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Library Guides

Referencing: Advice and FAQs

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


This page provides a quick guide to frequently asked questions, as well as some general advice on referencing. More comprehensive guidance is available from the Cite Them Right online guide.


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.

For more guidance on reporting sources see the Critical thinking and writing guide.

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. There are times when 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: 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.


For anything not here, or for clarification, use Cite Them Right

No author
Most sources without an author can be attributed to an organisation (e.g. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2013) - a good tip is to check who the copyright is attributed to. 

Abbreviations for organisational names
You can abbreviate organisation names in subsequent in-text references as long as you indicate the abbreviation in the initial reference (e.g. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD], 2013).

No date
If there is no date you can put ‘no date’ in place of the date or abbreviate this to n.d.

Online sources - date accessed
For the time being, Harvard (Cite Them Right) asks for the date accessed for sources unless you are using a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) in place of a URL.  Some other styles (e.g. APA, Chicago) do not require this. Cite Them Right also gives you the option of citing an ebook as if you are citing the print version, providing the pagination is the same as the print version.

Westminster Harvard asks for the date accessed whether using a DOI or not. 

Reprints / Facsimile editions

In Harvard styles, use the original date of publication in the text, and supplement with the full publication details in the list of references - e.g. Shelley (1818) in the text, and the following in the list of references:  Shelley, M. (1818) Frankenstein. Middlesex: Penguin, 1992.

You should only cite a specific chapter if the book is a collection of texts rather than one continuous work.

Secondary referencing
In Harvard approaches, when using a source you only know ‘second hand’ (i.e. through another source) you should indicate this in the text:

Smith 2008, cited in Jones 2010

You should then only include the text you have read in your list of references (i.e. Jones, 2010).  This is not the same in every style - e.g. Chicago asks you to provide both sources.

TIP: Try to keep secondary referencing to a minimum, and use only when you are unable to locate and read the original source.

Two references with the same name/date (Harvard)
If you have two references with the same name/date you can add letters to distinguish between them (e.g. Singh, 2022a, Singh, 2022b); make sure you do this in the in-text reference and the list of references,

Four or more authors
If there are four or more authors, you would normally abbreviate this using 'et al' meaning 'and others' (e.g. Smith et al, 2022).  This applies to in-text references and the list of references.  Some courses may specify that they want to see all authors in the list of references.

Texts in languages other than English
If referencing a book in its original language, you can give the title exactly as shown in the book, or transliterated from the original language into Roman script. You may also provide a translation of the title in square brackets after the title in the original script:

Pu, S. (1982). 聊齋誌異 [Strange stories of Liaozhai]. Taiyun: Shanxi Renmin Chubanshe.

Books in translation
Reference the translation you have read, not the original work.

Deilbes, M. (2013). The path. Translated from the Spanish by G. Haycraft and R. Haycraft. London: Dolphin Books.

Bibliography vs a list of references 
A list of references is used in Harvard approaches and only includes sources referenced in the text. A bibliography is used in running notes styles, or created as a work in its own right, and might include background reading that you have not referenced in the text.   

Footnotes (Harvard)
Footnotes are not used in the Harvard approach for references. However, while uncommon, you could still use footnotes for other authorial notes.

Word count - are references included?
A list of references should be excluded from the word count.

How many references do I need?
The number of references you use depends on so many factors, its not possible to say how many you should aim for.  For a two thousand word essay it could be five or maybe less or it could be more than twenty.  Rather than focus on the number, focus on finding good quality sources that help you address the question posed in your assignment.