Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Need to know how to reference (or cite) information in your assignments?

Are you starting your assignments? Do you need to learn how to reference? Well here’s a quick guide to the Harvard Referencing System!

As students you will spend most of your time listening to information, theories and ideas that experts in your subject area have come up. You will be asked to write assignments and projects that include these ideas. Students are expected to use other authors’ ideas in their projects and assignments; but, when you do use another author’s idea you must reference (or cite) it.

We reference information in order to give credit to the author who came up with the idea. We do it to allow our readers to follow up on our sources of information. We do it because our assignment or project is an academic work and we must be able to backup what we say.

So, what kind of information do we need to reference?
  • Quotations: when we take the words of another writer, place them in inverted commas and copy them exactly into our own assignment – we must reference this
  • Paraphrasing: when we take the idea of another writer, write it in our own words and include it in our assignment – we must reference this
  • Graphs & diagrams: when we take a graph, an image or a diagram, from a print or online source, and include it in our assignment – we must reference this

How does referencing work?
The Harvard Referencing System is a two-step system.

Step 1: short citation
Where: within the text of the assignment or project
When: when you are writing your assignment, include a citation immediately after any reference to information you read in a book, a journal, a website or any published work
How: (author surname year of publication)

Example: there are two citations in this example – the information in the first sentence came from an online journal by Hughes and the information in the second sentence came from a book by Berkerian.

Psychological issues in the court room
by Jane Smith

Psychological issues arise at the pre-trial, trial and post-trial phases of the judicial process (Hughes 1998). It is vital that staff members are properly informed of the rights of the defendant throughout the process. Recent studies indicate that false confessions are “more prevalent among prior offenders” (Bekerian 2005).

Step 2: reference list
Where: at the end of the assignment or project
How: references look different depending on the source of the information; so a reference for information taken from a book looks different to a reference for information from a website or a DVD or a newspaper etc; this is because the reference acts as a map back to the source

Example: there are five references in this example – they are listed alphabetically by author surname; this makes it easy to locate the Hughesreference or the Berkerian reference

Anderson, G. (1981) Criminal minds. New York: Harvard University Press.

Bekerian, D.A. and Levey, A.B. (2005) Applied psychology: putting theory into practice. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Carroll, S. (2001) The criminal justice system in Ireland. 4th ed. Dublin, Ireland: HarperCollins.

Hughes, T. (1998) Hearing the voice of the prisoner. Journal of juvenile offenders in the UK [online], 12 December 1998, 41 (2), available from: <> [accessed 24 February 2006].

O’Malley, M. (2006) An introduction to development education. Irish journal of secondary education. 91 (3), pp. 41-46.

In order to write a reference (step 2), you will need:
  • The source of information, i.e. the book, journal, website etc.
  • The templates (in this leaflet– also available in print opposite the library desk)

For instance, if I am writing a reference for this book – I find the template for a “book”, on my leaflet, and follow it exactly:

The template looks like this:
Author surname, First initial. (Year of publication) Title: subtitle. Place of publication: Publisher.

My reference looks like this:
Elliott, G. (2004) Global business information technology: an integrated systems approach. Harlow, England: Addison-Wesley.

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