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Stylistic conventions vary between subjects.  Most Departments issue written guidance on the relevant scholarly conventions, which you can find here: Faculty and Department Guidance.  You should read and follow this advice, and consult your Course Director or Supervisor if you are unsure which conventions are used in your Faculty or Department, or what level of citation is expected of you. 

There are some key points which will be common to most subjects:

  • When presenting the views and work of others, you must give an indication of the source of the material.
    Conventions for this vary, but one approach would be to write: '... as Sharpe (1993) has shown', and give the full details of the work quoted in your bibliography.
  • If you quote text verbatim, make this completely evident; it is plagiarism if you use an exact quote but do not indicate it as such, even if you have cited the source. 
    Again conventions will vary, but you might say: 'The elk is of necessity less graceful than the gazelle' (Thompson, 1942, p. 46) and give the full details in your bibliography as above.
  • If you wish to set out the work of another at length so that you can produce a counter-argument, set the quoted text apart from your own text (e.g. by indenting a paragraph) and identify it in a suitable way (e.g. by using quotation marks or inverted commas, and adding a reference as above).  
    NB: long quotations may infringe copyright, which exists for the life of the author plus 70 years; they may also be considered poor scholarship, depending on the amount of original work expected of you
  • If you are copying text, keep a note of the author and the reference as you go along, with the copied text, so that you will not mistakenly think the material to be your own work when you come back to it in a few weeks' time.  You may also want to review our guidance on note-taking techniques.
  • If you reproduce an illustration or include someone else's data in a graph or table, include the reference to the original work in the legend, e.g. '(figure redrawn from Webb, 1976)' or '(1 = data from Webb, 1976).

Examples of referencing conventions

A selection of referencing conventions is listed below with links to resources which give further information about following the style. As above, always use the convention which is favoured by your Faculty or Department.

  • Harvard 
    The most commonly used style of referencing; used widely in academic journals
    Guide to Harvard Referencing from Imperial College, London
  • APA (American Psychological Association)
    Citation technique usually used in the Social Sciences
    Tutorial from the University of Cardiff
  • Chicago
    Style guide for typographical and citation techniques often used by academic publishers
    Chicago Manual of Style online
  • IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) 
    Standards Development Lifecycle; writing and referencing guidance used in the fields of Engineering and Technology
  • MLA (Modern Language Association)
    Citation technique used particularly in academic writing for languages and literature
    MLA Style Centre; writing resources
  • MRHA (Modern Humanities Research Association) 
    Citation style used for academic theses and essays in the Humanities
    Download the MRHA style guide
  • OSCOLA (Oxford Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities)
    Citation guidelines for legal materials
    Quick reference guide from the University of Oxford
  • Vancouver
    Style of referencing using a numerical system - often used in medical writing
    Guide to Vancouver Referencing from Imperial College, London