Better Marks with Good Referencing

Image of student writing an assignment

One of the major features of academic writing is acknowledging the books, journal articles and other information sources that you have used, usually by citing them one-by-one in your assignment and listing them all at the end in a bibliography. Often there are many marks for doing this correctly so it is a skill worth learning as soon as you can.

If you don't acknowledge your sources you might pass off someone else's ideas, quotations etc. as your own. This is plagiarism which is not permitted by the university and can have serious consequences for you.

On this page find out more about plagiarism, referencing and where to get help and advice. 


Don't Plagiarise!

What Is Plagiarism and What Happens If You Plagiarise?

Plagiarism is passing off someone else's work as your own e.g.:

  • failing to cite an author who's book or article you have quoted from in your assignment
  • copying and pasting text from the Internet into your assignment without indicating the source
  • copying some or all of a friend's essay into yours
  • buying an essay online or from another source

Find out more about what the university considers to be plagiarism and what happens if you plagiarise, in the Regulation on Unacceptable Academic Practice.

  • The consequences are serious; taught students can be excluded from the university and research postgraduates can have their thesis failed.
  • When you hand in an assignment you must sign a cover sheet to indicate that you understand the consequences if you plagiarise
  • The university online submission software Turnitin will check your assignment for evidence of plagiarism and whoever is marking your assignment will see the report it produces

Do the Epigeum Online Tutorial!

  • Do the Epigeum Avoiding Plagiarism online tutorial and gain the certificate to show you understand what constitutes plagiarism!
  • This FAQ explains how to register for the tutorial
  • Epigeum focusses on the Harvard style which is not the referencing style used in all academic departments at Aberystwyth University, however the tutorial will help you understand fully the concepts of successful referencing in academic assignments.
  • Students and staff can use the Epigeum tutorial thanks to a site subscription by the AU Aberystwyth Business School

Further Hints and Tips

  • Look at the marking scheme for your assignment - how many marks can you gain for your bibliography and what are the criteria you need to meet?
  • Ensure you have allowed enough time in your assignment planning for the reading and the referencing
  • Read widely: start with the Aspire reading list in your Blackboard module and develop your subject searching skills during your course. There's advice on this in the guide What to Read and How to Find It
  • Don't over-rely on one or very few books or other information sources for your assignment
  • Organise your references while you are researching for your essay - more on this and referencing software at Aberystwyth University below
  • Contacts for help, advice and training


Follow the Style Guide!

Academic departments often produce a style guide that you must follow when preparing your assignments. It may include advice on line-spacing, font size etc. and how they expect you to format your citations, footnotes and bibliographies - for example:

  • using a specific bibliographic style e.g. Harvard, MHRA, MLA, IEEE etc. or perhaps creating a bibliography that is correct, complete and consistent without following a named style
  • using in-text citations or footnotes (or both)
  • creating bibliography ordered e.g. alphabetically by author, title or in date order

Style guides often contain examples of bibliography entries for different resource types such as books, journal articles, web pages etc.

Find links to most of the AU style guides on the AberSkills site under Departmental referencing guides. You may also find links to the style guide for your academic department in Aberlearn Blackboard or among the departmental web pages.

It is important to follow the style guide recommended by your academic department if you want to gain all the marks available for the citations and bibliography in your assignment.

If your department does not supply a style guide, at least ensure your referencing is complete, correct and consistent.


In-text Citations, Footnotes and Bibliographies

What is a bibliography?

A bibliography is a complete list of resources you use when writing an assignment or dissertation and is usually located at the end of your work.

Bibliographies may be constructed

  • in alphabetical order (by author, surname etc)
  • in the order in which the sources appear in the your work
  • by year of publication (descending)

and may or not be numbered.

Information sources you have used for your work could include books, articles, websites, video, sound recordings, data gathered through experiments, interview transcripts and many more.

Here are two references, a journal article and a book, from a bibliography:

McInnes, C. (2002). Fatal Attraction? Air Power and the West. Contemporary Security Policy, 22(3), 28-51.
Gat, A. (2001). A History of Military Thought: from the Enlightenment to the Cold War. New York: Oxford University Press.

What are in-text citations and footnotes?

An in-text citation or footnote can reference to a particular book, journal article, web page etc. at a chosen point in your assignment. You may provide an in-text citation or footnote to refer to

  • a single quote
  • a single page or range of pages
  • a chapter
  • an entire book, article etc

You may wish to

  • quote directly e.g. from a book, article, web page
  • refer indirectly to content e.g. theories, interpretations, descriptions of events
  • refer to a number of sources which support a particular argument
  • refer to sources that you found useful in enhancing your overall knowledge in an area of research
  • include empirical data gathered by yourself and/or others

In-text citations

An in-text citation is typically the author's surname and the year of publication, possibly including a page number or range of pages, in round brackets e.g.

Here is an example citing a quote from a specific page:

... at the end of the first world war", (Smith, 2005 p56).

This is an example citing information from a range of pages:

... a number of causes for the conflict are discussed (Smith, 2005 pp34-39).

The source referred to by the in-text citation is included as a full bibliographic reference in the bibliography at the end of the work.


A footnote is typically a numbered bibliographic reference in a smaller font size at the end of a page, possibly including a page number or range of pages e.g.

1 McInnes, C. (2002). Fatal Attraction? Air Power and the West. Contemporary Security Policy, 22(3), 28-51.
2 Gat, A. (2001). A History of Military Thought: from the Enlightenment to the Cold War. New York: Oxford University Press.

which is in turn referred to by a number (also in superscript) in the appropriate place on the page.

The bibliographic reference (normally omitting page references) is included in the bibliography at the end of the work.

Would I use in-text citations and footnotes for bibliographic referencing in the same assignment?

Not normally but some bibliographic styles require a footnote for the first time a source is cited, then in-text citations for subsequent citations of the same source.

Storing References You Have Found

Many online information sources contain features to help you store your search results for later use e.g. in Primo you can store your search results in your E-shelf. Try to get into the habit of storing the records for the information sources you find so you don't have to find them again when you are creating your bibliography.

There are also features to allow you to export search results to reference management software e.g. EndNote. Find out more about EndNote at the end of this guide.

Software for Referencing

Reference management software available at Aberystwyth University to help you organise your references and format your citations and bibliographies.

Other reference management software is available; although we don’t support it we may be able to help you use it with Primo and other information resources.