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Help with referencing: I'm new to referencing

What is referencing?

Watch this video to find out more about referencing.

Practise your referencing skills with SHU's online interactive tutorial

Have a look at our interactive guide and learn about:

  • why we reference
  • what you should reference
  • how you should reference in APA.

Citing sources in your work

Citing sources in your work

Referring to someone else’s work or ideas in the main body of the text of your work is known as 'citing'.  Citations should enable a reader to find the full details of your sources in your reference list.  Cite by giving both the author’s family name and the year of the source in brackets.

Reform of the organisation was necessary (Jeffreys, 2014).


If you have already identified the author, give only the year in brackets.

Gibbs (2009) has argued...


 Include page numbers, if available, for direct quotations or when referring to a particular part of the source. 

Gibbs (2009, p. 2) states that "… "


For two authors, give the family names of both authors linked by & inside brackets or and outside brackets. 

Experiments were carried out... (Jindal & Kapoor, 2015)

Jindal and Kapoor (2015) observed...


If you cannot identify the year, use n.d. to show that there is no date.  Usually you will be able to find the year. 

(Smith, n.d.)


To cite works with more than two authors, where the creator is an organisation or information is missing, see advice and examples in I need to reference something in APA.

Putting together your reference list

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 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 web address, etc.

For more information, have a look at this post from APA about the generic reference (who, when, what and where). The APA 6th edition does not provide examples for every type of information that you may need to cite and reference however you can  try the Frankenreference approach suggested on the APA style blog to reference something not covered by an APA guide.

APA 6th ed. referencing

You can find out more about APA in the leaflet below. Our advice is based on the 6th edition of the APA's Publication Manual.  A new, 7th edition, was published in October 2019 but students should continue to follow advice and use tools based on the 6th edition.

If you still can't find what you're looking for try I need to reference something in APA or book one of our 'Getting Started with APA' referencing webinars in UniHub:

Referencing terms and jargon

Referencing is an acknowledgement of the sources of the information, ideas, thoughts and data which you have used in your work.
Referring to someone else's work or idea's in the main body of your work is known as 'citing'. It is often called in-text citing. This is what an author is doing when they list the author 's family name and the year of the source in your main text, e.g. (Gibbs, 2009) or 'according to Gibbs (2009) ...'

A reference is the details of a source which allows the reader of your work to see where you have gathered your information, and to find it. Different sources will have different elements you need to provide, but this will usually include the who, when what and where of the work.

For example: Rigby, J. (2015) English gothic: Classic horror cinema 1897-2015 (4th ed.). Cambridge: Signam.

A list at the end of your work which  includes details of each source you have quoted or referred to in the body of your text.

Reference lists should be arranged in one alphabetical sequence, by name of author or corporate author. If there is no author listed the source by title. 

A list at the end of your work which  includes details of each source you have used in your research for your work, whether you have quoted or referred to them in the main body of your text, or not.

Bibliographies should be arranged in one alphabetical sequence, by name of author or corporate author. If there is no author listed the source by title. 

Quoting is repeating exactly a sentence, passage, statement, etc. from a book or other source. To indicate someone else's words quotation marks " " are used. For longer quotes (more than two lines) the text is indented. When part of a quote is omitted, the missing text is replaced with '...' 
Summarising or putting someone else's work with your own words.  It does NOT mean copying a piece of writing and just changing a few of the words. When you paraphrase correctly the writing will be in your own style but express the original author's ideas or information. Paraphrased information must be referenced. 

How to avoid plagiarism

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

Assessment guidance

Referencing and acknowledging in your creative work

Referencing and acknowledgement are often used interchangeably and this can cause confusion when using images in your creative work. In this guide we make the distinction between acknowledging the images you use (often part of the terms and conditions of using a copyright cleared image) and referencing and citing your sources, an essential part of academic writing.