The why, what and how of citing and referencing

In this post we’ll go through the basics of citing and referencing, and introduce you to some resources that will make it a much more manageable process for you to complete! ... by Romney Adams

We get lots of questions at our Research and Learning points about citing and referencing - “What style can I use?”, “If I cite something, do I always have to reference it?”, “What’s a reference list?” There’s no doubt citing and referencing is a confusing area for a lot of you, and it’s especially difficult if you’re new to the process.

Why do I need to do it?

So to start with, why do you need to bother with citing and referencing? Can’t your lecturers just trust that you’ve based your assignments on strong evidence? Well, the short answer is no! But there’s more to it than that…

 First, check out this short clip:

Why is citing and referencing important

It’s important to cite and reference your work, for a number of reasons - when done correctly, anyone reading your assignment (including the person marking it!) can see where you have used an expert’s research to support your own. As well as this, they should be able to locate the materials you used, enabling them to determine how widely you’ve read, and on what evidence you’ve based your work. It also means you’re showing respect to those experts who have completed research before you, by acknowledging their hard work. You wouldn’t like it if you spent years researching and writing a paper, only to have someone else come along and pass off your work as their own! This is plagiarism, which the University takes very seriously. Have a look at the Library’s Academic Integrity Modules - they contain examples of mistakes that can be easy to make, such as remix and retweet plagiarism. The good news is it also shows how these mistakes can be avoided.

What do I need to do?

Citing and referencing is essentially made up of two things...citing, and referencing (bonus points if you had guessed that already!). Citations refer to the brief attributions you make throughout the body of your assignment, while references contain more detail, and are situated at the end of your assignment - and yes, you do need to do both! The Demystifying Citing and Referencing Tutorial explains the basic principles behind citing and referencing, and is great if you’re feeling a little unsure or confused.

Citations can be made either in-text, or through the use of footnotes. To know which of these options to use, and to also be aware of exactly how your citations and references should be formatted, you first need to know what style of citing and referencing you need to use. This is very important, as there are an array of styles used at Monash, and you don’t want to use the wrong style for the wrong assignment! If you can’t see a clear indication of which style to use on your assignment specifications sheet, double-check with your tutor or lecturer.

How can I remember everything?

The Library fully understands how complicated citing and referencing is...particularly all the finicky formatting rules! We can’t remember every rule, and you’re certainly not expected to either. Instead, we have a variety of useful resources for you to use so you know you’re following the rules exactly as you’re meant to. The most useful resource is our Citing and Referencing Library Guide, which contains dedicated sections for each style used at Monash, and features detailed coverage of style rules, with examples for you to follow. If you use this Guide, you really can’t go wrong! You can also check out the referencing section of some faculty-specific resources, such as the Faculty of Business and Economics’ Q Manual, and the Faculty of Information Technology’s Style Guide.

As tempting as it may seem, please don’t Google information about citing and referencing, or use an online generator. Styles are updated all the time, and some have been modified slightly to better suit the institution (for example, Monash uses its own version of the Harvard style). Information you find on Google may be out-of-date, or incorrect, and seeing as citing and referencing is usually worth between 5-10% of an assignment, getting it right can be the difference between a D and HD...or an N and P.

While citing and referencing can be challenging, it does need to be done - and with the Library’s help, you’ll have no trouble at all! You can always get help with citing and referencing from a librarian at the Library’s Research and Learning point - you’ll find the listed times for your library here.
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