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What, why, when and how

What is referencing?

Showing what sources you have used and giving credit to the original authors in your assessment is called referencing or citing. Every source of information or idea that is not your own must be credited twice:

  • once in the body of your work
  • and in a reference list at the end of the document.

Why is referencing important?

All academic work is part of a greater body of knowledge. Showing where your work fits into this is an important part of academic practice at university. Referencing is important because it:

  • allows the reader to locate the books, chapters or articles you have referred to
  • provides evidence to support your argument
  • protects you against charges of plagiarism
  • shows that you have read widely
  • distinguishes your own ideas from others.

When to reference

You should reference:

  • direct quotes - the words of other people that you use in your writing
  • paraphrasing - the writing of other people that you change into your own words
  • other people's ideas
  • images that you didn't create yourself.

You don't need to reference:

  • common knowledge
  • your own thoughts or opinions.

How to reference

For most subjects you will be told which referencing style to use - check the subject guide or ask the teaching staff. Depending on the style you are using, there are two ways to acknowledge sources within your writing:

  • In-text citations - the author and the date are mentioned within the text 
    • At La Trobe APA and Harvard referencing styles use in-text citations
  • Footnotes - small numbers in the text correspond to numbers at the bottom (or foot) of the page
    • At La Trobe AGLC and Oxford referencing styles use footnotes

If you are using in-text citations there are two ways you can include the author's surname and the year:

  • Put them in brackets at the end a sentence like this (Malik, 2020).
  • Or you can choose to mention Malik (2020) as the author within your text. In that case include the year directly after the author's name. 

Whatever style you use you will have a reference list at the end of your document that includes detailed information for all the sources that you used in your writing. 

Academic Referencing Tool

La Trobe Library's Academic Referencing Tool is your key to referencing success. Follow the links to see examples and explanations for referencing a wide variety of sources.

This video introduces you to the Academic Referencing Tool. (Duration: 2:03) 

Example assignment

For a sample assignment with annotations explaining referencing principles, see the Word and PDF documents below.

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.