It can be difficult to know when you need to provide references to back up your ideas. This guide can help you decide when to use references.
When should you include references?
When writing your essay or assignment, you will often need to use information or ideas from other people to support your claims. Acknowledge this by including a reference or citation to the original source of this information.
Even if you are not directly quoting or reproducing content from the source material, you still need to reference it to avoid plagiarism. To learn more about integrating information into your writing, see Paraphrasing, summarising and quoting.
What needs to be referenced?
You need to reference any information or ideas that you have gathered from other sources. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Journal articles
- Encyclopaedias and dictionaries
- Newspapers, magazines and advertisements
- Online journal articles
- Websites and social media
- Computer programmes and code
- Data and published statistics
- Images, figures and photos
- TV programmes and movies
- Songs and podcasts
- Interviews, emails, conversations and other personal communications
What doesn’t need to be referenced?
- Your own experiences or observations (including experimental results)
- Your own thoughts, insights and conclusions
- Common knowledge
Is it common knowledge?
To decide if a fact is common knowledge, consider:
- Will my audience already know this information?
- Is this information generally accepted as fact?
- Can this information be found in a general reference source like an encyclopaedia?
- Do at least five other sources mention this information without providing a reference?
If in doubt, provide a reference!
How to reference course materials?
Sometimes, you will need to reference something from your course materials, lecture slides or handouts. Refer to the appropriate referencing style to find out how to reference these.
When lecturers refer to other sources in course materials, locate those sources and reference them. Look for the information in your course reading list or search the library catalogue. You can then provide a reference to these original sources instead.