Writing References Introduction

Academic Writing

Writing a list of references

At the end of all pieces of academic writing, you need a list of materials that you have used or referred to. This usually has a heading: references but may be bibliography or works cited depending on the conventions of the system you use.

The object of your writing is for you to say something for yourself using the ideas of the subject, for you to present ideas you have learned in your own way. The emphasis should be on working with other people’s ideas, rather than reproducing their words. The ideas and people that you refer to need to be made explicit by a system of referencing. This consists of a list of materials that you have used at the end of the piece of writing and references to this list at various points throughout the text – citation. The purpose of this is to supply the information needed to allow a user to find a source.

Therefore, at the end of your work you need a list of the materials you have used – a bibliography or a reference list.

There are many ways of writing a list of references – check with your department for specific information.

  • The most common system is called the Harvard system. There is no definitive version of the Harvard system and most universities and publishers have their own. But the one used here – the American Psychological Association (7th edition) style – is well known and often used (American Psychological Association, 1983, 1994, 1999, 2001, 2010, 2019). See APA Style for more information. See here for APA 6.
  • One variation is the MLA style. It is well known and often used in humanities. Click here or see Gibaldi (2003) and Modern Languages Association (1998, 2009, 2016) for this way.
  • Many scientists use a numerical system, often called the Vancouver style or BS 1629. Click here, see International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (1991), US National Library of Medicine or Citing Medicine: The NLM Style Guide for Authors, Editors, and Publishers (2nd edition)  for more information.
  • Another common system is that defined in the Chicago Manual of Style. In fact the Chicago Manual of Style presents two basic systems: (1) a numerical system and (2) an author-date system. Choosing between the two depends on your subject and institution. See here or University of Chicago Press (2010) or Chicago Manual of Style.

A good – although idiosyncratic –  overview can be found in Pears & Shields (2013).

References consist of 4 main elements:

  • Who – who produced the work? – a person, persons, or institution etc.
  • When  – when was it published? – year, or/and date etc.
  • What – what is the work called?
  • Where – where can the work be found? – by a publisher, in a journal, on a website etc

1. Example


Abercrombie, D. (1968). Paralanguage. British Journal of Disorders of Communication, 3, 55-59.

Barr, P., Clegg, J. & Wallace, C. (1981). Advanced reading skills. Longman.

British Council Teaching Information Centre. (1978). Pre-sessional courses for overseas students. British Council.

Chomsky, N. (1973). Linguistic theory. In J. W. Oller & J. C. Richards (Eds.), Focus on the learner (pp. 29-35). Newbury House.

Fromkin, V. & Rodman, R. (1983). An introduction to language. Holt-Saunders.

Gillett, A. J. & Hammond, A. C. (2009). Mapping the maze of assessment: An investigation into practice. Active Learning in Higher Education, 10, 120-137. https://doi.org/10.1177/1469787409104786

Guiora, A. Z., Paluszny, M., Beit-Hallahmi, B., Catford, J. C., Cooley, R. E. & Dull, C. Y. (1975). Language and person: Studies in language behaviour. Language Learning, 25, 43-61.

GVU’s 8th WWW user survey. (n.d.). http://www.cc.gatech.edu/gvu/usersurveys/survey1997-10/

Jacobson, J. W., Mulick, J. A. Schwartz, A. A. (1995). A history of facilitated communication: Science, pseudoscience, and antiscience: Science working group on facilitated communication. American Psychologist, 50, 750-765. http://www.apa.org/journals/jacobson.html

Kinsella, V. (Ed.). (1978). Language teaching and linguistics: Surveys. Cambridge University Press.

Lipinsky, E. & Bender, R. (1980). Critical voices on the economy. Survey, 25, 38-42.

Oller, J. W. & Richards, J. C. (Eds.). (1973). Focus on the learner. Newbury House.

Longman dictionary of contemporary English. (1978). Longman.

Smith, F. (1978). Reading. Cambridge University Press.

Stern, H. H. & Weinrib, A. (1978). Foreign languages for younger children: Trends and assessment. In V. Kinsella (Ed.), Language teaching and linguistics: Surveys (pp. 152-172). Cambridge University Press.


Use heading: References.

Page numbers should be included for all articles in journals and in collections.

Use italics (or underlining in handwriting) for titles of books, periodicals, newspapers etc.

Use alphabetical order. Alphabetise works with no author by the first significant word in the title.

All co-authors should be listed.

Indent second etc. lines

Use (n.d.) if no date is given.

If the author of a document is not given, begin the reference with the title of the document.

Include the DOI, if one has been assigned.

See: Books; Journals/PeriodicalsEdited CollectionsCDsInternetOthers

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