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Frequently asked questions

What do I reference?

Can I reference lecture notes or ideas presented in class?

It is not good practice to cite your lecture notes.  It is better to find the same information in a different source.  Lecture slides may have a reference list of sources used. You can ask your lecturer where to look for something, or try Library Search.

If I write something in my own words, do I need to provide an in-text reference? 

Yes, we reference ideas, not just the words used to express them, so you need to show where the original idea came from.  Most sentences without a reference are considered to contain your own ideas, so you must make it clear whether your sentences contain ideas that are your own or someone else's.

Does that mean I need to provide a reference for nearly every sentence?

No.  You are expected to create your own framework for your sources.  Your sources contribute to your argument, they don't replace it.

When can I own an idea, and so do not have to provide a reference for it?

Your own ideas are expressed in what YOU write about what you have read.  For example, is your reading the same or different from other sources?  So you can talk about similarities and differences.  Is it supportive of your topic or not? - This is what YOU write.

How do I reference?

There are many referencing styles. The four main styles used at La Trobe University and supported by the Library are:


Check your Subject Learning Guide for information on which referencing style is used for your discipline (you may need one style for one unit and a different style for another). Ask your tutor or lecturer if you are unsure.

Why is my tutor telling me that my referencing is vague and unclear?

This could be for a range of reasons, such as:

  • you have not referenced a quotation/paraphrase from a source
  • you have the required information, but you have not put the citation in the right place
  • your in-text citation does not have all the required information, that is:
    • the family name of author/s or editor/s
    • the year of publication
    • if a quotation, the page number/s of where the original can be found

As a general rule: 

  • An in-text reference should follow the referenced piece of information immediately. Alternatively, if you use the author's name in your sentence the reference should follow the name of the author immediately. For example:

The key facts on illusory phenomena can be described as... (Day, 2006).


Day (2006) described the key facts on illusory phenomena as...

  • For styles which use footnotes, the footnote should be placed either at the bottom of the page or at the end of the text, with a superscript number in the text for Chicago, AGLC and Oxford styles.
  • In the footnote, the author's initial comes first (P. Mansell), but in the reference list the family names comes first (Mansell, P.).
In your reference list, only include references that you cited in your assignment.  If you read something but didn't cite it, you don't need to include it in your reference list.

Librarian Link

Still have questions? Do you want to talk to an expert? Librarians are available.

Further resources

Another section of Achieve@Uni has information about Using sources in your writing.