Beginning to reference

What is referencing?

What is Referencing?

When completing an assessment in Higher Education, your own thoughts and ideas should be built upon those of other writers and researchers. It’s essential that you engage with and identify this previous work and that you acknowledge those sources of information by:

  1. Acknowledging the source within the text by citing the author’s surname and date of publication in parentheses (brackets), e.g. (Hall, 2011)
  2. Giving full details of each item in an alphabetical reference list at the end of your assignment

But, why is it important?

The main reasons for referencing are:

  • To demonstrate to the reader and your assessor that you have engaged with a wide range of sources and perspectives
  • To allow the reader and your assessor to find and check the sources you have used
  • To enable the reader to check the accuracy of the information you have given
  • To demonstrate that you have conducted your work with academic integrity and given credit for ideas or thoughts to the original author 
  • For your grades – referencing shows that you have read. For academic work to be considered excellent, it needs to adhere to appropriate referencing conventions throughout. 


When do I need to reference?

Quotations from primary or secondary sources

Quoting a primary source is when you wish to use the exact wording used by someone in their own authored work. A secondary source is when an author refers to the work of someone else in their own work, and you don’t have access to the original. It is perfectly acceptable to use secondary sources in APA and in your academic work, but you must make every attempt to find the original in order to see the quote in it’s original context. Secondary sources should be reserved for when you can’t find the original. 

Making use of a statistic

This includes using an exact statistic, even if it just a number, and also summarising or breaking down components of a statistic. 

Paraphrasing or referring to the ideas of a named or identifiable author or organisation

Paraphrasing means putting the ideas of someone else into your own words so that the original essence is still captured, but the wording is amended to suit the context of your usage. Paraphrasing should form the majority of your academic writing, as this a good way of demonstrating critical writing and integration of evidence into your own written work. 

What if something is common knowledge?

For most modules you will not be required to give references for facts that are generally well known (common knowledge). Where facts are contested, and you are taking sides in an argument, you must then indicate the source of your own ideas, and if appropriate acknowledge the opposing camp(s) with references as well. 

See more: Shared Language

In-text citations

In-text citations are references that you include in the main body of your assignment to denote when an idea or argument is not your own, but the intellectual property of someone else. They can be direct quotes, paraphrases, summaries, and can be formatted as part of the running text/narrative, or in parenthesis. Put simply, “whenever you refer to someone else’s work for your ideas or arguments, acknowledge this in your work at that point” (Cottrell, 2019, p.250).

Direct Quotations

In-text direct quotes (40 words or less)

A direct quotation is where you copy a quotation word-for-word, or ‘verbatim’. Where a direct quote is 40 words or less, it can be integrated with the rest of the sentence and denoted by quotation marks.


According to Lightyear (2005, p. 145) “the main reason the accident occurred was due to Andy’s negligent treatment of his toys”.

In-text direct quotes (more than 40 words)

Where a direct quote is more than 40 words in length, it needs to be separated from the rest of the text and indented by 1/2 inch or 1.27cm from the left margin. No quotation marks are required.


According to Lightyear (2005):

The main reason the accident occurred was due to Andy’s negligent treatment of his toys. A certain amount of responsibility can be attributed to Woody’s jealousy and misunderstanding of the situation However, this could be viewed as out of character, as Andy’s treatment of Woody was haphazard and inferior, and could be the indirect cause of the accident. (p. 145)

However, witnesses of the accident were less inclined to believe this explanation and reported the event with emotion and …


Indirect quotes or paraphrases
Indirect quotes, also known as paraphrases, are extracts, ideas or quotes belonging to another person that you reformulate into your own words, that captures the quotation’s original meaning and essence. In academic writing, paraphrasing is an important skill as concepts often need to be referred to, but the original wording might not be adequate for our purposes. We paraphrase to change the words to suit your own writing style. When paraphrasing, it is still necessary to include an in-text citation to show your reader that the thoughts and ideas you are explaining do not belong to you.


Original quote: “The main reason the accident occurred was due to Andy’s negligent treatment of his toys” (Lightyear, 2005, p.145).

Paraphrase: Lightyear (2005) suggests that primarily, the incident took place due to Andy’s poor care for his toys, although, it could be argued that this was a matter of perspective.


Running text citations vs parenthetical citations 

There are two ways to format your in-text citations in APA:

  • In parenthesis (parenthetical citation)
  • As part of the running text (narrative citation)

Each format has specific conventions.

Parenthetical citation

If a citation is in parenthesis, it means that it is ‘in addition’ to the text. Put simply, the citation will appear after the text it is referring to in, and in round brackets.


Two eyewitness accounts have stated that the event was premeditated and malicious in nature (Hamm, 1994; Head, 1996). Yet, another account has paid more attention to how the event predicated by feelings of inferiority amongst Andy’s toys, not just Woody (Rex et al., 2000).

Running-text/Narrative citation

If you refer specifically to the work of an author by name, then you can include the citation as part of your prose. This is referred to as a running-text citation, or a narrative citation. This can be effective, because the flow of your prose is not broken up through the use of round brackets.


Rex et al. (2000) acknowledge that they had each spent a fleeting period of time as Andy’s favourite toy, only to be replaced by the new toy, and that they could understand Woody’s position, having spent an extraordinary amount of time as Andy’s favourite. Yet, Hamm (1994, p. 7) makes no such allowances, and labels Woody’s actions as malicious and vindictive.

Multiple authors & abbreviations

APA has specific conventions to use when citing a source with more than one author or if using an acronym for a corporation i.e. National Health Service (NHS). Consult the table below for specific guidance. This table can also be found in the Official Marjon Guide to APA document.

Reference lists

Components of a reference list

A reference list should be included in every assignment you submit, directly after the conclusion and word count. A reference list is included so that your reader can track any sources you’ve used, so each entry will contain four pieces of information:

  • Author details – these will be named individuals or the name of the company/government department responsible for the work
  • Date – typically, this will be the date of publication, but this isn’t always available for online sources, so might be the date the material was last updated or revised
  • Title of the work – article or book titles, chapter titles, the name of web page or reports, including subtitles and any information on specific editions or report numbers
  • Source information – publication details such as publisher, volume information, web addresses or any other information that allows your reader to identify the source in a huge amount of information 

General rules

  • Each source type has specific requirements for the reference list entry, for example, a journal article will need the title of the article and the publication the article appears in. This is demonstrated below.
  • APA is very prescriptive with punctuation so make sure you know when to insert a full stop or brackets.
  • The list needs to be formatted in alphabetical order, with a hanging indent. This can be done with a few clicks of a button; click on the above links to find out how to do this in Microsoft Word. 

Where can I find information about producing an accurate reference list?

The Marjon APA Referencing Guidance (7th edition) will advise how to produce a reference list for the main types of information sources. Skip to page 13 for details about producing a reference list.

The Official APA Style Guide will also provide information about referencing particular types of information sources.