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Referencing, Citation and Plagiarism: What are Referencing and Citation?

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What are Referencing and Citation?

Referencing is an essential part of academic writing. Its purpose is to give credit to the original sources of ideas and work you have read or borrowed from that are not your own, and to direct readers of your work to those sources. Referencing your sources is extremely important.

Referencing generally has two main parts:

  • an in-text marker (called a citation) that lets someone reading your work know you have used a particular concept, phrase or idea that is not your own
  • a complete reference list (called a bibliography or works cited page) which lists the full details (author, title, date, etc.) for all sources you have used in your text


The format you are required to use to write the in-text citation and the reference list is determined by the citation style. Always be sure to confirm with your instructor which citation style to use. Links to guides for three of the most common styles used in academic writing are listed near the bottom of this page.

What Needs to be Referenced?

The following information is adapted from: Stern, L. (2007). What every student should know about avoiding plagiarism. New York: Pearson.

Whenever you use (read or borrow from) any works or ideas which are not your own--including information, facts, statistics, opinions, hypotheses, graphics, etc.--you need to identify and give credit to those outside sources.

Outside sources might include:

books, websites, magazines and newspapers, material from electronic databases, radio or television, films, plays, podcasts, Youtube, music, interviews, speeches, letters and correspondence (including emails), government sources, etc.

Your documentation of these sources must be thorough. It needs to be correctly placed within the body of your paper as well as in the list of references at the end, according to the documentation style you are using (e.g. APA,  MLA, Chicago, etc.). Note: Be sure to confirm with your instructor which citation style you are required to use.

Citation Style Guides

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