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What is referencing?

stack of books

When preparing your assignment you need to acknowledge all the materials you draw upon, quote, paraphrase or mention. Referencing is a standardised way to acknowledge all the ideas and concepts you have used and allow readers to trace and verify your sources.

The reasons for having a complete and accurate reference list are as follows:

Avoid Plagiarism. Referencing all cited sources protects you from problems related to plagiarised content. If you provide a thorough list of references, you are stating that the ideas and concepts discussed in your work, be it directly quoted or paraphrased, are derived from another source such as a book, an article, a journal, or any other publication.

Show you have reviewed the research that exists on your topic. Researchers give credit to scholars that have done work in their area before them. This allows the progression of research to be tracked and acknowledged. This is how research works!

Show an understanding of the research you have reviewed. You gather knowledge from the work of researchers. You form new knowledge by examining and drawing on the research that has already been produced. You are now a part of the scholarly research process!

Contribute to the field that you are studying in. As a student, you contribute to interpreting research. Your interpretation of words, thoughts and the ideas of key researchers give weight to your own conclusions.

Create a bibliography/reference list. This allows other readers to see the sources that you have read, and perform their own research using these sources. A full, accurate list of references allows the readers to follow up or refer to the sources of the information included in the essay.


References to books, book chapters, journal articles and other sources are called citations. These include information needed to find the full text of a publication.

Citation Style:
The citation style determines how the citation information is ordered, what punctuation is needed, and any other formatting that is required. Examples of citation styles include APA, Harvard and MLA etc.

A bibliography is a complete list of all the sources (books, journal articles, websites etc) you used to produce your assignment, including those you did not quote or paraphrase.

Reference List: 
A reference list is a complete list of all the sources (books, journal articles, websites etc) you have quoted or paraphrased in your assignment.

Annotated Bibliography: 
An annotated bibliography is also a list of citations but each citation is followed by an annotation (a brief [usually about 150 words] descriptive and evaluative paragraph to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited). Check out the Annotated bibliography page by the University of New South Wales for further details.

Literature review: 
A literature review is an evaluative report of information found within the body of an essay, paper, article, book or book chapter related to your selected area of study. Check out Getting Started on your Literature Review by University of New South Wales for further details.

Secondary referencing

Citation of an article implies that you have personally read the cited work.  

If you quote from a work that has been mentioned in something else you have read, but you have not read the original source, then you must make it a secondary reference.

It is important to make it clear that you have not read the original work.

You should not include the original work in your bibliography. You should only include the work that you have read.


Using generative artificial intelligence tools (e.g. Chat GPT)

Important note

You should check your unit outline or consult with academic convenors for the style required by your department. You may be penalised for not conforming to your course's requirements.


Quick tip

Always keep a record of the reading that you do for an assignment, whether it be from books, articles or websites.

You need to know the details of your source to ensure that your citation is correct.