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Referencing and citing

Acknowledging sources and correctly referencing them is an essential part of academic writing. Writing references is relatively straightforward and easy to learn, but attention must be paid to accuracy and consistency.

When to use references

References are used to acknowledge another person’s words, ideas or research; to indicate your familiarity with other research on the topic; to lend authority to your writing; and to enable the reader to find the original source.

They should be used not only when you have used a direct quotation (reproduced the exact words of the source text), but also when you have summarised ideas from sources. It is important that the reader is able to distinguish clearly between ideas which you have obtained from other sources and your own comments.

Styles of referencing

The University of Manchester does not have a standard referencing system to be used in a Masters or PhD thesis. It is suggested that you ask your supervisor which system is preferred within your subject area.

There are three main referencing systems: the Harvard (author, date) system, the footnote system, and the Vancouver (author, number) system. There are many other ‘systems’, but these are generally adaptations of these. This unit will briefly introduce the three systems and provide references where you can find more detailed information.

It is important that you check with your Programme Director to see which system they want you to use, as many Schools have a preferred, indeed mandatory, style. It is also important that when you intend to submit a paper for publication in a journal you are aware of the system used, as journals usually also have a preferred style and produce ‘Style Sheets/Guides’ which contributors must follow. If you use ‘EndNote’ (a database for storing and retrieving bibliographic references), you can automatically format your reference list for many journals (there are currently over 700 different styles).