Why Referencing Matters

In this day and age, we find that many people are using digital media as a means of expressing opinions, concerns and trying to put across a certain point of view. Whilst everyone has a right to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard as such, people who are writing blogs and articles do need to ensure that what they are writing is in fact original, and secondly that the claims that they make are true and relevant. Such articles can cause people who read them to have misconceptions about the topic matter, and has a potential to sway people's opinions without the need to back the claims up with any proof. For example, if I was to claim that world is flat, I have a right to do that, however the only problem that I would have is finding reliable, solid evidence to back this claim up. On the other hand, if I were to claim that the earth is in fact not fact and is spherical, I could find hundreds of references and peer reviewed to support my claim. It is also critical that you use correct referencing in order to avoid any type of plagiarism. This article will look at different methods of referencing, what we should and shouldn't do and examples of how works should be referenced in order to avoid plagiarism.


Plagiarism can be defined in several different ways. Directly copying any written text or similar which belongs to someone else which you claim as your own is the most blatant form of plagiarism, and can leave the author finding themselves in trouble. Depending on what you are writing or who you are writing for, the implications can be severe. Most universities take a zero tolerance stance towards plagiarism and well in most cases directly expel the student. If you are writing for a website or a magazine, you may find yourself without a job or struck off the list. If the owner of the original piece of writing decides to pursue the matter further, you may also find yourself facing a lawsuit. It is critical that under no circumstances should you ever claim someone else's work as your own without directly referencing it in the suitable manner 1).

In Text Referencing

When writing a paragraph, most writers will often use a reference in order to back up a claim that they made. For example, 'It has been proven that the Sahara Desert was once an inland sea (Smith, Lo & Thomas, 2010)'. This is a statement which has been made as a fact, hence the requirement for a reference. This is just an abbreviated reference, and still requires a full reference, often found in the reference list of an article. The full reference could possibly read something like this: Smith, J.L, Lo, C & Thomas, H.H, 2010, 'History of the Sahara Desert', Journal of Natural Sciences, vol.23, no.6, pp.24-29 (please note that this is only a suggestion of a reference formatting style, you may choose to use a different format). This example is a reference from a journal. When referencing a book, it is important to enter the author, date, chapter (if applicable), name of book, printing company, print location and ISBN number, for example: Davis, J & Mills, F, 'Horses' in The Book of Equines, Milford Press, London, ISBN 900-111-237-25. When referencing works which have more than three authors, the in text reference can be done in this manner (Smith et al, 2010). In the reference list however all of the authors must be listed 2)


Paraphrasing is a method which you can use to describe someone else work or ideas, but in your own words. An example of this is as follows: 'Climate change is an issue that must be addressed on a global level, as it concerns every person on this planet'. This sentence for example could be paraphrased in this way: 'One of the biggest issues that is facing the planet is Climate change. Climate change effects everybody on the planet and thus needs to be tackled globally'. When paraphrasing, it is important to put the reference before the paraphrased text, such as ' Jones (2009) suggests that one of the biggest issues…….'. It is important to reference such work to avoid any suggestions of plagiarism 3)


If you intend to directly quote a passage in a book, article, journal, poem etc, it is important to do it in the correct manner. Ideally you would introduce the text first, and then put it in quotation marks, for example: In his article Adapting to Climate Change, Jones (2009, p.22) states that “ Climate change is an issue that must be addressed on a global level, as it concerns every person on this planet”. If you do not introduce the text, you can insert the reference at the end of the quote, as such: “ ….planet” (Jones, 2009, p.22). Please note that when quoting text the page number from which the text was extracted needs to be entered in the in text reference. As mentioned above, quoted text should always be referenced to avoid plagiarism issues 4).

Personal Communications

Personal Communications can be a variety of things such as phone calls, memos, letters, notes, emails, lectures etc. As these communications are not listed on any website or may not be in physical form, they still need to be referenced in text, however they do not need to go into the reference list at the end of the article. Generally when doing the in text reference you will refer to the person by first initial and surname, and date, as per follows: ' J. Marks (personal communication, January 2, 2011) suggested that……..'. If the date is unknown, try and get it as close as possible. Using personal communications can hep you put your point across and make for an article that has more credibility.

Internet References

When using references which come directly from websites, it is important to reference them correctly. Depending on the nature of the work that is to be referenced, you can cite this in a similar fashion to an in text reference, with the author and date, for example: '….. (Williams, 2000). If the website does not have an author and is an organisation, the in text reference could be as follows ' ….. (United States Department of Justice, 2012). When entering the reference in the reference list, the best way to lay it out is author, date, name of the article, name of the organisation/website, web address. Here is an example: Williams, D, 2000, 'How to Build a Bird House', Home Improvements, Available: http://homeimprovements.com. If possible you should also enter the date that you accessed the website, in case there are any changes made after you have referenced the article 5)


If you are referencing music or audio files, you just need to follow a similar format as to referencing books, journals or websites. For example if you reference the lyrics from a song, you could reference it like this ' …… (John, Yellow Brick Road, Track 4, 1974). In the reference list you will give a little more detail, such as the record company and record company location. If referencing a television program, it is recommended to in text reference the name of the broadcasting company, the name of the program and the broadcast year, similar to this format: '…. (ABC, Newsweek, 2010). In the reference list, you will need to give extra details, such at the exact date of broadcast.


Whether you are writing something as simple as a blog, or a university assignment, it is important that you use references where required. Using references gives your work more credibility, and can help build the argument that you are trying to make. It is also a useful tool that can keep your work free of any accusations of plagiarism and other wrongdoing. It is not always easy to know how to properly reference material, and it is important to keep in mind that there are several different referencing techniques that are used worldwide. The most important thing is to put in a reference, even if it is in the incorrect format, as this is better than no referencing at all.


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Hahnel, M, 2013, 'Referencing: The Reuse Factor', Nature, vol.502, pp.298
Mailoo, V. J, 2008, 'Referencing Styles', British Journal of Occupational Therapy, vol.71, no.9, p.402
Rubin, A. (2003). Internet referencing. Journal of Clinical Pathology, 56(5), 399-399

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