Introduction to Referencing

All information, ideas and quotations from anything you have consulted in order to write an assignment at University must be correctly referenced.

There are several different styles of referencing and it is important to check with your tutors to make sure you know which style you need to use.

Failure to follow the instructions of tutors regarding referencing style could lead to students losing marks in assessments.

The University supports four referencing styles, Harvard, OSCOLA, APA and MHRA. Read on for more information on each of these.

Referencing is the process of acknowledging your sources. Sources include anything you take information from eg books, journals, magazines, newspapers, websites, lectures, legislation, maps, television and radio programmes, works of art, dramatic performances, etc.

By referencing your sources you are demonstrating to your tutors the breadth of your research and reinforcing your own arguments. Using a wide range of sources is excellent academic practice and can improve your marks.

Referencing enables your tutors and anyone else reading your work to check your sources and follow up information for themselves.

Failure to reference correctly, or worse still, not to reference at all, may lead to accusations of plagiarism (using other people's ideas, words and research as if they were your own. Plagiarism is a serious offence at university and may lead to disciplinary action.

  • Using information you have read without crediting the authors
  • Using an image without crediting the photographer
  • Using designs or copying music without naming the original creator
  • Citing incorrectly without using quotation marks

Find out more on plagiarism on Library Matters.

This style consists of two parts:

In-text citation

The author and date of publication appear in brackets immediately after the idea, information or quote you are referencing, eg, Political reform is needed (Kruger, 2007).

In-text citations are usually included in your word count for all your assignments.


  • You need to include the page number in your text when you quote directly from a source, eg, For some, ‘going green’ is driven by the prospect of “pocketing substantial government subsidies” (Lawson, 2009, p. 118).
  • You also need to include the page number if you re-write an author’s specific idea or sentence using your own words, eg, Swetnam (2004, p. 95) has argued that consistency is of the utmost importance in referencing.
  • Where the author’s name appears in your essay, you do not need to put the name in brackets, eg, Luke (2008) highlights the importance of business to business pressure.

A reference list

This appears at the end of your assignment giving full publication details for all of the sources you referred to eg Kruger, D. (2007) On fraternity: politics beyond liberty and equality. London: Institute for the Study of Civil Society.

Your sources should be listed in alphabetical order by author surname in your reference list.

Your reference list is not included in your word count.

Harvard referencing varies in format. The guidance provided by London Met Library Service is based on the style in the book:

Pears, R. and Shields, G. (2019) Cite them right: the essential referencing guide, 11th edn. London: Macmillan Higher Education.

Harvard Referencing Quick Guide
Harvard Referencing Full Guide

OSCOLA (Oxford Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities) is the standard referencing style used in Law.

The current OSCOLA guide was published before this so does not include instructions on how to use it, but their recommendation is to treat it in the same way as a Neutral Citation, adding it after the case name and before the report citation:


Case C-176/03 Commission v Council EU:C:2005:542, [2005] ECR I-7879. 
For unreported cases, cite the ECLI rather than the OJ notice or the court and date (as advised in OSCOLA 2.6.2). For example:

Case C-542/09 Commission v the Netherlands EU:C:2012:346.

Remember: Always check with your tutors to make sure you know which referencing style they expect you to use.

APA (American Psychological Association) Style is the standard writing style (including referencing) used in psychology. Purdue University's Online Writing Lab has a useful guide to using APA Style.

MHRA (Modern Humanities Research Association) referencing style is the referencing method recommended by the School of Art, Architecture and Design for School of Art, Architecture and Design students.

Vancouver style is a numeric referencing style commonly used in the sciences. There are two parts to this style:

  • Citing in the text - when, in your work, you use an idea from a book, journal article, etc., you must acknowledge this in your text. For each citation (that is each piece of work cited in your text) assign a number. Starting with number 1, assign the numbers in the order of citation. If you cite same piece of work again, use the same citation number. Write the number in brackets or as superscript.
  • The reference list – this is a list of all the sources cited in the text of your work. In Vancouver style this is sequentially numbered list at the end of your work. Each number on the reference list should match and refer to the one in the text.

Imperial College has a useful guide to using the Vancouver style.

IEEE Style is used in some courses in the School of Computing and Digital Media. See the IEEE Referencing Guide from IEEE for instructions on how to reference using this style. Alternatively, see the guide produced by the University of York.

  • Reference management software

The Academic Liaison Librarians run workshops on referencing basics and using the Zotero reference management tool; please keep an eye on our Eventbrite page to see what is coming up.

You can find slides and recordings from previous workshops on Library Matters.

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