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Referencing Tips

By Newcastle University

Referencing is something that is often left to the last minute and is seen as separate from the notetaking and writing process, when it is in fact integral to both. So how do you change that mindset and get on top of referencing from the start? 


Get to know your referencing style 

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Before you even start writing an assignment, you need to know what referencing style your academics have asked you to use. Your module handbook or your school’s assessment guidance should articulate this, but if in doubt, always ask the module leader. You might find that even within the same programme, you may be asked to reference using different styles and this can be particularly true if you are doing interdisciplinary work or studying on a combined honours programme.  

Once you have identified the reference style you need to use, your next step is to get to grips with the conventions. Each referencing style will differ slightly, and you will need to familiarise yourself with the components needed for both an in-text citation (identifying the work of others in your text) and the reference list (list of everything you have cited during your assignment). The conventions for the most common styles are clearly laid out on the Library’s referencing guide. Why not print or save the relevant referencing style sheet to refer to when needed? 


Make a plan from the outset 


Once you are familiar with your referencing style, you need to decide how you are going to organise your notes and references for your research. It is vital to make a plan at this stage so you can reference as you go and avoid any accidental plagiarism. This can sometimes happen as the result of poor notetaking.  

This plan may be as simple as committing to each of your handwritten or typed notes having the full reference and page number at the top, with clear indication as to what is a direct quote or paraphrase in your own words. You may also decide to record where you have found that piece of information from e.g., Library Search, the website or database, in case you need to re-find it in the future.  

Or it could be that you decide to use one of the many referencing tools out there to help organise yourself. These tools include: 

1. Cite Them Right 

An especially useful online tool that lists all the information you need to include in a reference and provides examples of how a reference will look as an in-text citation and in a reference list.  

2. Citation Buttons 

Keep an eye out for this symbol in Library SearchGoogle Scholar and your subject databases. Clicking the button will provide the option for you to copy a styled reference and paste it directly into your reference list. You might need to tidy it up a little bitbut it will save you time over writing them manually. 

3. Folders or pin options 
Most databases will have the option for you to save references and searches so you can revisit them when neededYou will often be able to place them in sub-folders, add labels or groups so you can clearly organise references by assignment or themYou will normally have to register for a free account on these databases to do this, but it is easy to do and another terrific way to keep on top of references. 
4. Reference Building Tools: e.g.ZoteroBib 

Reference building tools help you to create a bibliography using the correct referencing style. You can input information manually or use import functions to pull information through from other webpages or documents.  As with the citation button, reference building tools can save you time, but you may still need to check the references are accurate. 

5. Reference Management Software: e.g. EndNote 

If you are drafting a detailed essay, dissertation, or thesis, you may like to use a reference management tool such as EndNote, Mendeley or Zotero to help keep your references organised. This software allows you to manually add references or import them from Library Search, Google Scholar or Subject Databases; sort references into groups; attach pdf documents or add notes. You can then use the reference management software while you write to add in-text citations and format your reference list. 

The University has a subscription for EndNote which is available in all University clusters and can be downloaded to your own personal device. You will find information about how to get started with EndNote on our EndNote Guide or the Teach Yourself EndNote canvas course. 


Brush up on your referencing knowledge 

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And finally, before you get started with your assignment, you may also feel that you need to brush up on your overall referencing knowledge. If this is the case, cite them right online has a brilliant referencing tutorial, which allows you to tailor it to your own referencing style. Simply select the referencing tutorial on the homepage, register for free with your university email address and take the time to complete the tutorial at your own pace. 

Alternatively, you can self-enrol on the University’s interactive Teach yourself referencing canvas course and work through what referencing is, why it is important and how to do it.