Referencing FAQs

  • Why do I need to reference?

    Different faculties, departments and even lecturers will have their preferences about how you should reference. While different lecturers may not agree on what type of referencing system you should use, they do agree that acknowledging sources is vital and that consistency in the referencing format you adopt is essential. Referencing has several functions: 

    • to acknowledge the source of a quotation/ idea/ figure/ diagram etc. 
    • to demonstrate that you are building on previous research 
    • to provide details so the reader can verify the sources used 
    • to show that you are well informed and that your writing is trustworthy
    • to support a claim you are making 
    • so other writers can find background material to use in their own writing 
    • so the reader can check that you have not misrepresented what the author wrote 
    • so the reader can find additional background information from the same source

    Adapted from the University of Adelaide Writing Centre, 2014, Quick Guide to Referencing

  • How do I know when to reference?

    When expressing ideas of concepts in your work, you need to ask yourself the following questions to guide you to reference your originating sources appropriately.

    Are the words your own or someone else's?
    • Someone else's words:
      provide an in-text citation and add full details of the work to your reference list.
    • Your own words:
      go to the next question.
    Is this idea common knowledge?
    • Common knowledge:
      you do not need to reference it.
    • Not common knowledge:
      go to the next question.
    Did you think of this yourself or are you re-stating (paraphrasing) someone else's idea?
    • You thought of it:
      you do not need to reference it.
    • Someone else's idea:
      provide an in-text citation and add full details of the work to your reference list.

    Adapted from the University of Adelaide Writing Centre, 2014, Quick Guide to Referencing

    Try our interactive activity for more information and referencing examples.

    When to reference interactive activity

  • What is paraphrasing?

    Paraphrasing is a way of rewriting the ideas of someone else by making word, sentence and grammatical changes, while maintaining the original point and meaning of the phrase. To do this successfully it is necessary to change the sentence structure and the form of the words use, as well as replacing words with synonyms. Essentially you are adding your ‘voice’ to the phrase, and making it clearer and more concise for the purposes of your essay.

  • What is plagiarism?

    Plagiarism is the submitting or presenting of work that is not our own, in any format, without the appropriate attribution or recognition of the original source of the material. It can be done deliberately and intentionally, as a clear case of academic dishonesty, but more commonly is the result of genuine misunderstanding among new students unfamiliar with the standard conventions of academic writing. Referencing and citing sources is a key element in avoiding plagiarism as it is a means of acknowledging the sources you have used in your research. 

  • What is academic integrity?

    Academic Integrity is a core value of the University of Adelaide, demonstrating a commitment to acting with honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility and courage in learning. The Academic Integrity Policy Academic Integrity Policy applies to all students enrolled at the University and resources and tools are provided that enable students to develop Academic Integrity awareness and skills.

    Visit the Academic Integrity page for further information.

  • What types of resources do I need to reference?

    You need to reference any sources of information, including but not limited to: 

    • journal articles
    • books
    • conference publications
    • newspaper or magazine articles
    • data sets
    • webpages
    • social media
    • audio visual media
    • images
    • reference works
  • If I use information but 'edit' it do I have to reference?

    Yes, you need to reference any information you borrow or adapt from something someone else has already created. 

    Examples include: 

    • charts
    • designs 
    • figures 
    • ideas 
    • photographs 
    • recordings 
    • tables 
    • data 
    • diagrams 
    • graphs 
    • images 
    • presentations
    • speeches
    • videos
  • What is an in-text citation?

    An in-text citation is an acknowledgment of a source within the paper you are writing. It appears as a brief, partial reference – e.g. (Author, Date) – directly after a quote or paraphrase from the source material. 

  • What is a reference list?

    A reference list is a list of all of the sources that you have cited within your work. Usually placed at the end of a piece of writing, it will include complete citation details for each source.  (Note: if you are using Chicago or MLA referencing this may be called a Works Cited list.)

  • Should I include everything that I have read for my assignment in my reference list?

    No, only include the works you have actually cited in your assignment in the reference list. 

  • What's the difference between 'reference' and 'citation'?

    Technically, ‘reference’ refers to the complete details of a source, found in the reference list at the end of a document. ‘Citation’ refers to the short version of the reference, found in the body of the text (‘in-text’).

    However, you may see all of these terms used almost interchangeably in your university courses:

    • citations
    • references
    • in-text citations
    • in-text references

    and you will find examples of both throughout these guides.

  • What is the difference between 'referencing' and 'attribution'?

    Referencing and attribution are closely related concepts but differ in terms of purpose. Referencing means to cite all the sources used in your work —whether it be their ideas, concepts, text, images, or other information—according to the guidelines of a specific referencing style, usually in the format of in-text citations or footnotes and a reference list.  This process is crucial for academic integrity and is expected practice for all assignments and coursework. If you are citing an image, figure, table or similar material in your work but not reproducing it, then a citation and reference list entry is all that is required.  

    Attribution is a subset of referencing and is required if you are reproducing third-party material. This includes a long quotation, figure, image or otherwise directly including or adapting Creative Commons licensed source material material you have obtained permission to include in your work (e.g. through the Copyright Clearence Centre).  Attribution generally includes a citation that includes licence, usage and copyright information. Some referencing style guides have stipulated how to format attribution statements to meet their requirements, but may require some flexibility in their application to meet more specific attribution requirements under the applicable licence. Some openly licensed resources also provide a recommended attribution statement for you to use. 

  • What do I do when the referencing style guide doesn't have an example of the type of source I want to reference?

    The guides linked in these pages give an extensive range of example references for different styles, particularly Harvard UofA . However, not all sources fit neatly into these examples. In these cases you should look for similar reference examples and combine elements from them to create the reference you need.

    Remember that the important thing is to work out what the elements of the reference are, and put them together in the order (and with the punctuation) required by the style you’re using. Most references will consist of:

    • Author’s name
    • Year of publication
    • Title of source
    • Publication details (e.g. journal or publisher information)
    • Page numbers (if needed)
  • What is the difference between a reference list and a bibliography?

    A reference list includes only those sources which are referred to in the text. The names in the text and the reference list should match. A bibliography gives extra sources which the reader may find helpful. Some lecturers use the terms ‘reference list’ and ‘bibliography’ interchangeably, so check which they mean.

  • What is a referencing style?

    A referencing style is a set of rules and standards that determine how you cite the sources and material you use in your work. Each referencing style has a strict set of criteria that regulates the content, structure and format of your references, including in-text citations, reference list and bibliography entries. It is important to closely follow the rules set out for the referencing style you are using, to ensure accuracy and consistency; every full stop, comma, and bracket is crucial. 

  • Which referencing style should I use?

    Your faculty or school will have a preferred referencing style that they recommend you use. This should be specified in your assignment information, course guide or course outline. Alternatively, you can check with your course co-ordinator to find out which is the recommended style.

  • How many referencing styles are there? Why are there so many styles?

    Hundreds of different citation styles have been developed over the years. Most follow either an author/date (parenthetical) format or a numbered (notational) system. The main reason there are so many styles is that different citing and referencing styles cater for the specific requirements of different disciplines. The various referencing styles prioritise and give prominence to different elements of the citation, such as dates, author, tile or publication information. If there was only one universal format for citations, it could make it difficult for some researchers to find the information that is most important to them about a source.   

  • What are the differences between referencing styles?

    Citation styles differ in two main ways:  

    • the format of the references;
    • the location of the references. 

    A reference generally has a number of key elements that provide unique identifiers for a work, including author, title, date, and publishing information. The way this information is presented in a reference list is different in each citation style. 

    In-text citations also vary depending on which style is used.  Note, or notational, systems use sequential numbers for in-text citations, that refer to either footnotes or a reference list. Author/date, or parenthetical, referencing involves the use of a partial reference (such as author and date) within parentheses as in-text citations, with the complete citation appearing in the reference list at the end of the document. 

  • What is EndNote and how can it help me?

    EndNote is a software program for storing and managing your bibliographic references. It allows you to easily add and import references into your EndNote Library, organise them into groups, and access them whenever you need.   

    EndNote also integrates automatically with word processing programs like Microsoft Word. This means that when you're writing an assignment, article, thesis, or any other kind of document in which you want to include references, you can choose the references you want from your EndNote library, and they will be automatically inserted in your document in the referencing style you've chosen. EndNote will also automatically generate your reference list or bibliography.

    See our Quick Referencing Tips for more information.

  • Are there other reference management systems available?

    There certainly are! Some of the best-known ones are Mendeley and Zotero, but there are dozens in existence, and many of them are web-based and freely available. This Wikipedia article  provides a useful comparison chart for most known systems.

    If you use LaTeX software to create your documents, the recommended referencing software is BibTeX. Please consult your school or department for more information.

  • What is Turnitin?

    Turnitin is a program used for checking and marking student assignments. For most of your courses, you will hand in your assignments via Turnitin, and the markers will give you feedback via Turnitin as well. Turnitin will also give you an originality report. This report will tell you how similar your writing is to other texts that can be found online and in other student assignments.  

    You can check your draft assignments for text matching and text originality (prior to submitting the assignment for marking) by submitting draft assignments to the Turnitin self-assessment tool within MyUni.

  • What is Studiosity? How can they help me?

    Studiosity is a free after-hours online study help tool available to current University of Adelaide coursework students through your enrolment in MyUni. They can provide feedback on your essay or assignment draft with suggestions on where you might focus attention on structure, spelling, grammar and referencing.

  • Where can I get more information about writing, paraphrasing, and plagiarism?

    The Writing Centre provides detailed guides and assistance with the writing process. You can download their learning guides for information on essay planning, sentence structure, paraphrasing and presenting your work. You will also find information about plagiarism and Academic Integrity on the Writing Centre website. Face to face and online consultations can be arranged with the Writing Centre’s Learning Advisors.