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Writing References In An Essay

Term Paper: Format of Citations and References

1. Introduction

As you write your term papers, it will be important for you to document where you obtained the information cited in your report. Many of the references you use will come from published sources. Some may come from electronic sources such as the World Wide Web, Melvyl and Harvest databases available through the UC Davis library, CD references and the like, and some may come from interviews. An important component of your writing will be the effective use of reference material. This skill will serve you well in writing papers of all types, not just those required for classes.

For this class, we will be using the documentation style of the American Psychological Association (APA, 2001) modified with italics substituted for underlining. This format is very similar to that of the Modern Language Association, and these are the most commonly used styles for publishing in the social and natural sciences. The general form of citations in the body of the text is to include the author and date in parentheses (as above) and optionally include the page number(s) after the date. If the author's name was just mentioned in the text, it is not necessary to repeat it in the citation. The rules are described in more detail, with examples, in section 3.

2. Basic Guidelines

The purpose of the term paper in ECS 15 is for you to learn how to do effective research on a subject and then write it up clearly, showing where you got your information.

A research paper requires searching for information pertinent to a given subject, organizing it, and presenting it effectively in written form. Oral research reports are also useful, but this course does not cover them.

In the following sections, we will present the way that we want you to cite your references in the term paper for this course. The required format meets the accepted practices cited in Li and Crane (1993), a reference that is currently considered the best authority on citing electronic sources. This book in turn follows the basic format for the American Psychological Association (APA, 2001), which is a good format (though by no means the only acceptable one in technical publications). You may be required to use slightly different formats for other papers, such as papers submitted for publication to refereed journals, each of which typically have their own styles. Learning how to follow one such set of rules is a worthwhile exercise. You will therefore be expected to use the format set out below.

3. In-text Citation to References

When citing a reference from your reference list, please use the following conventions. Put in parentheses the author(s) last names, the year, and optionally the page number(s) separated by commas.

For one author, use the author's last name and year separated by a comma. For example: (Walters, 1994) or (Austin, 1996).

For two to five authors, use their last names separated by commas and with an ampersand "&" before the very last name in the list, then the year separated by a comma. For example: (Li & Crane, 1993) (Charniak, Riesbeck, McDermott & Meehan, 1994).

For more than five authors, use the first author's last name and "et al." For example: (Walters, et al., 1992).

For the date, use the year. If there are two references by the same author(s) for the same year, use letters after the year: (Walters, 1993b).

If there are specific page numbers for a citation, add them after the year (Walters, 1994, pp. 31-49).

If you include the author's name(s) in the text of a sentence in the paper, you may omit their names from the parentheses as follows: "Austin (1996) includes valuable references to ...." or "The examples given by Li and Crane (1993) on web addresses ...".

Do not use footnotes in this class for citations. You can use them for explanatory text, but not for references. Have the citation make it easy to find the reference in the "References" section. All references in that section should be complete enough for readers to obtain a copy for themselves.

4. Your List of References

Create a list of references, one for each item cited in the paper, in a section called "References". This section goes at the end of your paper. The references are to be alphabetized by the fist author's last name, or (if no author is listed) the organization or title. If you cite more than one paper by the same first author, sort them by year of publication, earliest year first. Do not use footnotes for citations.

Single-space the entries in your list of references. Start at the left margin for the first line of each bibliography entry. Each additional line of each entry should be indented a reasonable amount. Separate the entries with a blank line. Do not number the references. Doing so means you have to renumber all the references whenever you insert a new reference.

4.1. Author, Date, and Title

The general format for the author, title, and date in your reference list is as follows:

    Author. (date). Title. [the full reference, which follows, is discussed below]

The following explains these fields.


First author's last name, followed by the initials. If there are two authors, separate their names with "and". For three or more authors, separate all but the last author's name with commas, and use "and" before the last author's name in the list. If published by an agency with no author given, list the name of the agency. End with a period. For example:

    Walters, R.F.

    Walters, R.F. and Reed, N.E.

    Walters, R.F., Bharat, S. R. and Austin, A.A.

    Charniak, E., Riesbeck, C., McDermott, D. and Meehan, J.

    National Bureau of Standards.


Enclose the date in parentheses. Use a date sufficiently specific for the item. For example, give the year of publication for a book, the year and month of publication for a monthly magazine or journal, and the year, month, and day for a newspaper or daily periodical. End with a period. For example:


    (1992, October).

    (1995, August 30).


If the title is that of an article, use the regular font; if it is the title of a book, italicize it. Capitalize only the first letter of the first word and proper nouns. If there is a subtitle, it too should begin with a capital letter. End with a period. For example, an article's title would look like:

    Computer-based systems integration.

and a book's title would look like:

    The abc's of MUMPS: An introduction for novice and intermediate programmers.

4.2. Journals, Magazines, and Newspapers

The following apply to citing the name and identifying information for journals, magazines, newspapers, and periodicals in general.


When citing the name of a journal, magazine or newspaper, write the name in italics, with all words capitalized except for articles, prepositions and conjunctions.

Volume, number, and page numbers

Give the volume number in italics, followed by the issue number in parentheses (if there is an issue number), and the page number(s). For magazines, precede page numbers with "p." (if the article is on a single page) or "pp." (if the article is on multiple pages). For example:

    Communications of the ACM, 27(2), 141-195.

    Journal of Advertising Research, 32, 47-55.

    Time, 146, pp. 42-44.

Publisher and Location

Give the city and state (if in the United States), followed by a colon and the publisher name, followed by a period. For example:

    Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall.

    London: Edward Arnold

4.3. Interviews

If you choose to include any personal interviews, reference them with the person's name, their professional title and employer, and the date, time, and place of the interview. For example:

    Albert Einstein (1935, January 5), Professor of Theoretical Physics, Princeton University, 3:00pm, Princeton, NJ.

4.4. References Found in Electronic Form

Many resource materials are available through Melvyl and Harvest, which are the electronic access points for the UC Davis library. More are on CDROM, or on the Internet. These can serve as appropriate references for research reports and term papers. It is important, however, to acknowledge the sources of these documents, even though you may never have seen "hard copy" (printed versions) of the file(s) you wish to cite. This section describes how you are to cite references that you have obtained from electronic repositories.

The basic form of your reference will be similar to printed references, but you will need to add some important additional information: the type of medium used, and the material's availability.

In general, if you wish to cite an electronic file, you should include either the term "[Online]" or the term "[CDROM]" (enclosed in square brackets) before the closing period terminating the title of the work cited. If you are citing a part of a larger work, you should give the title, followed by a comma, the word "In" followed by the larger work, and then add "[Online]" or "[CDROM]" as appropriate, followed by a period.

Citing the availability of an electronic document should give the reader enough information to know where to locate the file and, if necessary, the specific portion of the file cited. Electronic documents can come from several types of locations:

    ftp: identify the ftp server, location (path), and file name

    Internet (e.g., world wide web): give the location and file name; the URL is sufficient

    mailing lists, newsgroups: identify the server, method of access, and file name; do not cite personal email

    databases (e.g., computer database in Melvyl): identify access method

In each case, you should give enough information to let the reader know how to access the information electronically. Generally, giving the site (Internet-style server name) on which the information resides, the name of the file, and the complete path (list of directories) showing how to get to it is sufficient.For example:

    [Online]. Available: email: listserv@ncsuvm.cc.ncsu.edu Message: Get POETICS TODAY.

    [Online] Available: FTP: ftp.bio.indiana.edu, Location: /usenet/bionet/neuroscience, File: 9512.newsm.

    [CDROM]. Available: UMI File: Business Periodicals Ondisk Item 91-11501.

    [Online]. Available: http://escher.ucdavis.edu:1024/rtahomepage.html

5. Samples of Complete References

All of the examples given above may be summarized by citing a few references in the form we would like you to use. Here are some examples that would be cited in the text as (Crosley, 1988), (Essinger, 1991, May 28, pp. 97-99), (Armstrong & Keevil, 1991, p. 103), and so forth.

5.1. Printed Book

Crosley, L.M. (1988). The architects' guide to computer-aided-design. Toronto: John Wiley & Sons.

5.2. Magazine Article

Essinger, J. (1991, May 28). Just another tool of your trade. Accountancy 108, pp. 91-125.

5.3. Journal Article

Armstrong, P. and Keevil, S. (1991). Magnetic resonance imaging-2: Clinical uses. British Medical Journal 303(2), 105-109.

5.4. Interview

Computer, Christopher C. (1996, January 10) Professor, Computer Science Department, University of California - Davis, 3:00 pm, Davis, California.

5.5. World Wide Web Address

Austin, A. (1996) Annotated List of World Wide Web Technical Writing and Computer-Aided Composition Resources [Online]. Available: http://wwwcsif.cs.ucdavis.edu/~austina/cai.html.

Burke, J. (1992, January/February). Children's research and methods: What media researchers are doing, Journal of Advertising Research, 32, RC2-RC3. [CDROM]. Available: UMI File: Business Periodicals Ondisk Item: 92-11501.

5.7. FTP

Blood, T. (1995, November 30). Re: Brain implants: the Chinese made it! [Online] In Newsgroup: bionet.neuroscience, Available FTP: ftp.bio.indiana.edu, Directory: /usenet/bionet/neuroscience, File: 9512.newsm, Date: Thu, 30 Nov 1995 20:39:35.

Watson, L, and Dallwitz, M.J. (1990, December). Grass genera of the world-interactive identification and information retrieval. Flora Online: An Electronic Publication of TAXACOM (22). [Online]. Available FTP: huh.harvard.edu, Directory: pub/newsletters/flora.online/issue22, File:022gra11.txt.

6. References

American Psychological Association (APA) (2001). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (Fifth Edition).Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Li, X. and Crane, N.B. (1993). Electronic style: A guide to citing electronic information. Westport, CT: Mecklermedia.

Here is a PDF version of this document.

How to Write References


 Why Cite References?

Citing bibliographical references means:
CITING acknowledging within your text the document from which you have obtained information.
BIBLIOGRAPHY is the list of publications you consulted.
REFERENCE is the detailed description of the document from which you have obtained the information.

Honest and professional citation of references provides part of the framework for sound written research:

  • because you must acknowledge the sources you have used to establish your arguments and criticisms;

  • the references enable other people to identify and trace the sources you have used for your ideas;

  • and it helps avoid charges of plagiarism because it makes clear when you are using someone else's ideas and words.

 There are two principal components to citing references

  • the way you acknowledge, cite the source in your text
  • the way you list your sources at the end of your work to enable identification, i.e. the bibliography (or reference list )

There are a variety of systems for bibliographies. Once you have selected a system it is important that you stick to it consistently.

Most subjects and Faculties within the University have a preferred system. Please see the below for details. If your subject or Faculty does not appear in the list on this page, please contact your tutor for advice.

Standard Styles

QEC, the University of Stirling's Quality Enhancement Committee approved the adoption of standard styles for subjects. The style for each subject is listed below.


You can use RefWorks, the University of Stirling supported referencing software, to help you create bibliographies and with Write-N-Cite a RefWorks tool, insert citations into your essay as you write!

See our RefWorks and Write-N-Cite guide. Or visit RefWorks' own guide.


Below are the different styles subjects have chosen with links to further information and example bibliographies and in-text citation guidelines.


The QEC approved Recommendation for Standard styles was as follows:

Recommendations (approved)

10. QEC is invited to:

Approve the adoption of standard styles for all subjects within all Faculties. We recognise that in some Faculties there are a number of disparate subjects (e.g., Faculty of Arts and Humanities includes law which has very different referencing needs from the rest of the Faculty) so we do not suggest limiting the number of standard styles within a Faculty. Our primary aim is to make things less complex for the students. RefWorks offers many different styles to choose from and we are not proposing to restrict subjects in their choice, only that a Faculty or subject, choose from the list offered by RefWorks. The list can be found here: http://www.refworks.com/content/products/output_style.asp (this includes such styles as APA 6th edition; Chicago 16th edition; Harvard British Standard 2010; MLA and Vancouver).


Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism (from the Latin plagiarius meaning a kidnapper, literary thief) is a very serious offence and at University of Stirling is considered to be Academic Misconduct. In summary: you must not represent the ideas of other people as your own - this applies to published works and the work of other students.

The University of Stirling's Guide to to plagiarism pages are designed to help you to understand more fully what plagiarism is and how you can develop practices to avoid it.

You may also find useful the tutorial "Avoiding Plagiarism" (designed by University of Leicester) about how to understand, and avoid plagiarism.

The following points are based on Stirling University's Policy on Plagiarism:

  • It is not sufficient merely to list a source in an appended bibliography, or in the body of an assignment to express a general indebtedness. To avoid a charge of plagiarism, all debts must be specifically, precisely and accurately referenced in accordance with good academic practice. 

  • When a source is directly quoted word-for-word, the passage quoted should be placed within quotation marks or indented and the source accurately referenced, in parenthesis, in a footnote, or in an endnote, according to a recognised system. There must be no ambiguity about where the quotation ends or begins. 

  • The source of any data cited (e.g. figures, tables, charts) should be made explicit. 

  • When ideas, or an argument, are reproduced from a source in a general or paraphrased way, the source must be acknowledged. 

Remember that these rules apply to all the different sources of information you have used, for example: a lecture or tutorial, books, journal articles, web sites, newspapers, a television programme, a friend's essay.

If you think about where you found your information and reference your work properly, then accidental plagiarism can be avoided.

Journal Title Abbreviations

In the examples in this guide the journal titles used have been given in full, however in many sources and databases the journal title is given in an abbreviated form, and it can be difficult to know what it means.

Fortunately journal title abbreviations are standardised. There are a number of useful sources you can use to check the standard abbreviation:

Legal Citations

Please see our OSCOLA Introduction and OSCOLA Help pages.‌


RefWorks has information about working with footnotes and endnotes. It is essential to check the formatting of your bibliography, to ensure that it meets the requirements of the style used by your Faculty. If you are a History students and require a 'short reference', titles can be manually shortened in RefWorks.

Further Information

The following sources provide additional information on writing references and may be helpful if you are uncertain about how to treat a particular publication type or style.  However, please be aware that there is no definitive standard for all referencing guidance and these sources may vary with RefWorks bibliography and citation styles.

There are a variety of accepted systems for bibliographies and you can check these by consulting books about writing essays and theses in the Education section of the Library. At Stirling, these books are located at K 8.135, at the Highland and Western Isles campuses these books are located at LB 2369. For example:

ACHTERT, W.S. and GIBALDI, J., 1985. The MLA style manual. New York: Modern Language Association of America.

BECKER, H.S., 2007. Writing for social scientists: how to start and finish your thesis, book or article. 2nd edn. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

BRITISH STANDARDS INSTITUTION, 2010. Information and documentation: guidelines for bibliographic references and citations to information resources: BS ISO 690-2010. London: ISO.

COUNCIL OF BIOLOGY EDITORS. COMMITTEE ON FORM AND STYLE, 1994. Scientific style and format: the CBE manual for authors, editors, and publishers.6th edn. Cambridge: CUP.

MODERN HUMANITIES RESEARCH ASSOCIATION, 2008. MHRA style guide: a handbook for authors, editors, and writers of theses. 2nd edn. London: Modern Humanities Research Association.

NEVILLE, C., 2007. The complete guide to referencing and avoiding plagiarism. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

PEARS, R. and SHIELDS, G.J., 2010. Cite them right: the essential referencing guide. 8th edn. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

TURABIAN, K.L., 2007. A manual for writers of research papers, theses, and dissertations: Chicago style for students and researchers. 7th edn. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Referencing electronic sources

The publications above will include details on referencing types of publications and sources not covered in this guide e.g. Newspaper articles, videos, etc. Many of the web sites below cover electronic sources.

Useful Websites

There are also a number of useful websites for referencing information; many of them cover both printed and electronic formats. For example the particularly helpful:

Guide to referencing: Harvard - from the University of the West of England


APA (American Psychological Association) Formatting and Style Guide - from the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University, Indiana

Create an APA Reference List - from the University of Wisconsin

Referencing@Portsmouth is an online citation tool which gives information about the APA (5th & 6th eds), OSCOLA and Vancouver styles

MLA (Modern Language Association) Formatting and Style Guide - from the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University, Indiana

Audiovisual Citation: British Universities Film & Video Council Guidelines for Referencing moving images and sound this guide includes information about referencing from film, television, radio, audio such as podcasts, media clips such as YouTube and new media sources such as webcasts and webinars

The Chicago Manual of Style Quick Guide. This is an online guide to the referencing style used by students studying Religious Studies in the Division of Literature and Languages


Abbreviations/ terms used

Common abbreviations and terms used in references:


col.column (plural, cols.)
comp.compiler (plural, comps.)
ed.edition; edited by; editor (plural, eds.)
et al.et alii : Latin for 'and others'
ibid.ibidem : Latin for 'in the same place'. This word can only be used in 
the next consecutive reference in a list after an earlier reference to the same work.
For example :
1. Leggett, J. The carbon war: global warming and the end of the oil era
2nd edition. London, Penguin, 2000.
2. ibid. p. 65
3. Ledwith, S. and Manfredi, S. Balancing gender in higher education - a study of the experience of 
senior women in a 'new' UK university. European Journal of Women's Studies, 7 (1), 2000. pp. 7-33
4. ibid.
n.d.no date (of publication known)
n.p.no place (of publication known)
no.number (plural nos.) In America, the symbol # is often used
op. cit.opere citato : Latin for 'in the work cited' 
For example :
1. Brennan, A.A. Environmental decision making. In: Berry, R. J. ed. 
Environmental dilemmas: ethics and decisions. London, Chapman & Hall, 1993. pp. 1-19.
2. Leggett, J. The carbon war: global warming and the end of the oil era
2nd edition. London, Penguin, 2000. pp. 25-27
3. Brennan, A.A. op. cit. p. 45
p.page (plural pp.)
supp.supplement (plural, supps.)
Trans.translator ; translated by
vol.volume (plural, vols.)

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