Referencing is an important part of assessment. It will be taken into account in allocating the final mark for an assessment piece, and mastery of its appropriate usage is essential to avoid allegations of plagiarism and collusion. Referencing enhances the credibility of your information, and also allows interested markers/readers to use your sources for follow up information.

Using a Referencing style

A referencing style is a set of rules telling you how to acknowledge the thoughts, ideas and works of others in a particular way.

Referencing is a crucial part of successful academic writing and is key to your assignments and research.

Which referencing style should I use?

  • There is no standard style used at UQ
  • In some cases there is a standard style used by a particular school or discipline. In the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, the preferred systems for referencing are the Harvard, APA or Vancouver. However, the main emphasis is on ensuring the referencing system that you choose to use is applied consistently throughout your paper.
  • Students should confirm referencing style requirements required for their courses by checking the electronic course profile or with course coordinators at the commencement of the course
  • Researchers submitting a paper for publication in a journal should check the journal's Instructions for Authors, which will normally be available on the journal's website

When should I reference?

The question frequently asked by students is how to reference, but just as important is the initial consideration of when to reference. Most students would be aware that they are required to reference direct quotes, but feel confused as to other occasions when they should reference. There are three main reasons why full referencing is essential.

The first is that when another writer’s work is used without being referenced the act of plagiarism has been committed. The second reason for referencing is so that anyone reading the paper can follow up any ideas or concepts that have been presented. This is especially important in academic writing where people involved in research may read the paper. The third reason why referencing is important is that it adds credibility to the argument that you are presenting. If an argument is to have any credibility it must be supported by evidence. That evidence must be referenced.

A good general rule is that authors must acknowledge the source of both information and ideas. Here are a few hints for when it is a good idea to reference your ideas:

Direct quotations: where you directly use another author’s words, this must be acknowledged by the use of quotation marks. This includes the situation where a direct quotation is drawn from another source e.g. (Adams and Freeman 1980 cited in Jones and May 1992:62)

Longer quotations (i.e. more than approximately 40 words) should be set apart from the body of the text by introducing the quote with a colon, leaving a line above and below the quote, indenting from the left and using single spacing when the rest is double spaced.

Short quotations can be integrated in the text as part of the sentence by using single or double quotation marks. For example: Jones and May state that "services that are provided under public auspice are subject to a range of public accountability requirements" (1992:94).
If you choose to abridge a quotation you must use three dots to indicate where you have left out words within a sentence and four dots if you have left out words in more than one sentence.

Paraphrasing: this involves using basically the same information as an author you have read, but changing the words so that they are more your own. While we do this often in academic writing, where the information, central contention, or idea is someone else’s, it should be referenced as such. Your assessment however should not be continuous quotes.

Ideas: As noted above, many of our ideas are borrowed from or inspired by the authors we read or hear in our university careers. This is natural and desirable. However, as above, where an idea belongs substantially to another author, that source should be acknowledged.

Lecturer and Tutor’s Notes and handouts: Lecturers and tutors should NOT be cited or referenced in assessment, unless you are reporting their published work.

Resources for University writing: should be based on academic books and journals. Non-peer reviewed Internet sites should not be cited, as the content of such sites cannot be verified. Wikipedia is not an academic Internet site and therefore should not be cited.

Direct Quotations

You may find yourself wanting to use direct quotations that employ sexist language such as the so-called generic man, for example, “Man is by nature a political animal” (Aristotle). Whether this is sexist or not depends on whether you are discussing Aristotle's life and works or the nature of people generally. If you are bothered by the use of such quotations, you can:

  • Paraphrase or recast in a direct quotation;
  • Follow the otherwise offensive term with [sic], which indicates that the mistake originates with the text you are citing, rather than with you. [Note that the same notation would apply whenever you cite a text containing a typographical or syntax error. Otherwise, you shoulder the blame!]

Quotations and acknowledgements

Certain formalities must be observed whenever you use a direct quotation in an essay.

  • You must copy exactly the wording of the original text. If, for reasons of comprehension or grammatical coherence, additions or omissions are essential, use the following recognised procedures: square brackets for additions, dots for omissions. BEWARE your changes do not distort the author’s original meaning.
  • Include quotations in text within quotation marks if less than 40 words long. If longer, indent, use single space typing and do not use quotation marks.
  • Every direct quotation must be followed by a full reference to its source, including its author, year, and the precise page number(s) of the material cited.
  • If you find relevant materials that are quoted, you must then give the name of the original author (and year of publication), and the full citation of the author of the work you are using.
  • Any printed materials from which you quote must be included in your reference list.
  • You must acknowledge the source in the form of (author, year, page number), whenever you are quoting the exact words of another writer.

You must acknowledge the source in the form of (author, year), whenever you are:

  • closely summarising a passage from another writer; or
  • using an idea or material which is directly based on the work of another writer

Tables and Figures

Tables, graphs and other illustrations reproduced or adapted from other sources have the same status as quotations of words, and must be acknowledged and referenced. This may mean referring to Census data and other official statistics, or figures and calculations made by other researchers. You should consult the relevant Reference Manuals in the library or visit the library website.

The same conventions apply for electronically published material as for hard copy publications. You will find the Internet an excellent source of information on a wide range of topics and many websites are very well produced for academic use. However, if author(s) and full publication details are not provided, information should not be cited as supporting documentation in your essay. See further information in the manual for each reference system on how to reference material from the web.

The Australian Government Printing Service Style Guide is an excellent source of guidance on referencing and stylistic conventions.

Word Count

Students can gain advantage through submitting written pieces that are longer than specified in the assessment instruction/criteria. For this reason, it is necessary to include deterrents to these practices to ensure fairness and equity. These deterrents are stated in the ECP and students are responsible to be made aware of them for each relevant piece of assessment. The word limit must be stated in the assessment criteria in the ECP.

The School convention in relation to word limit is that the following are included in the word count: citations/references in text, Tables, Figures, Quotes, and Appendices.The following are not included: reference list, bibliography.

If there are specific conditions in relation to the word count for an assessment these have to be stated in the ECP. For example if specific documents are required as appendices they may be excluded from the word count. 

Penalty in relation to word count

A word count that is within ±10% of the set length (word limit) is acceptable. A word count that is outside these 10% will be penalised through a reduction of 10% of the total mark available for the assessment.

For further detailed guidance on academic writing, please refer to the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work Academic Writing Guide; Student Services website and the Library Reference Guides.