1 Must I use the Harvard (or Harvard APA) Referencing System?
No, Harvard is recommended but it is not actually prescribed. Harvard provides the means for students to obtain the basics of good referencing therefore by encouraging its use, OBU helps students familiarise themselves with referencing requirements whilst preparing those who go on to do a further degree where Harvard is required, to acquire good referencing skills and habits. Whatever the method of referencing it must be systematic so that the reader (or your marker) can easily verify the exact source.
The requirements for referencing are that you must show exactly what in the text you are referencing, your referencing is systematic (for example designations in the text are the same as in the reference list) so that the actual sources can be located easily with the use of a search engine and everything that should be referenced, is referenced. Provided the system you use, be it subscript numbers or footnotes, essentially allows the reader to see what you are referencing and means they can locate or verify that the original source exists you will meet the assessment criteria for your OBU RAP
2 How many references should I have?
As indicated in Part 1 there is no exact number as this will depend on the topic and sources. However every fact, statement of opinion and ideas of others must be referenced and all sources e.g. where you have extracted the data you are citing from, must be referenced fully.
3 I’ve heard that you can create a Reference List really easily by using Microsoft Word – can I do this?
Provided your referencing complies with the requirements set out in Q1 then in principle there is no reason why you should not do this. However do read and follow the Golden Rules we have set out as an automated list may not necessarily produce the appendages as required and you may encounter a little problem when inserting page numbers in an intext reference. Remember it is your responsibility to ensure that your reference list is accurate and fulfils the requirements so even if you do use an inbuilt program tool to help, you may need to check the final version. (By the way see YouTube videos on how to use these tools to automatically create a reference list)
4 How do I reference a personal interview or personal communications?
For your RAP you need to ensure that your work contains a balance of opinion and presents a situation from different viewpoints. For this reason, unless your topic requires it*, you should focus on secondary data and you should not rely predominantly on just an interview with one person without including other sources. You should include the name of the interviewee in the text and then give as many details as possible in your reference list about the interviewee’s position/job title and when and where the interview took place.
Note: Remember with interviews the marker is in a difficult position – in the RAP students are making statements and expecting them to be believed. Where there are references to secondary sources the marker can check these by tracking down the documents. With interviews you are asking the marker to take your comments on trust and although they will accept to a point that you are not making the whole thing up, if there are few external references in the world of academia this is considered to be poor academic practice as it lacks objective assessment. OBU has stipulated that where students claim to have interviewed management they must now provide a copy on the letter confirming the interview on company headed paper or an email containing the valid company email address of the interviewee (private email addresses are not acceptable). However treat the interviewee as you would an ‘author’ and include details of their position and the date of the interview in your list.
*Topic 6 is such a topic but evidence in the form of the data gathered must be included in the appendices to support your findings.
5 How do I reference a TV or radio broadcast?
Harvard actually recommends that you use the producer’s name (use it as you would if referencing an author for an article or book). Remember though that Harvard is the ‘Gold Standard’ and trying to locate who the producer was could be onerous. For the purpose of your RAP, it is sufficient therefore to refer either to the relevant interviewee, interviewer, reporter or presenter (as appropriate) and use this as you would an author in your reference. Be consistent and ensure that the name in the text is the same as that in the reference list and give the full name of the programme and date it was broadcast. (See also the links in Q10 as they should cover ‘one-off’ type of references like this and similar situations e.g. references for speeches etc)
6 I’ve heard that I shouldn’t put web addresses in the report, so how do I reference a website?
References that include a long website address in the text are not advised. This is because it is ‘lazy’ and also because it is more difficult to find individual references if the reference list comprises a long list of URLs. The marker will at best find this frustrating as they will have to scrutinised perhaps several pages or resort to an electronic search to try to locate what they are looking for. At worst the marker may regard this lazy referencing as inadequate evidence that you really know how to reference properly in which case you will be failed on referencing.
The general rules of referencing still apply so you should attempt to give as much information as possible so that the reader can locate your reference e.g. if citing someone from a blog, then the blog name and year in the text and start the list in the same manner but try to include the full date if possible and any forum heading as well as the website name and the URL in your list.
7 Can I use Wikipedia and similar sources where the author is unknown
The RAP is an academic piece of work and academics generally are not happy about Wikipedia (or Investopedia for that matter) as a reliable source – this is because in essence anyone can post statements to these sites and therefore they may not be valid and reliable. It is probably better to use Wikipedia as a means of locating more acceptable sources as some contributors do reference and give details of where they have extracted their information, try to track down the original source and read and reference that instead.
8 I do not know who wrote the statements but I read them in an article is it acceptable to cite (anon, n.d.) as the source
As with Wikipedia and similar sources, anonymous statements are not regarded as reliable and valid. A marker may turn a ‘blind eye’ when marking the RAP to the odd anonymous reference but like using web addresses the reference, (anon, n.d.) falls into the category of ‘lazy referencing’. You should make some attempt to reference the article according to the general rules of referencing e.g. using the name of a website. If there are too many instances of (anon, n.d.) and the marker thinks you are being lazy rather than diligent in your referencing they are likely to fail you for referencing. This will certainly be the case if the marker scrutinises your anonymous references and they manage to find the actual author…
9 Do the markers really check the actual references?
I am reliably informed that they most certainly do! The Assessment Criteria (Appendix 1 of the Information Pack) show the standards that are expected with respect to referencing. As part of their assessment of competence in referencing, markers will examine the list and ‘test’ some of the references in each RAP submission (just like an auditor will sample invoices in their audit checks). The occasional mistake may be ‘forgiven’ but a high incidence of bad / missing / inaccurate references in the test sample will indicate incompetence and could result in failure. As mentioned in the introduction, Referencing remains the joint most common reason for failure (along with Evaluation and Analysis)
10 There are many websites that suggest referencing methods are there any particularly recommended?
Here are a couple from the University of Portsmouth that I have used that are fairly comprehensive. The first allows you to feed in the general category of the type of item you wish to reference
This second link is an index so you can look for the particular type of reference you need. Note it is for Harvard APA – the system that is accepted as the very best system
https://referencing.port.ac.uk/list.php?system=6&systemname=APA 6th ed.
Also the OBU referencing website has a home page
Go to Harvard or APA as these are the most highly regarded systems (sometimes combined as Harvard-APA) and there is an assortment of links to other university reference guides
There is plenty of information out there so if you understand the ‘Golden Rules’ and Principles of Good Referencing for the RAP’ that have been explained in our article and you use one or more of these websites to deal with the ‘finer points’ overall you should be able to demonstrate the necessary competence to pass.