How To Reference Correctly English Language Essay

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These Harvard-based guidelines are generic and are meant to supplement, not replace, the guidelines given to you for your programme, which are usually provided in your module handbooks. Some subjects make these guidelines available on the portal. You are advised to follow your module/programme instructions exactly for citing and referencing sources, and use this guide for further information only. For further information on a wide variety of sources, consult Pears, R. and Shields, G. (2008) Cite them right: the essential referencing guide. Newcastle upon Tyne: Pear Tree Books.


1. In-text references / citations

This means how to put references in the body of your assignment, and this section includes the following cases:

A typical reference - what to include and what not to

Incorporating others' material - words and expressions to use

Author's name occurs naturally in the sentence

Author's name does not occur naturally

Page numbers - when to use them

More than one cited document by the same author(s) in the same year

Two authors of one work

More than two authors of one work

Dictionaries, encyclopaedias or other collaborative works with several authors

No originator / Anon

Newspaper where no author is given

Corporate authors or organisations where no individual's name is indicated

Year of publication unknown

Secondary sources (one author referred to in another's text)

Different authors saying the same thing

Author in an edited book

Diagrams, photos, charts, maps and other illustrations

Unsure whether to cite or not?

How many references should there be?

Compare, comment and critique

2. Reference list or bibliography

This means how to make a reference list or bibliography (this section describes the difference between the two) at the end of your assignment for the following types of sources:

The difference between a reference list and bibliography

How to make a reference list

Books (several authors, edited books, chapters, editions, same author and year, theses and dissertations)

Journal Articles (periodicals, printed, electronic and online)

Downloaded articles

Web pages

Conference papers


Film and television programmes


No obvious author, publisher, date or place, inc. Government publications

NB for types of source not listed here, please refer to Pears, R. and Shields, G. (2008) Cite them right: the essential referencing guide. Newcastle upon Tyne: Pear Tree Books

1. In-text references / citations

How to put references in the body of your assignment

A typical in-text reference in an author/date (Harvard type) system might look like the one below. Note that the full stop comes after the reference to include it in the sentence to which it refers:

One of the most problematic aspects of environmental policy-making is said to be that of persuading big actors of its apparent importance (McDonald, 2006). However…

When you are putting references into the body of your assignment, whatever type of source you use (book, newspaper article, journal article, website etc.), the basic principle is the same in Harvard styles of referencing: you just need to include the author's surname and the year of publication.

Do not include too much information in the in-text reference: the web address, publisher, title etc. are not necessary and are distracting, unless they occur naturally in the sentence to help give it meaning - for example:

In Poole's article on 'Why the polar icecaps are melting' (2006), the biggest cause is cited as being…

Incorporating others' material

In this document, we have tried to vary how the references are integrated to avoid excessive repetition. The reference needs to be attached to the particular piece of material it refers to, but depending on how the material is incorporated into your work, the reference may come at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of your sentence - they are all acceptable, and varying how you use them avoids irritating repetition. The following three tables give examples of phrases you can use to integrate ideas and/or citations into your text:

as the verb in the main clause, followed by a 'that' clause

Rees (2004) argues that …

Rees (2004) observes that …

as the verb in a 'comment' clause, followed by the main clause:

As Rees (2004) argues, …

As Rees (2004) observes, …

as a noun in the main clause

Rees (2004) uses the argument that …

Rees (2004) makes the observation that …

Other commonly used expressions are:

for quotation (remember to include the page number) or paraphrase (no page number)

According to Rees (2004), …

As far as Rees (2004) is concerned, …

for quotation only

In the words of Rees (2004:6), '…'.

To quote Rees (2004:6), '…'.

With regard to … , Rees (2004:6) has the following to say: '…'.

If the suggestion that '…' (Rees, 2004:6), then a question must be asked about…

Some more phrases to use:

Making statements and giving options

Making observations and referring to sources or data

to assert

to make an assertion

to believe

to claim

to make a claim

to consider

to express ~

to say

to state

to suggest

to make a suggestion

to think

to cite

to document

to draw upon

to find

to indicate

to note

to observe

to make an observation

to point out

to quote

to refer to

to report

to show


Defining and Describing

to argue

to present/put forward an argument

to conclude

to reach a conclusion

to contend (noun: contention)

to demonstrate

to emphasise

to place/put emphasis on

to hypothesise

to present a hypothesis

to insist

to make ~ clear

to make a point

to reason

to recommend

to make a recommendation

to show

to stipulate

to stress

to call ~ ~

to categorise

to divide ~ into ~ categories

to classify (noun: classification)

to describe

to describe ~ as ~

to define ~ as

to give a definition

to give an example

to identify

to illustrate

to give an illustration

to liken ~ to

to refer to ~ as

Agreeing with another viewpoint

Disagreeing with another viewpoint

to accept

to acknowledge

to admit

to agree

to be in agreement with

to concede

to make a concession

to recognise

to support (a view)

to counter (an argument)

to criticise ~

to make a criticism of ~

to differ

to disagree

to dispute ~

to oppose ~

If the author's name occurs naturally in the sentence, the year is given in parentheses, for example:

In a popular study Widdecombe (2005) argued that deforestation was the regrettable result of...

If the name does not occur naturally in the sentence, both the name and year are given in parentheses, for example:

More recent studies (Williams, 2007; Roberts, 2007) show that carbon emissions produced by increased reliance on the private car and much greater use of air transport have a significant impact on...

Page numbers should be included when you are citing direct quotations, however short or long. The number(s) should appear after the year within the parentheses.

The following two styles (with either just a colon, or with a comma and p. [page] or pp. [pages]) are the most commonly used - your handbook will either specify one format, or you can choose which to use, but be consistent: (2005, p.3) or (2005:3),

As noted by Weare (2005:3), 'the phenomenon observed is dramatic', which suggests that…

When an author has published more than one cited document in the same year, these are distinguished by adding lower case letters (a, b, c, etc.) after the year and within the parentheses, for example:

Hudson (2005a) discussed the possible problems associated with nuclear power...

If there are two authors, the surnames of both should be given for example:

Bell and Rowley (2006) propose that renewable sources of energy...

If there are more than two authors, the surname of the first author only should be given, followed by 'et al.' (Latin for 'and others', preferably in italics in both the text and the reference list at the end, and followed by a full stop as it is an abbreviation), for example:

Chavez et al. (1997) conclude that the solution lies in improved education to promote sustainability literacy...

For works such as dictionaries, encyclopaedias or other collaborative works of several authors, none of whom have a dominant role, the title may be use, for example:

Global warming can be defined as 'the rise in the earth's surface air temperature associated with the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere' (Cullins' Encyclopaedia of Climate Change, 2006).

If there is no originator then 'Anon' should be used.

It has been suggested (Anon, 2006) that…


One source considers that…(Anon, 2005).

However, if it is a reference to a newspaper where no author is given, the name of the paper can be used:

The Daily Record (1999:3) conducted a survey into peoples' attitudes towards environmental issues...

For corporate authors or organisations where no individual's name is indicated, use the organisation name instead, for example:

One study (People and Planet, 2004) found that…

If the exact year of publication is not known, but there is some indication of roughly when the text was written, 'ca' ('circa') should be used, for example:

In his recent survey, Shearer (ca 2005) claimed...

If there is no indication of date (but you think the text is still valid and useful nonetheless), say so, for example:

In his survey, Jones (no date supplied) found that…

For a secondary source (ie if you refer to a source quoted in another work), ideally you should aim to trace the original source. If you are unable to check it, you need to cite both in the text, for example:

A study by French (1984, cited in Saunders, 1995:24) showed that...

(Note that you need to list the work you have used, i.e. Saunders, in the list of references section at the end of the essay and in the bibliography)

If a number of different authors are essentially saying the same thing or agree on a particular issue, you can include all the different authors in one reference for example:

Many studies suggest (Smith and Stafford, 2006; Hassan, 2005; George, 1999; Bertelli, 1997) that...

Referring to an author in an edited book, name first the author you are referring to, and then the editor:

Shail (1999, in Sourge and Furze, 2000) suggests that...

Diagrams, photos, charts, maps and other illustrations should be cited like quotations with the author and date given alongside the illustration and full details included in the list of references.

If you're not sure whether to cite something, err on the side of caution and cite it.

The number of citations an essay should have varies depending on the nature of the work. However, you should be averaging at least 2-3 citations per A4 page of text. Note that it is perfectly acceptable for every paragraph to carry one or more references. Indeed, some sentences may even have more than one reference.

However, remember that the objective is not to simply regurgitate what others have said, but to compare, comment on and critique relevant material and theories  (see Study Guide 8, 'Critical Thinking' on our portal pages:  There's also information on how to book a tutorial with a Learning Development advisor).  The reason you use others' material is to explore and develop ideas, so you should not think of references as a crutch for your existing (perhaps only partially informed) beliefs.  Therefore, when integrating others' material into your text it is important to analyse it, show how it is relevant, discuss its significance and evaluate the theory in question as opposed to simply pasting it in to bulk out the assignment or serve simply as a second opinion.  With this in mind, aim to find the 'right' balance between using others' work to illuminate your enquiry and illustrate your claims, without leaning on it so heavily that your assignment has little or no input of your own.

2. Reference list or bibliography (Harvard system)

The difference:

You need to cite your sources both in your text, at the point at which a document is referred to in the text of your work and secondly, in more detail, in a list at the end of the work. The list of information sources cited at the end of the essay can be called either a 'reference list' or a 'bibliography' depending on the academic discipline concerned. In some cases the two terms are interchangeable, but some disciplines maintain a distinction between the two: a reference list is a list of the actual references cited in the text of your written work, whilst a bibliography is a wider list including all information sources related to the topic that you have consulted, even the ones not cited in your text.

It is acceptable on some courses to use both a reference list and a bibliography, provided that they are clear, consistent and structured correctly (consult your programme handbook and/or module leader). However, do not provide a bibliography without a list of references - you must include the list of references. You may lose marks if you omit the references but you will probably not be penalised if you do not include a bibliography.

How to make a reference list at the end of your assignment:

Format: Different types of sources (i.e. books, articles etc.) require slight variations in the format and order that details are presented in the reference list in order to differentiate one type from another. The basic principle of starting with the author's surname, initial(s), year and title is fairly consistent throughout, but take note of formatting variations and other publishing information (etc.) required. Although italics were conventionally used for book titles and other titles, some journals and departments have exchanged these for bold text in line with SENDA guidelines that identify difficulties for some individuals in reading bold (e.g. The Faculty of Health and Social Work's Assess guidelines). Whichever type of formatting you use, be consistent i.e. use the same system throughout your entire list.

Capital letters: conventions vary. Some people prefer to capitalise all major words; some recommend doing exactly as the source text does (though this can make your reference list appear inconsistent). We recommend you follow the simplest principle of using sentence case for article titles, but don't forget that titles which are also names will need capitalisation for all major words, e.g.

People, penguins and plastic trees: basic issues in environmental ethics, Journal for the Environment

Punctuation: pay careful attention to when to use commas, full stops, semicolons, inverted commas and round or square brackets, as these have different meanings, as you'll see in all the examples in this guide. The most important thing (again) is that you are consistent - show that you are taking care.

Alphabetical order: Regardless of the type of source your information comes from, your list of references should be in alphabetical order according to the author's surname ('Anon' would appear with the 'A's). Have a look at the bottom of this document to see what a reference list actually looks like.

How to put books in the reference list at the end of your assignment

If you are referring to a book, you should give the following information:

Surname, Initials. (year of publication) Title. Edition (if not the first). Place of publication: Name of publisher.

You should distinguish the title of the book by using italic text, for example:

Soper, K. (1995) What is nature? Culture, politics and the non-human (2nd edn.). Oxford: Blackwell

If there are more than two authors you can either give the name of the first author followed by et al. (Latin for 'and all'; Latin text usually appears in italics) or print each name, for example:

Grafton, Q. et al. (2004) The economics of the environment and natural resources. Oxford: Blackwell.


Grafton, Q., Adamowicz, W., Dupont, D., Nelson, H., Hill, R. J. and Renzetti, S. (2004) The economics of the environment and natural resources. Oxford: Blackwell.

If the book is an edited publication, use 'ed.' (or 'eds.' if there are more than one) to distinguish the editor (who you will put in place of the main author) from contributing authors, for example:

Gray, T. (ed.) (2000) Developing interpersonal skills: a complete beginner's guide. Looe: Looe Publishing Company.

N.B. publisher's details should be given in the shortest form in which it can be understood and identified internationally - here it would probably be acceptable to say 'Looe Publishing Co.'.

If your material has come from a specific chapter, reference that chapter as part of the book (note that the title of the chapter should be in inverted commas, and the book title should be in italics), rather than just referencing the whole book if you haven't used the rest, as follows:

Newstead, S. E. and Hoskins, S. (1999) 'Encouraging Student Motivation', pp. 70-82, in Fry, H., Ketteridge, S. and Marshall, S. (eds.) A handbook for teaching and learning in higher education. London: Kogan Page

If you are using the first edition of a book you do not need to note that it is the first edition. However, you must always note subsequent editions of a book - for example, second or third editions - because different editions can often mean that the content and page numbers have changed from the previous edition for example:

Shepherd, K. (1987) Research ethics (3rd edn.). Birmingham: The Book Company

Impressions and reprints signify the reprinting of a book because the previous print run has sold out. They should not be confused with new editions as the content is the same and page numbers have not changed. Therefore, there is no need to note impressions or reprints in your reference list, and the date you record should be the latest publication date, not the later reprint date.

If you have used two pieces of writing from the same author, written in the same year, you should add a letter after the year to distinguish them in your main text, and use the same letters correspondingly in your reference list. Call the first one you refer to 'a' and continue the lettering from there, for example:

Jones, G. J. (2005a) Rogue states and rogue statesmen, Oxford: Blackwell

Jones, G. J. (2005b) Left to right: correcting the balance, Oxford: Blackwell

Postgraduate theses and dissertations are handled very much like books.

How to put journal (periodical) articles in the reference list at the end of your assignment:

Surname, Initials. (year) 'Title of article', Name of Journal (with capitals as they appear in the journal), volume number (part number), pages.

NB. The journal title/name should be in italics, not the article title, in the same way as books and chapter titles, that is, the main title is italicised, and the lesser title appears in inverted commas. Also note that if there is no volume number or part number, the exact full date should be used, e.g. 03.05.2006.

Zandonella, C. (2001) 'Is it all just a pipe dream?' Nature, 410 (6830), pp. 734-738.

How to put articles in electronic journals in the reference list at the end of your assignment:

Some journals are solely available via the web; most are web versions of existing hard-copy journals. Use the following format:

Author, INITIALS. (year) 'Title of article', Title of Journal, volume number (issue number) Name of Collection [Online]. Available at: URL of collection (Accessed: date).

Grant, P. and Gandhi, P. (2004) 'A case of cannabis-induced pancreatitis', Journal of the Pancreas [online], 5 (1), 41-43. Available: [date accessed: 8 June 2004]

Digital Object Identifiers: this is a new numerical system for classifying and tracing electronic sources which is being used increasingly, especially in the sciences. Some articles will highlight this alongside other referencing details. It can be incorporated in place of the URL:

Author, INITIALS. (year) 'Title of article', Title of Journal, volume number (issue number) Name of Collection [Online]. Available at: Digital Object Identifier (Accessed: date).

Horsh, E. P., van Altena, W. F., Cyr, W. M., Kinsman-Smith, L., Srivastava, A. and Zhou, J. (2008) 'Charge-coupled device speckle observations of binary stars with the WIYN telescope. V. Measures during 2001-2006', Astronomical Journal, 136, pp. 312-322. [Online] DOI: 10.1088/0004-6256/136/1/312 (accessed: 7 July 2008).

How to put downloaded articles in the reference list at the end of your assignment:

Many organisations allow you to download key documents such as reports and policies. In most cases these documents will come with information on author, date, title and publisher, and often include page numbers, and should therefore be referenced as a normal hard-copy document, along with the URL and the date accessed.

How to put web pages in the reference list at the end of your assignment:

For web pages you should aim to include (where available) the:

Author of the information (a person, group or organisation), if there is one

year (most web pages have a date at the bottom of the page)


URL (i.e. whole web address including numbers, slashes etc.)

the date you accessed the web page.

It is important to include the access date as web information is prone to constant change and sometimes disappears altogether. For example, the reference for a web page would appear in your reference list as follows, for example:

Hayes, M. J. (2001) Intellectual property rights. Available at: (Accessed: 8 June 2004).

Some web pages include two dates, one for when the web page was established and another for when it was 'last modified' - always use the most recent date for your reference. If no date is provided write 'no date supplied' in parentheses, if you deem the source useful despite this missing information. If no author information is listed on the web page, you would simply write the reference as follows, using the corporate (company or organisation) author who produced the page, for example:

English Nature (2004) Botany: plants and threats. Available at: (Accessed: 8 June 2004).

How to put conference papers in the list at the end of your assignment:

Contributing author's surname, INITIALS. (year) 'Title of Contribution', Title of conference. Location and date of conference. Place of publication: Publisher, page numbers of contribution.

For example:

Cook, D. (2000) 'Developing franchised business in Scotland', Small firms: adding the spark: the 23rd national small firms policy and research conference. Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen 15-17 November. Leeds: Institute for Small Business Affairs, pp. 127-136.

How to put newspapers in the reference list at the end of your assignment

Since newspapers are published regularly you need to give the exact date of publication. Many newspaper articles do not have an author. When no author is named, cite a newspaper article in the following manner, for example (NB. the newspaper name is the MAIN TITLE, therefore in italics):

The Times (2004) 'Getting Physical: Exercises for a Leaner and Fitter Government'. The Times. 30 April, p. 25.

If there is an author, then simply follow the normal procedure, that is, for example:

Sample, A. (2004) 'Civilisation safe as nanobot threat fades'. The Guardian, 9 June, p. 5.

If the information is from a particular part of a newspaper, you can note this by stating the name of that section after the date in the following way (in this case 'G2'):

Richards, S. (2004) 'Our place in Kampala'. The Guardian, G2, 9 June, p.12.

How to put television programmes and films in the reference list at the end of your assignment:

Television programmes: 'Title of episode' (year of transmission) Title in italics, Series number, episode number. Name of channel, date of transmission

'Indian ocean - coastal' (2008) Oceans, Series 1, episode 6. BBC2 Television, 4 December.

Film title in italics (year of distribution) Directed by + director's name [Film]. Place of distribution/production company: production company's name. If you are referring to a DVD or videocassette, put this in square brackets in place of 'Film'.

Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) Directed by Michael Moore [Film]. Santa Monica, California: Lions Gate Films.


Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) Directed by Michael Moore [DVD]. Santa Monica, California: Lions Gate Films.

How to put interviews in the reference list at the end of your assignment:

If your essay or research includes interviews with people who are experts in their field, you must enter them in your list of references. Give their title, name and initial, their field of expertise, the name of their company, institution, etc., for example:

Surname of interviewee, Initials. (year) Private interview OR Title of interview. [Interview by interviewer's Initials and Surname, day, month].

Pr. A. Sky (2003) Private interview. [Interview by Bewick, N., 22 February]

If possible, attach a transcript of the interview to your assignment, provided that it is reasonably short.

What to put in the reference list at the end of your assignment if there's no obvious author:

Many government reports and publications produced by organisations (for example the United Nations, the NHS, the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and so on) have no identifiable author. In this situation, reference the publisher in place of the author, (the details of which are usually found on the inside cover) which is usually the agency, department, or organisation producing the document. Sometimes, government publications include a preferred way to be referenced, also located on the inside cover. However, the usual case is that few reference details are given. For example, an OECD publication with no author would be referenced in the following way:

Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (1998) Economic indicators, Paris: Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development.

Government departments produce many publications that are often published by one publishing agency. In this case, always reference the department as the author, unless the document itself requests a particular format that differs from the one below:

Department of Industrial Relations (1995) Best practice is action, Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.

If a reference is missing essential bibliographical material, it is acceptable to inform the reader of this. Publisher and date details are not always provided in reports, so you might put, for example, [publisher unavailable]. However, bear in mind that sometimes this lack of information can undermine the credibility of a document or text, either actually or in your reader's mind, so double check that it is a reliable source.