How to reference

The most commonly used system for referencing is the Harvard referencing system. The key features of this system are:

  • All books, articles and other types of source that have been used are listed in a reference list at the end of the dissertation and are listed in alphabetical order.
  • Within the text key ideas that have been taken from the work of others are indicated by including the author or list of authors, together with the date of publication and page number if a direct quotation has been used (page numbers are not included for paraphrased ideas).
  • Direct quotations are either indicated by putting inverted commas to identify the start and end of the quotation; for longer quotations these should start a new line, be indented and put in italics.
  • The author(s) can either be included at the start of a sentence, for example:

Jones (2009) states that…or put at the end of the sentence referring to their work, where the whole reference would be inserted in brackets.

If the author is put at the start of a sentence it is important to select carefully the word or phrase used so that it describe how the contribution of the author(s) fit in with the surrounding text in your writing. Some examples of words or phrases that could be used include: 





agrees with…,

challenges this view… 

A common mistake that is made in an attempt to use a variety of words that demonstrate an academic style of writing is to select a word or phrase without considering how this contributes to the overall meaning.

Your University with have guidelines on exactly how to set out the Harvard referencing and often a useful guide is published by the library to help you with this. It is important to refer to your University’s guidelines as variations exist in the possible layout of Harvard referencing and if you find out how to set out your references and to get this right early in the project this will save you a lot of time later on. Bibliographic software such as endnote exists that can help you organise your references, however you need to think about whether the research project you are involved with (or your future plans for further study) will generate sufficient sources to merit learning to use the software.

When citing the literature there are four categories of citation:

  1. Longer quotations should be blocked, indented and put in italics.
  2. Within sentence quotations that have a lead in such as: Jones (2011) states that / argues / considers etc.
  3. Paraphrased ideas that are summarised points taken from a source and changed into your own words.
  4. Generalisations which draw on several sources e.g. several researchers have found that…….(list of the authors and dates of the sources).


Further reading

Guide to Harvard Referencing (University of Southampton)