Referencing (along with Evaluation and Analysis) remains the most common reason for failure of first submissions. This is particularly frustrating for a student when they have otherwise done a very good RAP as it means that any resubmission can only ever achieve a C grade.
This article contains hints and guidelines to avoid a failure. It is basically in 3 parts:
This part, Part 1, is background information about why there is the emphasis on referencing in the first place, which then helps you appreciate Part 2 which sets out the Golden Rules. Part 3 answers some frequently asked questions. The last of these questions, Q10, contains a lot of useful links to websites where you will find more details of how to deal with particular types of references (it would be impossible to outline all of these in one article). However if you explore the links you will find that with some of them you can enter the type of reference you are having a problem with and it will show you how to deal with it.
You are also referred to Appendix 3 of the OBU Information Pack where there is also some information on dealing with various types of references. One word of caution however although the writer of the OBU article categorises references in this article under various headings to give you examples, you should remember this is for illustrative purposes only. In reality you should produce only ONE SYSTEMATIC LIST which includes everything (not several each arranged under ‘Books’ , ‘Journals’, ‘Websites’ etc). Admittedly this is a bit confusing but think about it – the marker usually has no idea when they see a reference in the text if it is from a book, journal or newspaper so they do not want to have to hunt through lots of different categories to find a particular reference, they just want to go to one list and find it straightaway.
Remember that presenting work without adequate referencing is likely to be failed: this is because it does not demonstrate that you have researched adequately or possibly you are copying passages from someone else’s document – which is deemed to be ‘plagiarism’, a very serious academic offence
First a basic description of what a reference is….
A reference is a brief note included in the text of an academic document that indicates the source of the information behind the statement made or to show from where the figures in a table or chart have been extracted. So taking a statement recently made in relation to the US economy “given the stock market turmoil and fears for the Chinese economy, the case for an early rate rise was “less compelling” needs a reference to answer the questions – who said this? and how reliable is this statement? Well the statement was actually made by William Dudley, the President of the US Federal Reserve in connection with a potential rise in US interest rates. As it goes that this must be a fairly reliable statement! Strictly speaking it should be referenced as (Dudley, 2015) in the text and in the Reference List as – Dudley W (2015). Comments made by the President of the US Federal Reserve, press briefing on the regional economy, 27th August 2015. [Although if the actual speaker of the words was unknown it would have been acceptable to have used (US Federal Reserve, 2015) as an alternative and in the reference list have had the entry – US Federal Reserve (2015). Comments made by a representative of the US Federal Reserve, press briefing on the regional economy, 27th August 2015].
Secondly it is important to understand why OBU insists on referencing as once you understand the purpose behind it, the “Rules” make more sense and then it becomes easier to apply.
Reasons for academic referencing:
- Referencing is about helping you to construct and build up arguments using other people’s ideas to support your comments. It is perfectly acceptable to use the work of others provided that you acknowledge their work and use it appropriately (but note Golden Rule No.10 later with regard to this).
- Throughout your RAP you will be making statements, but the marker is in the position of establishing that what you are saying is true and not fabricated. Referencing your work to reliable sources provides evidence that you are making comments that are genuine. (A reference in a sense is like independent audit evidence – it provides valid evidence that your statements are based on actual facts and are likely to be true)
- Perhaps not so much in the RAP but in more advanced work, references link your research to existing research perhaps advancing the learning and research in particular areas. In other words references in university work show how you have taken someone else’s study and explored it further in perhaps a specific area or developed an idea that they mentioned but did not pursue.
The requirements for referencing
Now that you know the purposes of referencing, you may appreciate that if referencing is to provide reliable evidence then someone (e.g. the reader or marker) needs to be able to see the original source (or at least establish that such a source exists). With my Federal Reserve example anyone could now enter ‘Federal Reserve’ + the relevant date in a search engine and find the appropriate quote and an article about the comment Mr Dudley made.
The reader of academic work is therefore “at the mercy” of the student to provide sufficient details of the sources. There is no ‘right number of references’ there is just the right amount of references i.e. all statements of facts and the ideas of others need a reference and where citing information and data from a source, the reader needs to know from where you have extracted this information . As writer of the RAP it is your duty not just to show in your report that your comment or data is taken from a reliable source by inserting a brief reference in the text but also you must then follow this up by including the full details of it in the Reference List.
Note: As already mentioned it is not possible to give examples of the various types of referencing for each eventuality but please refer to the links to referencing tools given in the reply to Question 10 in our Referencing FAQs. You should then be able to see how to do an appropriate reference for your source.
If you have used one of the Referencing Tools via the links in Q10 but are still experiencing difficulty in how to present a reference then post your query to the Harvard Referencing Forum topic and I will try to answer it there.