Mla essay citation structure.
Last, First M. “Essay Title.” Collection Title, edited by First M. Last, Publisher, year published, page numbers. Website Title , URL (if applicable).
MLA Essay Citation Example
Gupta, Sanjay. “Balancing and Checking.” Essays on Modern Democracy, edited by Bob Towsky, Brook Stone Publishers, 1996, pp. 36-48. Essay Database, www . databaseforessays.org/modern/modern-democracy.
MLA Essay In-text Citation Structure
(Last Name Page #)
MLA Essay In-text Citation Example
Click here to cite an essay via an EasyBib citation form.
MLA Formatting Guide
- Annotated Bibliography
- Block Quotes
- et al Usage
- In-text Citations
- Page Numbers
- Sample Paper
- Works Cited
- MLA 8 Updates
- MLA 9 Updates
- View MLA Guide
- Book Chapter
- Journal Article
- Magazine Article
- Newspaper Article
- Website (no author)
- View all MLA Examples
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To cite your sources in an essay in MLA style, you need to have basic information including the author’s name(s), chapter title, book title, editor(s), publication year, publisher, and page numbers. The templates for in-text citations and a works-cited-list entry for essay sources and some examples are given below:
In-text citation template and example:
For citations in prose, use the first name and surname of the author on the first occurrence. For subsequent citations, use only the surname(s). In parenthetical citations, always use only the surname of the author(s).
Citation in prose:
First mention: Annette Wheeler Cafarelli
Subsequent occurrences: Wheeler Cafarelli
Works-cited-list entry template and example:
The title of the chapter is enclosed in double quotation marks and uses title case. The book or collection title is given in italics and uses title case.
Surname, First Name. “Title of the Chapter.” Title of the Book , edited by Editor(s) Name, Publisher, Publication Year, page range.
Cafarelli, Annette Wheeler. “Rousseau and British Romanticism: Women and British Romanticism.” Cultural Interactions in the Romantic Age: Critical Essays in Comparative Literature , edited by Gregory Maertz. State U of New York P, 1998, pp. 125–56.
To cite an essay in MLA style, you need to have basic information including the author(s), the essay title, the book title, editor(s), publication year, publisher, and page numbers. The templates for citations in prose, parenthetical citations, and works-cited-list entries for an essay by multiple authors, and some examples, are given below:
For citations in prose, use the first name and surname of the author (e.g., Mary Strine).
For sources with two authors, use both full author names in prose (e.g., Mary Strine and Beth Radick).
For sources with three or more authors, use the first name and surname of the first author followed by “and others” or “and colleagues” (e.g., Mary Strine and others). In subsequent citations, use only the surname of the first author followed by “and others” or “and colleagues” (e.g., Strine and others).
In parenthetical citations, use only the author’s surname. For sources with two authors, use two surnames (e.g., Strine and Radick). For sources with three or more author names, use the first author’s surname followed by “et al.”
First mention: Mary Strine…
Subsequent mention: Strine…
First mention: Mary Strine and Beth Radick…
Subsequent mention: Strine and Radick…
First mention: Mary Strine and colleagues …. or Mary Strine and others
Subsequent occurrences: Strine and colleagues …. or Strine and others
….(Strine and Radick).
….(Strine et al.).
The title of the essay is enclosed in double quotation marks and uses title case. The book or collection title is given in italics and uses title case.
Surname, First Name, et al. “Title of the Essay.” Title of the Book , edited by Editor(s) Name, Publisher, Publication Year, page range.
Strine, Mary M., et al. “Research in Interpretation and Performance Studies: Trends, Issues, Priorities.” Speech Communication: Essays to Commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Speech Communication Association , edited by Gerald M. Phillips and Julia T. Wood, Southern Illinois UP, 1990, pp. 181–204.
MLA Citation Examples
Other Citation Styles
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