Referencing System

As references have an important role in many parts of a manuscript, failure to sufficiently cite other work can reduce your chances of being published. Every statement of fact or description of previous findings requires a supporting reference.

It is also important to be concise. You need to meet all the above needs without overwhelming the reader with too many references—only the most relevant and recent articles need to be cited. There is no correct number of references for a manuscript, but be sure to check the journal’s guidelines to see whether it has limits on the number of references.

There is no universally adopted referencing system for academic writing. Most scholars and students employ one of the most popular systems currently in use in the UK and America, which include:
Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA),

The Harvard System (often called the ‘Author-Date System’),

Chicago System

Modern Language Association of America (MLA)

American Psychological Association (APA)

The choice of system is up to you, although publishers and journals usually, specify exactly how authors should reference their work. This may be enforced very strictly, with precise prescriptions governing the use of footnotes and the format of citations. Other publishers have a more relaxed policy.

Some departments of the University may specify which system you should use in your written assignments. ‘Name-date’ systems like the Harvard system, where short citations are included in brackets in the text, are becoming more popular than systems in which full references to sources are set out in notes at the bottom of each page (footnotes) or at the end of the piece of work (endnotes). Why not look at a number of journals in the library to see which systems are used in academic publications for your particular subject?

Establish the origin of ideas

When you refer to an idea or theory, it is important to let your readers know which researcher(s) came up with the idea. By citing publications that have influenced your own work, you give credit to the authors and help others evaluate the importance of particular publications. Acknowledging others’contributions is also an important ethical principle.

➢ Justify claims

In a scientific manuscript, all statements must be supported with evidence. This evidence can come from the results of the current research, common knowledge, or from previous publications. A citation after a claim makes it clear that the previous study supports the claim.

➢ Provide a context for your work

By highlighting related works, citations help show how a manuscript fits into the bigger picture of scientific research. When readers understand what previous studies found and what puzzles or controversies your study relates to, they will better understand the meaning of your work.

➢ Show there is interest in your field of research

Citations show that other researchers are performing work similar to your own. Having current citations will help journal editors see that there is a potential audience for your manuscript. (Springer)


A bibliography is a list of works (such as books and articles) written on a particular subject or by a particular author.

Also known as a list of works cited, a bibliography may appear at the end of a book, report, online presentation, or research paper. Students are taught that a bibliography, along with correctly formatted in-text citations, is crucial to properly citing one’s research and to avoiding accusations of plagiarism. In formal research, all sources used, whether quoted directly or synopsized, should be included in the bibliography.

In the traditional note system, it is more common to use a bibliography than a list of references. In some cases when you use endnotes rather than footnotes, an additional bibliography may not be required. (Check with your lecturer).

At the end of your assignment, attach a list of all material that you have consulted in preparing your work. The list may contain items which you have chosen not to quote from or which you have decided were not helpful. Nevertheless, these items have formed part of your preparation and should be included. The list thus produced forms your bibliography. It is possible that your bibliography may contain just one item, the primary text if that is honestly all you have used. The bibliography is organized according to the authors’ last names which are arranged in alphabetical order.


This usually follows the Discussion and Conclusions sections. Its purpose is to thank all of the people who helped with the research but did not qualify for authorship (check the target journal’s Instructions for Authors for authorship guidelines). Acknowledge anyone who provided intellectual
assistance, technical help (including with writing and editing), or special equipment or materials.

Some journals request that you use this section to provide information about funding by including specific grant numbers and titles. Check your target journal’s instructions for authors for specific instructions. If you need to include funding information, list the name(s) of the funding organization(s) in full, and identify which authors received funding for what.

APA Referencing System Example
  • Jones, R. (2004). What time is human geography?. Progress in Human
    Geography, 28(3), 287-304.
  • Day, T. (2012). Undergraduate teaching and learning in physical geography. Progress in Physical Geography, 36(3), 305-332.
  • Sharp, E. L., Brierley, G. J., Salmond, J., & Lewis, N. (2022). Geoethical futures: A call for more-than-human physical geography. Environment and Planning F, 26349825221082168.
  • Gordon, M. S., & Cui, M. (2015). Positive parenting during adolescence and career success in young adulthood. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24(3), 762-771.

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