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Evidence Based Practice: Referencing

A subject guide to resources on Evidence Based Practice from Queen Margaret University

What is referencing?

Referencing is a way of crediting all the sources of information and ideas that you have used in any piece of work. It comprises of two parts: the citation and the reference:

  • The citation is a note in the text to show that the information you are referring to has come from someone else
  • The reference is a full note of the details of that source of information so that a reader can locate that source

Key principles:

1. The point of citation is to connect arguments you are making with other people’s ideas

2. The point of referencing is to allow people to find the sources you have used

3. Always include citations in the body of your work and a reference list at the end

4. Always make sure the format of your citations and references is consistent

5. Always check the guidance on your assignments for specific information about referencing

Why should I reference?

When you use someone else’s ideas in your work, either by using your own words or making a direct quotation, you must reference the source, in order to:

• Show you are aware of other people’s ideas and are including them

• Acknowledge other people’s ideas

• Support points and arguments you want to make

• Allow the reader to find the original material you have used In your work, you will use ideas and information from other sources to support points and arguments you want to make

In your work, you will use ideas and information from other sources to support points and arguments you want to make.

When should I reference?

• When you summarise or paraphrase ideas and information from someone’s work

• When you quote directly from someone’s work

Failure to do any of the above is considered to be plagiarism.

What is plagiarism?

“...the presentation by an individual of another person’s ideas or work (in any medium, published or unpublished) as though they were his or her own...” (QMU, 2007, p. 42).

Plagiarism is considered to be a major breach of academic regulations. For further information about plagiarism, look at the plagiarism wiki:

QMU Guide: Finding My Voice

Do I include citations in my word count?

Citations are included in your word count because they are in the body of the work. The reference list at the end is not included in the word count.

How do I reference?

As we’ve already mentioned, you reference by citing sources in the body of your work. In Harvard referencing, the citation consists of an author (family name or name of organisation) and year in round brackets, e.g. (Smith, 2019). Insert the citation as soon as you refer to a source in the text. In addition to citing sources in the body of your work, you also need to create a reference list.

A reference list:

• Is alphabetical by author

• Must contain full details of all the sources you have cited in your text

You will always be required to provide a reference list; however, you may sometimes be asked to provide a bibliography as well. Where a reference list only identifies sources referred to in your writing, a bibliography takes the same format as a reference list, but includes all the materials you have consulted to prepare your assignment.

What is Harvard referencing?

Different universities and fields of study use different referencing styles. These are chosen to work best with the kinds of sources most commonly used. The purpose of a referencing style is to make sure that no matter what the source of information, it is clear to a reader what kind of source it is and how they can find it.

When you are reading academic work, you will encounter some features of referencing that you do not use in the Harvard referencing style. These include:

• Footnotes: these are notes that appear at the bottom of the page and relate to a part of the text on the page indicated by a small number, for example:  1

• Latin abbreviations: ibid (meaning “in the same place” to refer to something from the same source as previously mentioned), op. cit. (meaning “the work cited”, to indicate the same work cited previously for this author), sine loco or s.l. (meaning “no place of publication known”), sine nomine or s.n. (meaning “no publisher’s name is used”)

This guide is designed to help you with referencing for your assignments at QMU. If you are producing work for other purposes, you should check to see if you should follow a different referencing style.


It is a good idea to keep a record of the sources you are consulting as you go along. Take a note of all the details you need (including the title, author, date, and page numbers of sources) so that you can accurately reference them, and find them again if you need to.