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Referencing with APA: About Referencing

What, why, when and how of referencing

What is referencing?

Referencing is showing to your reader what resources you have used to write your assignment, essay, thesis, article, etc. It serves various purposes:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

  • it gives you a handy overview of the resources you have used                                                                                                              
  • It shows the reader to what extent you are familiar with the body of knowledge on your specific topic
  • you acknowledge the work of others who have inspired you and respect their intellectual property rights
  • readers can find the original resources themselves in order to verify them or follow up on them

There is a difference between a citation and a reference. A citation is a source mentioned in the body of your text while a reference comes at the end of your paper in a reference list or a bibliography. A reference list refers to those information sources that you have copied, quoted or paraphrased in your paper. A bibliography gives an overview of all resources that you actually have used to write your paper, including the ones you have copied, quoted or paraphrased. It depends on your assignment whether you are expected to include a reference list or a bibliography in your paper. 

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism means that you, accidentally or purposely, present someone else’s work or ideas as your own without properly referring to the original source. In the academic world, but also at our university, this is a serious accusation that can have severe conSKEuences. At our university the software program of Turnitin is used to check student's products for plagiarism. Some examples of plagiarism:

Visit the Information Skills Toolbox (Step 6. Using Information) on the homepage of the Library for additional information.

When do you refer to resources?

You have to refer to the resources you have used when you:

  • copy the exact texts, or parts of it, from somewhere/someone else into your own paper
  • summarize or paraphrase other people's work by restating it into your own words
  • copy existing pictures, diagrams, etc. into your paper

You don't have to cite resources when:

  • you are using 'common knowledge' e.g. that there are four seasons in a year
  • when you write about your own experiences

How do you refer to resources?

Referring to resources takes place:

  • in in-text citations in the body of your paper either direct or indirect (e.g. in the author-date method used in APA or Harvard)
  • in the reference list or bibliography at the end of your paper (in a complete citation method used by the various styles)

You will have to decide which style you will use, for example, APA or Harvard. This will depend on your assignment, the format that is used by a publisher, or your own preference. The only general guidelines would be to use one consistent style in a paper and to use this style properly. Under the tab Referencing Styles in this guide, you will find more information on this topic.

Furthermore, every type of material has it's own format, depending on the style you have chosen. References look different for books, book chapters, journal articles, conference papers, publications with one or more authors, websites, etc.

What about copyright?

When you refer to resources you not only show your reader which ones you have used to create your product. You also pay respect to the intellectual property rights or copyrights of the original author(s) of these materials. According to the Oxford Dictionary copyright is "The exclusive and assignable legal right, given to the originator for a fixed number of years, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material". In other words, it gives the creator of an original work the exclusive right to use and distribute it, or to offer permission to others to use it.  A practical overview of the various degrees of permission to re-use materials can be found at Creative Commons. These may also apply when materials are published Open Access. Whatever intellectual property rights are in place, however, if you want to make use of (parts of) this original work, for example for your paper, you have to refer to it.