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Referencing Postgraduate study skills

Complete and accurate referencing of the sources you use in your work is essential. Referencing is a requirement of all academic writing for two important reasons.

  • It enables your readers to locate the sources you have called upon, so it can be verified that you used the material in an appropriate and accurate manner.
  • It acknowledges the sources of the material you used that is not your own, so preventing any charge of plagiarism against you.

Referencing requires meticulous note-taking and record keeping while you are gathering material from academic literature, and you must also be consistent in the way you add the details to your own documents. If you have to go back and alter your references further into your study, it could involve a great deal of additional work.

Find out more about referencing and guidance on referencing styles used at the OU in Referencing and plagiarism on the library's website.

Organising your reference list

In the reference list, each type of source is presented in a particular way, so articles from journals can easily be distinguished from chapters in books, and so on. The texts listed in your reference list should appear in alphabetical order by author’s surname, then within that by date of publication. Your textbooks can be a useful model for organising a reference list.

Remember that you only need to include a reference to the sources you used in your writing; sources you have looked at but haven’t referred to don’t need to be included in your reference list. A bibliography, on the other hand, includes sources cited in your assignment and sources that were part of your background reading that were not cited in your work.

Reference management tools

You can organise your referencing using a reference management tool, which enables you to create reference lists automatically, directly import references from databases, and safely store your references.

For more information on tools you can use to track and organise your references, see Bibliographic Management on the library's website.

Last updated 4 months ago