What to reference

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 to 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 aren’t 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 and summarising.

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:

Print resources 

  • Journal articles
  • Books
  • Encyclopedias and dictionaries
  • Reports
  • Newspapers, magazines and advertisements

Electronic resources

  • Online journal articles
  • E-books
  • Websites and social media
  • Computer programs and code

Other resources

  • Data and published statistics
  • Images, figures and photos
  • TV programs and movies
  • Songs and podcasts
  • Interviews, emails, conversations and other personal communications

It is unnecessary to reference

  • 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 encyclopedia?
  • Do at least five other sources mention this information without providing a reference?

If in doubt, provide a 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.

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