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10 Great Essay Writing Tips

referencing english essay

Knowing how to write a college essay is a useful skill for anyone who plans to go to college. Most colleges and universities ask you to submit a writing sample with your application. As a student, you’ll also write essays in your courses. Impress your professors with your knowledge and skill by using these great essay writing tips.

Prepare to Answer the Question

Most college essays ask you to answer a question or synthesize information you learned in class. Review notes you have from lectures, read the recommended texts and make sure you understand the topic. You should refer to these sources in your essay.

referencing english essay

Plan Your Essay

Many students see planning as a waste of time, but it actually saves you time. Take a few minutes to think about the topic and what you want to say about it. You can write an outline, draw a chart or use a graphic organizer to arrange your ideas. This gives you a chance to spot problems in your ideas before you spend time writing out the paragraphs.

Choose a Writing Method That Feels Comfortable

You might have to type your essay before turning it in, but that doesn’t mean you have to write it that way. Some people find it easy to write out their ideas by hand. Others prefer typing in a word processor where they can erase and rewrite as needed. Find the one that works best for you and stick with it.

referencing english essay

View It as a Conversation

Writing is a form of communication, so think of your essay as a conversation between you and the reader. Think about your response to the source material and the topic. Decide what you want to tell the reader about the topic. Then, stay focused on your response as you write.

referencing english essay

Provide the Context in the Introduction

If you look at an example of an essay introduction, you’ll see that the best essays give the reader a context. Think of how you introduce two people to each other. You share the details you think they will find most interesting. Do this in your essay by stating what it’s about and then telling readers what the issue is.

referencing english essay

Explain What Needs to be Explained

Sometimes you have to explain concepts or define words to help the reader understand your viewpoint. You also have to explain the reasoning behind your ideas. For example, it’s not enough to write that your greatest achievement is running an ultra marathon. You might need to define ultra marathon and explain why finishing the race is such an accomplishment.

referencing english essay

Answer All the Questions

After you finish writing the first draft of your essay, make sure you’ve answered all the questions you were supposed to answer. For example, essays in compare and contrast format should show the similarities and differences between ideas, objects or events. If you’re writing about a significant achievement, describe what you did and how it affected you.

referencing english essay

Stay Focused as You Write

Writing requires concentration. Find a place where you have few distractions and give yourself time to write without interruptions. Don’t wait until the night before the essay is due to start working on it.

referencing english essay

Read the Essay Aloud to Proofread

When you finish writing your essay, read it aloud. You can do this by yourself or ask someone to listen to you read it. You’ll notice places where the ideas don’t make sense, and your listener can give you feedback about your ideas.

referencing english essay

Avoid Filling the Page with Words

A great essay does more than follow an essay layout. It has something to say. Sometimes students panic and write everything they know about a topic or summarize everything in the source material. Your job as a writer is to show why this information is important.


referencing english essay

How to Reference Essays

Last Updated: September 15, 2022 References

This article was co-authored by Alexander Peterman, MA . Alexander Peterman is a Private Tutor in Florida. He received his MA in Education from the University of Florida in 2017. There are 14 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 313,564 times.

When you begin writing a research essay, you must take into account the format of your writing and reference pages. There are several reference styles that may be assigned to you, including MLA (Modern Language Association), APA (American Psychological Association), and Chicago. Each one has its own set of rules. There's no need to familiarize yourself with all 3 unless you have to, but you do need to learn at least one if you’re in any field involving academic writing. Here are summaries of each style to help you start your essay on the right track.

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Using Chicago Manual of Style

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referencing english essay

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About This Article

Alexander Peterman, MA

To reference an essay using MLA style, add a citation after any information you found through a source, like facts or quotes. When citing the reference, include the author’s name and the page number you pulled the information from in parenthesis, like “(Richards 456).” Once you’ve finished your essay, add a Words Cited page with all of the information you used to research your essay, like books or articles. To create a Works Cited page, list the sources in alphabetical order using the author’s last name, and include additional information, like year published and the medium. For more tips from our Writing reviewer, like how to reference an essay using APA style, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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University | A to Z | Departments

How to Reference your Essays

referencing english essay

Rules for referencing and citation

Why  reference essays.

Referencing your work properly is one of the most important ways that you can establish the authority of your ideas, and allows you to situate your own ideas and arguments in relation to those of other scholars.

Referencing is also an important way of acknowledging your debts to other scholars. Properly referencing your work is one of the best ways of avoiding plagiarism.

You can find out more about referencing by browsing the university's  academic integrity pages

How to reference essays

The English department requires that you reference your essays in accordance with either the Chicago Manual of Style or the MLA Style guide.

The university produces handy guides to these referencing systems, which you should consult:

For instructions how to reference a wide variety of different sources, consult the examples collected in the univeristy's academic integrity site:

This article is available to download for free as a PDF for use as a personal learning tool or for use in the classroom as a teaching resource.

Department of English and Related Literature University of York , York , YO10 5DD , UK Tel: work +44 (0) 1904 323366 Twitter: @UoYEnglish

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Legal statements | Privacy | Cookies | Accessibility © University of York | Modify | Direct Edit

Essay Writing: In-Text Citations

Using In-text Citations

Narrative vs Parenthetical In-text citations:

A  narrative citation gives the author name as part of the sentence .

A  parenthetical citation  gives the source information in parentheses - first or last - but not as part of the narrative  flow.

Full citation for this source:

Edwards, H. (2017).  The Revolt of the Black Athlete: 50th Anniversary Edition.  University of Illinois Press.

Sample In-text Citations

Note: This example is a  direct quote. It is an exact quotation directly from the text of the article. All direct quotes should appear in quotation marks: "...."

Try to keep direct quotes to a minimum in your writing. You need to show that you understand the material from your source by being able to paraphrase and summarize it. 

List the author’s last name only (no initials) and the year the information was published, like this:

(Dodge, 2008 ). ( Author , Date).

If you use a direct quote, add the page number to your citation, like this: 

( Dodge , 2008 , p. 125 ).

( Author , Date , page number )

What is Plagiarism?

Avoid plagiarism cite your sources  .

Using in-text citations:

Defining and Understanding Plagiarism -  an important concept in the research and writing process.

referencing english essay

From the Website:

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to "plagiarize" means

In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else's work and lying about it afterward.

All of the following are considered plagiarism:

Should I Cite This?

Links to cite it for you:

Citefast   recommended  .

CiteFast citation generator provides both complete APA Citations and also pre-formatted In-text Citations.

Quick Sheet: APA 7 Citations

Quick help with apa 7 citations.

In-text Citation Tutorial

Download the In-text Citations presentation  (above)  for an in-depth look at how to correctly cite your sources in the text of your paper.

SIgnal Phrase Activity

Paraphrasing activity from the excelsior owl, in-text citation quiz.

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.

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 [1774]).

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

referencing english essay

Note: Since the author of the text is not stated, a shortened version of the title is used instead.

Secondary Sources

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)

Website Citations

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 .

Sample Essay

A sample APA essay is available at this link . site logo that links to homepage

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?

Yes. Definitely.

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:

how to reference in an essay

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:

good and bad sources infographic

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:

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?”

how to reference in an essay

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:

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:

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.

Essay Writing Tip: Provide one unique citation in the reference list for every 150 words in the essay.

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:

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):

how to reference in an essay

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…

How to reference in an essay

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)


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.

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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.

How to Cite a Website

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?

How to Write an Academic Essay with References

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: 

(Author 123)

How to Cite a Website in MLA

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

retrieved. <URL>

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

publication, URL.

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

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

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

Get a free sample , or get an instant quote and place your order below, about the author.

Scribendi Editing and Proofreading

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.

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"The Complete Beginner's Guide to Academic Writing"

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Harvard Referencing Guide

Harvard is a referencing style which is used widely across a range of disciplines; it could arguably be deemed the "most commonly used" style. It is primarily used in the humanities and social sciences subjects, though some sciences and business subjects use it, too.

Learn how to reference in the Harvard style of academic citation with the detailed guide below. Alternatively, if you are looking for our Harvard Reference Generator then click on the button below:

Harvard Referencing Overview

There are two types of citation in Harvard referencing: in-text citations, which are found in the main body of the work and contain a fraction of the full bibliographical information, and reference lists, which are located at the end of the main work and list full information for all sources mentioned within the work.

While there are some stylistic and institutional variations, Harvard usually follows the format specified in this guide.

Key things to remember

In a reference list, sources are listed alphabetically by author's surname. Where there are multiple citations by the same author, these would be listed chronologically by year of publication.

You can cite a source directly (e.g. quoting verbatim from it) or indirectly (citing a source to show that you have used an author's ideas, but not quoted them). Examples of both are provided here:

Direct: '"Chocolate has an infinite variety of uses" (Davis, 2013, p.8).'

Indirect: 'As Davis (2013) notes, chocolate can be used in many different ways.'

When quoting directly from a source, page numbers should be used. If you are quoting indirectly as outlined above, page numbers do not need to be used. Where a page number is not available, paragraph number can be used. If this is not an option, the abbreviations 'n.p' or 'n. pag.' can be used to show that no page number is available.

Citations for books with one author:

Last name, first initial. (Year). Title . Edition (if not the first edition of the book). City of publication: Publisher.

For example:

Davis, B. (2013). A History of Chocolate . Nottingham: Delectable Publications.

Davis, B. (2013). A History of Chocolate . 3rd ed. Nottingham: Delectable Publications.

Citations for books with two or three authors:

Last name, first initial., Last name, first initial., and Last name, first initial. (Year). Title . City of publication: Publisher.

Jones, F. and Hughes, S. (2006). Eating Out: A Definitive Restaurant Handbook . Nottingham: Delectable Publications.

Evans, D., McDonald, F. and Jackson, T. (2008). Getting the best service . Nottingham: Delectable Publications.

Citations for books with four or more authors:

If a book has four or more authors, only the first author's name should be listed in-text followed by 'et al.', meaning 'and others'. However, all authors should be listed in the reference list in the order they are credited in the original work.

Last name, first initial., Last name, first initial., Last name, first initial., and Last name, first initial. (Year). Title . City of publication: Publisher.

James, P., Croft, D., Levin, S. and Doe, A. (1998). How to Succeed in the Restaurant Industry . Nottingham: Delectable Publications.

Citations for a chapter in an edited book:

When citing a single chapter in a larger book, it is important to ensure that you add the page range (pp.) that the chapter spans. When citing an individual chapter, you should also always include the edition of the book in the citation (you do not have to do this for other books unless it is notthe first edition).

Last name, first initial. (Year). Chapter title. In: Editor's name/s (ed/s) Book Title . Edition. City of publication: Publisher. Page/s.

King, S. (2010). The best wines and where to find them. In: Loftus, E., ed., Fine Wine: A Guide , 1st ed. Nottingham: Delectable Publications, pp. 28-46.

Citations for multiple books by the same author:

In text, the author's texts can usually be differentiated by year. They should be listed in chronological order of publication. Where you are citing two works by the same author which were published in the same year, these should be labelled with 'a', 'b', 'c' and so on directly after the year.

Brown, G. (2011). Mexican Food . Nottingham: Delectable Publications.

Brown, G. (2014). Japanese Food . Nottingham: Delectable Publications.

Brown, G. (2015a). Chinese Food . Nottingham: Delectable Publications.

Brown, G. (2015b). Italian Food . Nottingham: Delectable Publications.

Tools for creating Harvard Book references:

Reference a Book Reference a Book Chapter

2. Articles

Citations for print journals.

Last name, First initial. (Year). Article Title . Journal name, Volume (Issue), Page/s.

Jenkins, O. (1996). Unusual Recipes and Cantonese Cuisine. Culinary Research, Volume 5 (8), pp. 47-59.

Citations for Journal Articles accessed on a website or database

In-text citations for an online journal article remain unchanged from the way you would cite a print article. The citation in the reference list does have a few differences, however.

Last name, First initial. (Year). Article Title . Journal name, Volume (Issue), Page/s. Available from: URL. [Accessed: date].

Jenkins, O. (1996). Unusual Recipes and Cantonese Cuisine . Culinary Research, Volume 5 (8), pp. 47-59. Available at: [Accessed: 5 June 2016].

Citations for Newspaper Articles – Print or Online:

Newspaper citations are rendered similarly to journal articles when they are found online; the same differences in formatting occur, as the example below illustrates.

Last name, First initial. (Year). Article title . Newspaper name, Page/s.

Last name, First initial. (Year). Article Title . Newspaper name, Page/s. Retrieved from: Journal name/ URL if freely available.

Bell, Y. (2016). Man with unusual tastes eats chalk for breakfast . The Weekly Herald, p. 4.

Lees, P. (2015). Freaky eaters . The Weekly Herald, p.21. Available at: [Accessed 21 June 2016].

Citations for Magazine Articles – Print or Online:

In Harvard citation, you should cite the volume number for a magazine.

Last name, First initial. (Year). Article title . Magazine name, volume number, Page/s.

Last name, First initial. (Year, Month Day). Article Title . Magazine name, [online] Page/s. Retrieved from: URL

Ilkes, J. (2006). Five Ways to Eat More Fruit and Vegetables . Healthy Lifestyles, (12), pp. 34-36.

Ilkes, J. (2009, September 20). Why Dried Fruit is a Diet Staple . Healthy Lifestyles. Retrieved from:

Tools for creating Harvard Journal references:

Reference a Journal Article

3. Online sources

Citations for websites:.

When citing a website, it is important to ascertain authorship of the website – if it's an article on website which is not a newspaper/magazine site or online journal, there may be an individual author; if not, the organisation or website name would be credited with authorship.

Author/Source if no specific author (Year). Title of web document/page . [online]. (Last updated: if this information is available). Available at: URL [Accessed date: Day/Month/Year].

HealthTips (2015). Superfoods and where to find them . [online]. (Last updated 20 May 2015). Available at: [Accessed 20 June 2016].

Citations for emails:

Sender's last name, First initial. (Year). Subject Line of Email. [email].

James, D. (2016). New business plan for McDowells. [email].

Citations for Social Media:

Last name of author, First initial. (Year). Title of page [Social media format]. Day/month/year written. Available from: URL. [Accessed: Day/Month/Year].

Proud, F. (2014). Food lovers group [Facebook]. Written 5 June 2014. Available from: [Accessed 25 September 2016].

Tools for referencing online sources:

Reference a Website Reference a Wiki Reference a Blog Reference an Email

4. Images/visual mediums

Citations for films/videos/dvds:.

Full Title of Film/Video/DVD . Year of release. [Type of medium]. Director. Country of Origin: Film studio or maker. (Any other relevant details).

The World's Best Curries . (2011). [Film]. Directed by J. Hertz. U.K: Foodie Studios.

Citations for YouTube videos:

Username of contributor. (Year). Video Title , Series Title (if relevant). [type of medium]. Available at: URL. [Accessed: Day/ Month/ Year].

Yummydishes. (2012). Egg custard – simple recipe! , Baking 101. [YouTube video]. Available at: [Accessed 13 June 2016].

Citations for broadcasts:

Series title and episode name/number . (Year). [Year of broadcast]. Broadcasting organisation and channel, date and time of transmission.

World Kitchen: Nigeria, episode 5 . (2011). [Broadcast 2011]. BBC 1, first transmitted 30 July 2011, 20:00.

Citations for images/photographs – Print or Online:

Last name of artist/photographer, first initial (if known). (Year of production). Title of image . [type of medium] (Collection Details if available – Document number, Geographical place: Name of library/archive/repository).

Hewer, D. (1995). Women enjoying a cup of tea . [Photograph]. (Document number 345, London: Food Photography Library).

Citations for maps:

Map maker's name. (Year of issue). Title of map . Map series, sheet number, scale. Place of publication: publisher.

SpeedyQuest maps. (2003). Map of Biddiford . Local Maps, sheet 5, scale 1:50000. Nottingham: Local Publications.

Citations for podcasts:

Broadcaster/author's name. (Year). Programme title , series title (if relevant). [type of medium] date of transmission. Available at: URL [Accessed date: Day/Month/Year].

Yummydishes. (2015). Innovative Baking , Innovative Food. [Podcast]. Transmitted 16 October 2015. Available at: [Accessed: 17 April 2016].

5. Other source types

Citations for reports:.

Organisation/author. (Year). Full title of report . Place of publication: Publisher.

Marks and Spencers. (2014). A report on the sales of '2 Dine for £10' . London: M&S Publications.

Citations for dissertations:

Last name of author, first initial. (Year). Title of dissertation . Level. Official name of university.

Neath, G. (1998). An examination of Mexican food in popular culture . Masters level. Oxford Brookes University.

Citations for Acts of Parliament:

Short title (key words capitalised), which includes the year and the chapter number in brackets. Place of publication: publisher.

Food Act 1981 (c. 5) . London: Government Publications.

Citations for government/official publications:

Government agency/Last name of author, first initial. (Year). Title of document . City of publication: publisher, Page(s) if relevant.

UK Government. (2013). Nutrition and Young People . London: Government Publications.

Citations for interviews:

Last name of interviewer, first initial, and last name of interviewee, first initial. (Year). Title/description of interview .

Ferman, H. and Bill, O. (2004). Discussing cooking .

Citations for presentations/lectures:

Last name of author, first initial. (Year). Presentation/lecture title.

Yates, R. (2008). The benefits of herbs .

Citations for music:

Performer/writer's last name, first initial. (Year). Recording title . [Medium]. City published: music label.

Luce, F. (1996). Delicious . [CD Recording]. Nottingham: Delectable Music.

Citations for dictionaries:

Publisher. (Year). Full title of dictionary . Place of publication: Publisher.

Wordy. (2010). Wordy's modern dictionary . Nottingham: Delectable Publications.

Citations for computer programs/software:

Name of software/program . (Year). Place/city where software was written: Company/publisher.

RecipeGen . (2008). Nottingham: Delectable Software.

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Understanding How, When and Why to Reference

Learn how to acknowledge your sources of information

It is important that you acknowledge your sources of information in your academic writing. This allows you to clearly show how the ideas of others have influenced your own work. You should provide a citation (and matching reference) in your essay every time you use words, ideas or information from other sources.  If you would like to learn how, when and why to reference by watching a video, you can do so on Capstone Editing's YouTube channel .

Why reference?

Not referencing correctly can be perceived as plagiarism. It is expected and required at the university level that all your assignments will contain references. Otherwise, you are saying that the essay is made up entirely of your own original ideas, and that you have not engaged critically in any way with the literature. A passing grade requires that you use a minimum number of references (check your assignment marking criteria or ask your lecturer), and a good grade requires many more references than this. The purpose of referencing is to demonstrate the depth and breadth of your research, to show that you have read and engaged with the ideas of experts in your field. It also allows you to give credit to the writers from whom you have borrowed words or ideas. For your reader, referencing allows them to trace the sources of information you have used and to verify the validity of your work. For this reason, your referencing must be accurate and provide all necessary details to allow your reader to locate the source. It is therefore a good idea to keep careful records of all the sources you accessed when researching your assignment. This way, you do not have to hunt for these details after you have finished writing.  

How to incorporate the ideas of others into your essay

It can be difficult for new academic writers to know how to incorporate others’ work into their own writing. By learning how to use quotations effectively, and how to summarise and paraphrase the words and ideas of others, you can better avoid unintentional plagiarism. 

A quotation is a word-for-word reproduction of someone else’s words, either spoken or written. When quoting from another source, you must: 

Quotations should be logically integrated into your text. One way to do this is to lead into the quotation or paraphrase by using the author’s name (e.g. ‘According to Lines,’) followed by the quotation from Lines or a summary of Lines’s ideas. 

Quotations must fit grammatically into your text. It is allowable to modify quotations slightly to ensure a good fit. However, it is essential that these changes are clearly marked using square brackets ([ ]). It is also possible to omit words from a quotation, shown using an ellipsis (…). Note that if you omit words, you must be sure that the original meaning of the quotation is retained. You should never omit words to change the meaning of a quotation. 

The below examples show ways to integrate the original quotation ‘Most of the time, they don’t, and I mean really don’t, behave well’, showing changes to 1) the verb and 2) a pronoun. Notice the use of the square brackets to show your modifications to the quotation, and the ellipsis to show omitted words. 

Finally, you should avoid using quotations that have not been adequately introduced. If a quotation is inserted without appropriate integration into your text, this can negatively affect the logical and grammatical flow of your work, and lower the quality of your writing. Not introducing quotations or incorporating them into your own sentences usually also means you are relying too heavily on the words of others, and your grades can suffer as a result.

Summarising and paraphrasing

Another option for integrating others’ ideas into your own assignments is by summarising and paraphrasing. Summarising means giving an overview of the main ideas in condensed form. Paraphrasing means putting an idea (usually in detail) into your own words.  

To summarise or paraphrase well, you need to read carefully and understand the ideas in the source. Then, you can think about what those ideas mean in the context of your assignment and write them in your own words, integrating them well into your own writing. If you take sentences completely from the original source and just change a few words, this is not paraphrasing, and may be considered plagiarism. 

For some students, the temptation to use a source’s original wording is high. To avoid this, after reading and understanding the author’s ideas, write just the keywords on a separate piece of paper. See if you can change some of the keywords to other words, while keeping the original meaning. Then, think about whether you can reorganise the order of the keywords, to write sentences that keep the original meaning, but that are quite different to the original. Using your keywords, and without referring to the original source, write your new sentences. It takes a while at first, but the process becomes automatic with practice. 

The importance of writing in your own words

Putting others’ work into your own words will not only ensure the material is effectively integrated into your writing, it also demonstrates to your reader (e.g. your lecturer) that you have understood, absorbed and interpreted the information. This is a key purpose of essay writing at university and will help you to get a better grade. In addition, the better you get at putting complex ideas into your own words, the more developed your writing style will become. 

Acknowledge every source

Remember that the need to reference is not limited to academic sources like books and journal articles. You need to reference ALL words, ideas or information taken from ANY source. 

These sources might include: 

Note that if the source you are citing is retrievable (i.e. can be located by another person using the information you provide in the reference list), you must provide a reference for the source. However, if the source is only available to you (e.g. a personal interview or email, or a private Facebook post), you should cite all necessary details in the text, but should not provide a reference in the reference list. ONLY irretrievable sources are not included in the reference list, and even these are still cited in the text. 

The only times you would not reference are:

If you are concerned that you may not have referenced correctly, you should ask your tutor, lecturer or Academic Learning Advisor for their advice before submitting your assignment. Capstone Editing can also edit your work to correct your referencing and provide advice about how to reference correctly in the future.   

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