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Referencing and Plagiarism: Citing sources in your work


Citing is introducing source material, such as from a journal or book, in your written assignment, especially as an example or proof of what you are saying.

Some key terms

Sentence case: Using a capital letter only for the first word and any proper nouns

Proper nouns: (In English) the names of people, places and organisations Note: Some people and organisations use lower case (small) letters to describe themselves – you should therefore pay attention to how they write their own names and follow this (For example: bell hooks)

Do I use et al. or list all the authors?

Cite Them Right asks you to check to see if your institution requires citation and referencing of all named authors.

QMU requirements:

In-text citations

Cite Them Right states to list all authors in a citation, where a text has two or three authors. However, it is okay to use et al. in citations for three authors if you want to. (You should use et al. for citing any more than three authors in either case.)

For example: This was proved by Young et al. (2015, pp. 21–23) ...

Reference lists

Please provide the full list of authors in the reference list.

For example: Young, H.D., Freedman, R.A. and Ford, A.L. (2015) Sears and Zemansky's university physics. San Francisco, CA: Addison-Wesley.

See the instructions provided in the Cite Them Right guide on how to set out citations and references for further guidance, including: 

What different ways are there to insert a citation?

There are several different ways to refer to an author’s work in your writing, which all require you to add a citation in your text:

Summarising When researching for an assignment, you read and take notes. These are the important points from the sources you are reading. From these notes you bring together the information to include in your essay. A summary helps you combine information from different sources.
Paraphrasing When researching for an assignment, you may find a key idea you want to present. This is a specific idea from a source text, written in your own words. When paraphrasing you are working more closely from the original text rather than from notes. For most types of written work, it is advisable to paraphrase material much more frequently than to quote it. It allows you to demonstrate you understand the material and maintain a consistent style.
Referring to a source Where you mention the source you are drawing ideas from but do not give much information about the content.

When you use the exact words from the original source, enclosed in quotation marks: “  ”

This should be used infrequently in academic writing and only when paraphrase is not possible (because of a sentence containing technical terms/proper nouns), or (in relevant disciplines) for direct quotation from a novel, play etc. 

Using statistics or data Requires you to cite a source, because you need to identify where you have drawn information from so people know it isn’t data you’ve collected yourself, and can see where you got it from.

Where should I position citations?

Every time you refer to another source, regardless of whether you’re paraphrasing, summarising, quoting directly or otherwise, you need to insert the author’s family name and the year of publication.

You should do this as soon as you refer to an idea or argument belonging to someone else.

Citation examples

There is a lack of skilled birth attendants in Rajasthan. (World Health Organisation 2018)

Green (2017), Jones (2018) and Taylor (2019) challenge this view…

While Harbo (2015) has said this is the most important factor, Jones (2018) argues that other issues should be considered…

It is your choice to include the name of the author in your sentence, but your writing will flow better if you use a variety of ways of citing sources. There are two ways of inserting citations: author-prominent citation and information-prominent citation.


Emphasises who gives the information. Your use of reporting verbs show your interpretation of that information. 

Example: Rapchak (2015) identifies a number of reasons that could make the collaboration extremely challenging. 


Emphasises the information, and is often used to group sources which present the same idea.

Example: Reflective practice is considered an essential element within the caring professions (Palmer, 2014; Brown, 2016; Davidson and Marsh, 2019).

What information do I provide in a citation?


The family name, but not the initial, of the author (for example Smith), or the name of the organisation or website (for example World Health Organisation).

If there is no possibility of finding a name for the author of the source, then, as a last resort, use ‘Anon’. This should only be used as a last resort; there is usually information about an author, editor or organisation that you can provide.

Citation example
This image (Anon, 2017) shows how dense the population was in the old part of Edinburgh in the late nineteenth century.


Include the date of publication in round brackets. If there is no date of publication, use (nd) in place of the date in the citation and the reference. Again, this should only be used as a last resort. For websites, however, use the current year instead of nd.

Citation example
Hawkins (2020) considers three different types of relationship between public and organisations.

Page numbers

Include page numbers where appropriate* using p. to indicate information on one page, and pp. to indicate information spread across pages (for example if a quote runs across two pages, or if an argument is made across several pages). When you are writing page numbers of pages less than 100, write all the numbers (for example, pp. 6-10 or pp. 12-25).

When you are writing page numbers of more than 100, you can abbreviate this (for example, pp. 152-57 or pp. 203-29). If the numbers span across sets of 100, write the page numbers out in full (for example, pp. 198-207). There should be a single space between p. and the page numbers.

If there is another useful indication of the location of the information, for example, the duration into a video, you can provide that in the same place.

Citation example
An example of this can be seen towards the end of the documentary (Koizumi, 2019, 54m 10s).

*To decide what is appropriate for the context of your own citation please see the section on 'setting out citations' on Cite Them Right Online

Citing personal communications

You should cite personal communications (emails, direct messages, letters etc.) very rarely and should avoid it if at all possible.

Give the name and job title or role of the person who has communicated with you, and information about the context (personal communication, email, phone conversation) and the date of the communication. You should always ask permission before using information from any kind of personal communication.

Citation example
According to the site manager J. Thomson, prior to the official guidance being published, many people were reportedly observing recommendations of their own accord (phone conversation, 23 April 2020).