Research builds on research that has been done before and it is essential that you show that you are aware of the current thinking in an area by referencing key works, but also that you credit sources that have influenced your own work. This enables readers of your work to trace your original sources and shows that you are not trying to claim others’ ideas as your own. By providing an accurate list of references and properly citing your sources you demonstrate the range and depth of the research that you have done, as well as acknowledging the work of others. Not adhering to this established academic practice is plagiarism, and is a major disciplinary offence.
In order to create an accurate bibliography, it is essential to keep accurate records of the books, journal articles and other sources that you have used. Trying to recall a reference for something you read several months ago (or even years in the case of a Masters or PhD) is a time-consuming nuisance all researchers have experienced at one time or another. The key to avoiding this is to manage your references as you proceed through your reading and research.
The basic principles of referencing
You must refer to all sources you quote or paraphrase within your document, and this is known as citing. You should always briefly cite the sources you use in your work within the text of your paper as this will refer your reader to your reference list or bibliography where you will provide the extended details of the source.
If you use the words of another author, you must always use quotation marks to indicate that these words are not your own and you must acknowledge the source, including the page number in your brief in-text citation.
If you express another author’s ideas in your own words, this is called paraphrasing and you must still acknowledge the source of the idea.
The Reference list is usually placed at the end of a text (essay or chapter). It contains the list of citations for sources that you have cited within your text.
The Bibliography is placed at the end of your work and comprises the complete list of all references you consulted in preparing the document, whether you cited them in your text or not. It can also include titles useful as background reading.
Reference Management Software
One of the key challenges of managing your references, is keeping track of them all in an orderly way. Thankfully, there are software tools available to assist with collating and managing references effectively:
- EndNote (available to NUI Galway staff and students via the Campus computer network)
- EndNote Web (a web-based tool available to NUI Galway staff and students)
- Mendeley (freeware)
- Zotero (freeware)
- Citavi Free (freeware version)
Referencing software will help you manage your references, but many products also offer the facility to format citations in your document as you are writing.
A citation style is a set of guidelines on how references (also known as citations) should be presented. There are many citations styles in use but most can be categorized into either author-date or numerical styles. Different disciplines use different citation styles and most Schools have a preferred style. Check with your School or consult your course handbook if you aren’t sure which style to use.
- The Sciences use a range of styles such as Harvard
- The ACS style is often used by Chemistry researchers. See Chapter 14 of The ACS Style Guide for information.
- The IEEE Citation Style is popular among Engineering researchers.
- Medicine uses the Vancouver or National Library of Medicine Citation Style.
- Languages and Humanities subjects use Chicago or MLA
- The Social Sciences and Business often use Harvard
- Psychology students usually use APA
- Law uses OSCOLA or The Blue Book
Online Tutorials on Referencing
- Acknowledging sources
- Mechanics of referencing
- Referencing Guidelines - an easy to use guide developed by the NUI Galway School of Nursing and Midwifery