Referencing

Citing and referencing source material is a crucial aspect of academic writing. Referencing accurately and consistently is an important part of ensuring the distinction is clear between your words and the words and ideas of others in your assignments.

We use eight official reference styles

APA Chicago Harvard IEEE AMS/LMS (Mathematics)
MHRA MLA OSCOLA Vancouver  

What is referencing?

Referencing accurately and consistently is an important part of ensuring the distinction is clear between your words and the words and ideas of others in your assignments. Plagiarism (using someone else’s work as though it were your own) is a serious form of academic misconduct and must be avoided at all costs. 

In-text citation is included in the body of your text and is there to directly show the reader where an idea, piece of information, and/or a quotation is from. The reader will then be able to match the source cited in the text to the full reference given in your bibliography/ reference list where full details of the publication are presented.

Citing of source materials within your assignment is useful and beneficial to supporting your argument. However, be selective. Do not just use as many references as you can in a bid to impress the marker that you’ve read a massive amount. Your references should be relevant and are an integral part of your argument; that is you discuss or critique them in your writing.

For example, cite your source if you:

  • Include data from your reading (eg tables, statistics, diagrams)
  • Describe or discuss a theory, model or practice from a particular writer
  • Want to add credibility to your argument by bringing in the ideas of another writer –
    for or against
  • Provide quotations or definitions in your essay;
  • Paraphrase or summarise information which is not common knowledge

What referencing style should I use?

There are a number of different referencing styles due to the different styles of academic writing in different disciplines. There are three main types:

  • Author-date: Usually used in the social sciences and humanities, this includes an in-text citation (Smith, 2017) so that the author and date are prominently displayed to the reader. A full, alphabetical list of references is then provided at the end of the paper.  
  • Footnote: Usually used in the humanities, this includes a number in sub-script 1 in the text and then a reference at the bottom (foot) of the page. A full, alphabetical list of references is then provided at the end of the paper for student assignments. 
  • Endnote: Usually used in the sciences, this includes a number in the text [1] and then a full reference at the end of the paper in numerical order as they appear in the text.

We use eight official reference styles across the university, and you're department will use only one of these:

What referencing system does my department use?

Archaeology: Harvard
Biology: Harvard and Vancouver
Chemistry: Check departmental guidelines
Computer Science: IEEE
Economics and Related Studies: Harvard
Education: APA
Electronics: IEEE
English and Related Literature: Chicago and MLA
Environment: Harvard
Health Sciences: Harvard
History: Chicago
History of Art: Chicago
HYMS: Harvard and Vancouver
Language and Linguistic Science: APA
Law: OSCOLA
Management: Harvard
Mathematics: Check departmental guidelines
Music: Chicago
Philosophy: Harvard and MLA
Physics: Check departmental guidelines
Politics: Harvard
Psychology: APA
Social Policy and Social Work: Harvard
Sociology: Harvard
Theatre, Film and Television: MRHA and Harvard

What is reference management software?

If not done systematically, referencing can be challenging and time consuming. Quality referencing requires careful management of the resources you are using in your assignments. It should not be something you do at the end of the assignment. 

Reference management software can help you to automatically store, organise and input your references into your assignments. They all have advantages and disadvantages. Whichever software you choose, you will need to invest time in learning how to use it effectively. As there are so many options available, it is not possible for the University to support all of them, however it does provide support for Endnote and Paperpile.

Should I use reference management software?

Using Reference Management Software is not essential or compulsory. Many students successfully complete their undergraduate studies, postgraduate studies and even PhD without using any software. Reference Management Software, however, is becoming increasingly sophisticated and popular with students so we suggest the following recommendations:

  • Sign up for a workshop if there is one available - http://subjectguides.york.ac.uk/skills/training/
  • Discuss with your classmates or lecturers which one they recommend
  • If you are thinking about using software, check if a friend/classmate is using it and get them to show you the basics
  • Checkout the University's resources and try out Paperpile or Endnote
  • Familiarise yourself with the referencing style your department uses before learning to use software

We also highlight the potential pitfalls of the software if not use appropriately:

  • Reference Management Software uses user generated content, so many references are actually incorrect
  • You must be familiar with the referencing style you are using in order to spot incorrect references in the software 
  • Reference Management Software will only save you time if you invest time in learning to use it
  • Do not start using referencing software the day before submitting assignments as it may take you more time than doing it manually

Recommended approaches for different degree levels:

Undergraduate: We recommend getting to grips with referencing manually first, by doing this you will become familiar with the format of the referencing style. Then when you are comfortable with the referencing style, try out referencing management software for one assignment and see if it makes the process easier.  

Masters: If you are new to studying in the UK, you may not be completely familiar with referencing, so we advise becoming familiar with your referencing first and then trying out referencing management software with one assignment to begin with.

If have completed your undergraduate degree in the UK or another country, and are confident with the referencing style used in your department, you may wish to start using referencing management software at the start of your Masters programme. 

PhD: Referencing management software can be very useful for a PhD research. We recommend first familiarising yourself with the referencing style used in your department and then trialling out a piece of software. It is recommended to do this in you first year of studies, then as your studies progress you will have comprehensive record of all the resources you have used throughout your degree. 

If you have already started your PhD and wish to start using referencing management software, it is possible to start using the software but may need to take some time to add all your references to the software. Please allow several days for this if you have hundreds of references. 

If you have any questions get in touch at:

integrity@york.ac.uk