Module 7 - Managing References


The following are some frequently asked questions regarding citations:

1. Why should you cite?

2. When should you cite?

3. How is a citation done?

4. What are the elements of a citation?

5. Are there different types of citations?

6. Are there different citation styles?

7. What is a secondary reference?

You should cite for the following reasons:

1. Acknowledging ALL your sources is important and ethical

2. Failure to acknowledge your source(s) is considered plagiarism, and could lead to serious consequences, some of which may entail legal sanctions

3. Citing sources enables others to properly analyze your work or to locate cited sources for their own interests and research.

When should you cite?

Whenever you directly copy the words of another author (quoting) or put their ideas into your own words (paraphrasing) you must acknowledge that you have done so.

How is a citation done?

A citation or reference is made by putting together all the details needed to find a piece of information that you have used from a specific source. These details are noted in a prescribed order, using a specific structure and certain elements of punctuation. The nature and format of the source of information used, determine the details that are needed for a proper citation, hence information cited from books, periodicals, electronic media and online sources would differ in each case in terms of structure and core data elements required.

What are the elements of a citation?

Certain elements are common to most types of citations. However, essential differences in the order and format in which these elements are presented will be determined by the citation style used and the research discipline in question. You need to make note of the following information about every source you use. Not every detail will be applicable in every case. Below are lists of some common elements used in citing printed and electronic sources:

Elements used in Citing (Printed)

  • Author(s) or editor(s)'s full names; or the group/body/organization responsible
  • Title of the book, article or chapter
  • Edition (if applicable)
  • Publisher's name (if applicable)
  • Place of publication (for books)
  • Year of publication
  • Volume number (for journals)
  • Issue number (for journals)
  • Page numbers

Elements used in Citing (Electronic)

  • Name of the author or editor
  • Title of the page
  • Title of the site (go to the site's homepage)
  • Date the page was last updated, or the copyright date
  • The full Internet address (URL) of the page (i.e. http:// etc.)
  • The date that you accessed the page
  • Any other relevant information that might help someone else find the part of the page that you used


Are there different types of citations?

There are two broad types of citations used in scholarly work:

1. In text citations link works actually used and quoted to full bibliographic records.

2. Reference citations are citations for works consulted but not quoted in the main body of your work.

In-text or Parenthetical Citations:

There are two widely used methods of linking references in the text to full bibliographical records, the British Standard and the Harvard System. Below there are details of these methods. It is important to note that for a piece of scholarly work, you should choose one of these methods and use it consistently throughout the entire work. These two methods should not be mixed. In some cases, publishers of scholarly journals may require researchers to use a preferred method in the manuscripts they submit for publication.

British Standard

Cited publications are numbered in the order in which they are first referred to in the text. They are identified by that number, which is given either:

1. In round brackets, e.g. In a recent study, Smith (5) argued that . . .

2. In square brackets, e.g. In a recent study, Smith [5] argued that . . .

Harvard System

Cited publications are referred to in the text by giving the author's name and year of publication, in either of the forms shown below:

1. In a recent study Smith (1986) argued that . . . (Year only in parentheses)

2. In a recent study (Smith 1986) it was argued that . . . (Author and year in parentheses)

For publications by two authors, both are given:
In a recent study (Smith and Jones 1986) it was argued that . . .

Anonymous works may be shown by Anon. in place of the author's name:
In a recent study (Anon. 1984) it was argued that . . .

If you wish to refer to individual pages of a particular book or article the page number(s) should be given after the date, separated from it by a comma or colon:
(Smith and Jones 1986, 236) or (Smith and Jones 1986:236)

Your punctuation practice should be consistent.

N.B. The Harvard system is not easy to apply consistently to older works which have no clearly defined publication date, or to manuscripts of uncertain or disputed authorship.

Reference Citations:

Reference citations are usually placed in a Reference List or Bibliography at the end of a piece of scholarly work. For each reference you use it is essential that you record various pieces of information. If you omit any of the following you reduce your chances of locating the reference at a later date. Here is where the basic elements of a citation mentioned earlier come into play, including rules regarding order, format and punctuation.

Below are some general rules regarding elements of the reference list and bibliography as they relate to printed sources, i.e. books and periodicals. Specific rules and examples relating to individual citation styles will be dealt with further on.

Details regarding citing of a book



  • Put the surname first, followed by initial(s) of forename(s)
  • If there are two or three contributing names, include them all in the order they appear on the title page
  • If there are more than three, record the first followed by et al.
  • If the book is edited, signify this by using ed(s). after their name(s)


  • Use the title given on the title page and sub-title (if any)
  • Capitalise the first letter of the first word and any proper nouns
  • Underline title or use italics


  • Only include the edition number if it is not the first


  • You will usually find these two pieces of information on the back of the title page


  • Include series and individual volume number where relevant


  • If quoting a specific section include the pages where that quote falls
  • In order to avoid confusion insert the abbreviation p. before the page number.

Details regarding citing of a Journal Article

  • This information can usually be found at the head of the article, or on the contents page.


  • Same as for books (see above)

Title of Article

  • Use the title given at the beginning of an article

Title of Journal

  • The title given on the journal front should be recorded
  • Do not abbreviate journal title unless the journal title actually is or contains an abbreviation
  • Underline title or use italics

Volume/Issue Number

  • Each issue will have its own number which will help make up the volume
  • Usually a volume number changes every six months or year


  • If possible, it is worth recording the month as well as the year


  • Same as for books (see above)

Are there different citation Styles?

There are several citation styles in existence today. The most appropriate style you should use is largely determined by the subject discipline of your work, but may also be influenced by the choice of an academic institution or publishing house. Many of the styles can be used across subject disciplines. However, due to preferences and widely established conventions some are fairly exclusive. Below is a short list of some of the citation styles available.

American Psychological Association (APA) Style
American Chemical Society (ACS) Style
Turabian Style
Chicago Style
American Medical Association (AMA) Style
Vancouver Style
Modern Language Association (MLA) Style

What is Secondary Referencing?

In some cases you may wish to quote a piece of work that has been referred to in something you have read. This is called "secondary referencing", since you have not read the original piece of work. You are relying on the author you are reading giving a fair reflection of the contents of the original work. Wherever possible it is important to read the original work but this may prove difficult in some instances.

Nevertheless, if you still have to refer to it, your text must make it clear that you have not read the original but are referring to it from a secondary source e.g.:

Research used by Brown (1995) indicates that...White's (1994) arguments were substantiated by further studies which clearly demonstrated that... In your list of references at the end of your work you should only include the reference where you read about the original work. You cannot include details about the original study, as you have not read it.