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What is Referencing?

Referencing is a standardised way to acknowledge the sources you have used in your work. Sources may include websites, reports, books or journal articles. There are many different referencing systems, and those referencing systems used at RCSI are outlined on this guide. Importantly, all referencing systems have the same goal: giving credit to another author and the prevention of plagiarism


Why Reference?

By referencing correctly, you will guide readers to original ideas and avoid plagiarism: the of another author's work or research without full acknowledgement to the author. Plagiarism (and/or poor referencing standards) can be considered academic misconduct and therefore, must be avoided!

Referencing is also an indication of academic integrity and a requirement for student essays and projects. To access some further resources on academic integrity from QQI (the statutory body responsible for qualifications and quality assurance in higher education in Ireland), follow this link

Terms Explained

Most referencing styles contain the same basic types of information about a source. These are the bibliographic details or bibliographic elements. The exact details required will depend on the type of source and the referencing style.

Examples of required bibliographic details:

  1. Journal articles: author(s), publication year, article title, journal title, volume, issue, page number(s), Digital Object Identifier (DOI) or URL
  2. Book: author(s)/editor(s), publication year, book title, place of publication, publisher
  3. Web page: author(s)/editor(s)/name of organisation, date page was last updated, title of page, date page was accessed, URL

Sources are the books, articles, reports and other material that you consult to write your paper.

Documenting involves acknowledging the sources you have used by providing full bibliographic details.

A citation is the source in the body of the paper (a number or author and date). The citation is linked to a corresponding reference. 

References are the list of sources at the end of your document. A reference should give full bibliographic details to the guide the reader to the original source.

A direct quote is when you use the exact words from an original source.

  • Short quotes: you may use quotation marks (" ") and merge with the rest of your text.
  • Longer quotes: May appear as an indented paragraph.

A quote must be followed by a citation. The citation is connected to a reference at the end of your paper.

Paraphrasing is when you use someone else's ideas in your own words. Each paraphrase should include a citation.

Steps to effective paraphrasing (link to Purdue Online Writing Lab)

Interactive Training

To complete an interactive lesson and useful overview of referencing, plagiarism and its key ideas, follow the below link:

ALL Aboard - Digital Skills in Higher Education - Referencing 

All Aboard is a national project that aims to empower learners, teachers, and anyone who uses technology to support their work, their study, or other aspects of living in a digital age. Good luck!