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Referencing: Home

This guide provides resources to support your citation and referencing practice in line with academic requirements

Introduction to referencing & Cite Them Right

This guide provides a quick introduction to referencing using Cite Them Right in 2023/24.

Use the Cite Them Right Online Guide for extended guidance or refer to the book Cite them right, available in all libraries and online.

Bloomsbury Cite them right - a student's must-have online referencing tool

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Referencing approaches

What referencing style should I use?

Various referencing styles are in use at the University of Westminster, but most departments at the university use the Harvard approach. Check your module handbook or your course for the specific style you should use. 

Note that Westminster Harvard is being phased out during 2022/23, and we will be adopting Cite them right Harvard after 2022/23 - please check with your course or module leader which version you should be using.

The styles in use at the university include:

Harvard approach

'Harvard' is a generic term used in the UK to refer to author-date styles, of which there are a number, including APA style. In the context of the university, it usually refers either to Westminster Harvard or Cite Them Right Harvard, which are similar to APA style.

In the Harvard approach, the author surname, date of publication, and page numbers (if relevant) are included in the text of your work as follows:

Agamben (1993, pp. 178-179) argued that "the milk should go in before the tea."

It has been argued that "the milk should go in before the tea." (Agamben, 1993, pp. 178-179)

These in-text references refer your reader to a list of references at the end of your work, which are organised alphabetically, and include the full reference:

Agamben, G. (1993) The Coming community. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota University Press.


Running notes approach

Running notes approaches are sometimes called footnote style.  In the running notes approach a number is used in the text instead of the author/date:

It has been argued that the "milk should go in before the tea" (1)

This number refers the reader to a footnote (at the bottom of the page) or endnote (at the end of the text):

1. Giorgio Agamben, The coming community (Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota University Press), pp. 178-179

If you are using a running notes approach, you may also be asked to include a bibliography which lists the sources you have used alphabetically by surname, along with any other sources you have read but not referred to in the text.  Outside of education, this is only included in longer texts, such as books.

Referencing basics

What is referencing?
Referencing is a standardised system of referring to sources of information or knowledge in your work.  This might be through paraphrasing a source or quoting from it.

Referencing comprises a marker in the text, which refers the reader to further information about the source in either a list of references or a footnote or endnote.  The type of marker used and whether you use a list of references or footnotes depends on the approach used (see box below).

Why reference?
Referencing is one of the things that distinguishes academic writing from most other types of writing.  It serves several functions, including:

  • Shows the reader the research undertaken to create a piece of writing
  • It gives the reader the information to find the sources used
  • Puts your ideas into context
  • Makes it clear what work is original to you and what you have sourced from research so that the work can be assessed appropriately (i.e. you are not plagiarising others' work)

When do I need to reference?

You need to provide a reference every time you refer to sources, including direct quotations, paraphrases, summaries, or syntheses.


QUOTATIONS: if quoting from a source, you need to put the quotation in quotation marks (most people use double quotation marks). For longer quotations, you can indent the text and use single-line spacing.

PARAPHRASING: If you are paraphrasing a source, you need to make sure that the words and structure of your words are genuinely your own.

See the Critical thinking and writing guide for more guidance on reporting sources.

What do I need to reference?
'Cite Them Right' provides examples of references for many types of sources, including graffiti, body art, and circus performances. Sometimes you should provide a reference for this sort of thing.  However, it may be appropriate to write about things without formally referencing them, and you should use some judgement about whether a formal reference is appropriate in the context that you are using them.   

Common knowledge
You do not need to reference things that are common knowledge. To give an example: the fact that Tony Blair was UK Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007 does not need a reference.  

Opinions on what is common knowledge can differ from one person to another and the context, so you need to exercise some judgement as to what is appropriate.