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Advice about how to write references for academic papers

Many students need guidance regarding how to write references in their academic papers. There are different ways of writing them, so you need to ask your tutor for the guidelines that you should follow.

The main styles used for references are the following: -

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  • The APA style is usually used in the social sciences.
  • Clearly Modern Language departments will ask students to use the MLA style for references.
  • The Chicago style of referencing was set up in 1906 at the University of Chicago press. It is, of course, primarily for writers of American English, although these days, it can accommodate writers of World Englishes.
  • The Turabian style is mainly used for writers of academic papers, as well as dissertations and theses.
  • The IEEE style is used by electrical engineers as well as electronics engineers.
  • The Oxford style of referencing is used by British English speakers and member countries of the (former British) Commonwealth.

In-text citations in APA are different to AP style. If you cite an author and his or her work within your text, you need only write the author’s last name followed by a comma, and the year the work was published, e.g. Garfield, 2012. If you quote from the text directly, then you have to give the relevant page number. In your reference section you will also need to give the edition of the work that you are using, so that this can be checked.

To write a reference in APA style you should follow the following format: -

To write a reference in MLA style. you need to use the following format: -

Chicago style and Turabian style are basically the same.

IEEE style

The Oxford style of referencing

The author’s last name followed by a comma then the author’s initials, with each initial followed by a full stop. If there is more than one author, you should separate these by a comma. Next, in brackets, you write the year the work was published in brackets. Then you write the name of the book. If you are referring to an article in a journal, you should give the article’s title followed by the title of the journal which should be in italics. Write which volume the journal is as well as its edition in brackets, for example, Smith, J.C., & Billips, D. (2012) The importance of intonation in English, 20 (4) 255-260. You also have to give the page numbers of the article at the end of the reference.

Once again, the author’s last name comes first, followed by his or her first name. If the author has more than one first name, then you add the initials of the name with a full stop after the last initial. Next comes the title of the work in italics, with a full stop after the full title. Then write the name of the publisher. Finally write the year of publication with no brackets.

If a work has been translated, you give the name of the translator after the title. Similarly, if the work is annotated, perhaps with an introduction by the person who did this, then, after the title you need to write ‘annotated and with an introduction by...’

If you are citing a website the name of the website should be in italics and the title of the article should be written with quotation marks, e.g. “How to speak perfect English” followed by the URL.

Articles from magazines, journals etc. should be referred to in this way: -

the authors last name followed by a comma, then the full first name with any other given names listed with an initial with a full stop after the last one. Then write the title of the article in quotation marks and put a full stop after it. In italics write the name of the journal and so on followed by the number of the volume, then the number of it and the year it was published in brackets. Finally give the page numbers, pp. 6-10.

You need to include all the information you have regarding the publication in your reference. This makes it easy for readers to check the information and quotes you cite.

If you wish, although this is optional, you can give the city where the work was published before the date of publication.

There are two systems of referencing sources in the Chicago style. Most academics in the humanities use the notes and bibliography system, although it is possible to use another system, that of author and date, which is generally preferred by social scientists and scientists. If you use the first system, you should cite sources in foot notes or endnotes.

Easily readable fonts such as Times New Roman or Ariel are preferred. (This is true of all styles.) The paper should be double-spaced.

If a work has two authors, separate the last names using ‘and’ e.g. Simmons and Walters. When you cite a work in your text that has three or more authors, you should give the name of the first author and then write ‘et al.’ with the full stop after ‘al.’ This Latin phrase simply means ‘and others.’

If there are two authors with the same last name, write the authors’ initials.

For newspapers, magazines and so on state the year, date and page numbers, even if the author’s name is not given.

If you are using material from the internet include the URL.

If you are asked to use the IEEE style for references, then you put the author’s first name initial(s) before the last name. This is different from all the other styles.

At the end of your paper you will need to give your reference page the heading, References and put this in the centre of the page.

You need to cite the references in the order they appear in your paper and number them.

If you are referring to an article, then you put its title in quotation marks.

If you refer to a book or journal, then its title should be written in italics.

There are websites that give more details and examples of this style if you need to use it.

The Oxford style of referencing is different to most other frequently used styles of referencing.

The Oxford style requires students to write footnotes at the bottom of pages. You should write the footnotes as you write your paper, or you could miss your deadline, as they cannot be hurried. You have to be sure that whatever you have cited is referenced with footnotes. The footnotes must be numbered (in superscript) in the order they are referred to in the text. See this an example of a reference in the footnotes: -

⁴ Paula Masters, A Way of Seeing London: Hillsdon Press, 2016

If the above work was listed in the reference list it should read-

Masters, Paula, A Way of Seeing London: Hillsdon Press, 2016

In other words, the way of listing the author’s name changes, depending whether you are listing it in a footnote or in the bibliography section and the end of your text.

Whichever style you need to write your references in, be aware that this task is time-consuming. Do the references and footnotes, if you need them, as you write. Don’t think that you can leave this task until the last minute; you can’t.

When you think that you have finished writing the bibliography section and footnotes you will need to spend a lot of time checking and cross-checking to make sure that you have include all your references.

The bibliography should contain a list of all the materials you used when researching your topic. It doesn’t matter if you have referred to the works specifically in the text. The bibliography needs to be extensive to demonstrate that you have read widely and done thorough research. A quick way of doing this, but one that is not recommended, is to read the bibliographies listed in the books, papers and articles that you have read and then put these references in the appropriate style for your paper ad include them in alphabetical order in your bibliography section.

If you read a paper or article and so on online, you should itemise this along with the date it was accessed. If the article was only published online do this and add the DOI number along with the rest of the reference.

Don’t forget to check with your tutor to find out what style he or she wants you to write in. Don’t, for example, assume that because you are doing a humanities course in the UK that you will be required to write in the Oxford style. Your tutor, or department may require you to write in APA style, for example.

Ask for the university’s style guide and make sure you follow it.

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