Skip to Main Content

I'm new to referencing

What is referencing?

When you write an assignment or create any piece of academic work, you will be drawing upon the information you have read in books, journal articles and other sources. You will be expected to acknowledge these sources through referencing. Accurate referencing is important because:

  • it provides evidence for your arguments.
  • it demonstrates that you have researched or read around the subject which you are writing about.
  • it allows any reader of your work to find the sources you used.
  • it shows that you are not passing off someone else's work as your own thoughts.

You should reference whenever you use someone else's work in your own work; not only when you quote but also when you paraphrase or summarise someone's ideas.


Never copy and paste information into your work without referencing it. This is called plagiarism.

Watch this short video to find out more about plagiarism and how to avoid it.

You should reference any kind of source of information that you use; books, journal articles, information on the internet, lecture notes, images, TV broadcasts, etc.

Whenever you use work by someone else, you must acknowledge it in two places:

  • by citation in the main body of your text. Citations should enable a reader of your work to find the full details of your sources in your reference list.
  • by reference in a list at the end of your work. References should enable a reader of your work to find your sources.

You are strongly advised to keep detailed records of all the sources you use. APA 7th ed. is the most common referencing style used at Sheffield Hallam University. However, not all students at SHU are expected to use APA for referencing. Please follow the guidance you are given by your tutors.

Using citations in your work

Citing is referring to someone else’s work or ideas in the text of your work.   It is often called in-text citing.  When using the APA style, each citation should include the author’s family name and the year of the work. The citation may appear wholly or partly in brackets. 

Parenthetical citation: (Author, Date)

For example:

While some have argued that cosmopolitan is a rich and global form of identity (Appiah, 2006), others have argued that it is a ‘noble but flawed ideal’ (Nussbaum, 2019)


This format is used to indicate the source of the idea or information you are using (when the idea is important).  The citation should be placed immediately after the idea or information that you have used.  It is often more than one idea or source in a sentence, each citation should be placed after the idea or information you have used.  

Narrative citation: Author (Date) 

For example:

According to Jones (2007)

However, a more recent study by Mockler and Stacey (2020) showed that…


This format is used to emphasise the author, and not just their ideas.  It is often used when comparing studies or information from different sources.  Usually, the author’s name is near the beginning of a sentence.

The parts of a reference - who, when, what, where

You may find it helpful to think of a reference to a source as being made of four parts.

Thinking about this might help you when you are creating and checking your references.  For example, have you included all these parts in the reference?

  • Who - the author or creator

  • When - usually the year of publication, but can be a more detailed date

  • What - the title

  • Where - information to help you find it. For example: the journal details, the publisher and place of publication (for books), the DOI or web address, etc.

For more information see these articles from the APA:

Paraphrasing, summarising and quoting

Paraphrasing and summarising

Paraphrasing and summarising someone’s work is putting their ideas into your own words.  This is an important skill as it allows you to show your understanding of what you have read.  

Paraphrasing is when you are referring to specific points and details of someone’s work. If your paraphrase is drawn from a specific part of a piece of work, include page numbers in your citations.  Summarising is expressing briefly or concisely the main points from a source in your own words.  

Whenever you paraphrase or summarise someone’s work include a citation in the body of your work and include the source in your reference list. 


Quoting is repeating exactly a sentence, passage, statement, etc. from a book, article or another source. Quotations can highlight something you consider important about the sources you have read or add interest to your writing.  Use quotations sparingly as quotations do not always demonstrate that you have understood what you have read.   When required, page numbers are usually added after the date in citations.  

Example citation with page number and corresponding reference. 

"Things have started to get jangled up at home" (De Waal, 2017, p. 21). 

De Waal, K. (2017). My name is Leon. Penguin Books.

How is referencing assessed?

Read the university's advice on assessing referencing for students and staff.