Referencing is an important way of acknowledging the work of other people and giving your work authority by showing where you got your evidence from. It enables other people to trace your sources and also shows your work was created with academic integrity. Failing to reference will be seen as plagiarism.

Scroll down for our recommended strategies and resources. 

Why reference?

Referencing is not just a set of rules designed to make your life harder; it’s an important part of using knowledge in a fair and responsible way.

What is referencing?

Referencing styles usually have two parts:

  • a short reference in the body of your writing, often called an in-text citation; and
  • a full reference in the reference list at the end of your assignment.

Watch this video from RMIT University for more on what referencing involves.

Referencing style for your subject

Always check with your department what style they want you to use. See your Course Resource Help page for more on the style used in your subject.

  • APA - often used in Psychology and some health studies
  • Harvard - the most widely used referencing style at Brookes
  • OSCOLA - used in Law and legal subjects
  • Chicago - used in History and History of Art

Follow a guide, be consistent

A good principle for all referencing is to be consistent. It makes your referencing look more professional and meticulous. Don’t mix and match styles or change formatting for some references but not for others. Log in to Brookes’ Cite Them Right Online for guidance.

Identify the type of source you’re referencing

Are you trying to reference a book, a journal article, a website, or something else? Knowing how to recognise the main types of academic sources is important, because each type of source needs different information included in its full reference. Accessing sources online can make it harder to tell what type of source it is, so it is useful to know what clues to look for. Knowing what source you are referencing is also crucial if you use an automatic reference generator, as it gives you the power to tell whether the reference has been generated correctly or if it is missing vital information. See the guide below for tips on identifying sources:

Be sceptical about reference generators

You may use an automatic reference generator such as Cite This For Me, but they only work with the details you give them, so they can sometimes produce odd-looking references. Know the basic format for the main sources: Book, journal article, chapter in an edited book, and webpage and always check your automatically generated references against this.

Reference management software

If you find it hard to keep track of your references or if you’re working on a longer dissertation or thesis, consider using reference management software like Endnote. The Library provides support and training for Endnote, but there are also other online versions like Mendeley and Zotero:

Referencing unusual sources

There are four basic pieces of information needed to reference any source: Author, date, title, and publication details. The publication details vary the most depending on the source. A good guide like Cite Them Right Online will have formatting for all types of sources.

Good note-making

Always note down the full details for any source you consult and keep track of what are your ideas and what are the ideas from the sources. Compile your reference list as you go along to avoid last minute panics. See our page on note-making for more strategies: