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What is referencing?

In academic writing, we rely a lot on other people’s writing and research. For example, I have never researched how many people study Chemistry in Dubai. But someone else has done this research – let’s call her Mary. So Mary has counted the number of people studying Chemistry in Dubai. So if I want to use that information in an essay, I have to give credit to Mary. I have to tell the person reading my essay that Mary got this information, not me.

Why is it important?

It is important for a number of reasons. First of all, it is so the reader can check what you are saying, to see if what you are saying is actually true. Suppose I say that according to Mary 10,000 people are studying Chemistry in Dubai. When you go to read Mary’s original report, you see it is actually 15,000 people. So the referencing makes sure that I am correctly saying what Mary said.

Also, referencing helps to avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism is basically copying. By using a reference, you are very clearly saying – “This is not my idea or my work”. If you use someone else’s work and you don’t give a reference, then this is plagiarism. To use our Mary example again – imagine if you were Mary; you spent months collecting data on Chemistry students in Dubai; you wrote a report about it that took you ages to finish – and then someone comes along, takes your data without saying thank you or telling people that it was your work!

What systems are there?

There are many different referencing systems. One of the most popular and the one we use a lot in DIFC is the Harvard Referencing system. With every system, there are rules and the rules of the Harvard system are fairly straightforward. This is most important when doing a bibliography: this is where you include all the information about the book/journal you were reading. So for example, let’s say we take a popular book like Harry Potter. For Harvard referencing, we will need the name of the author, the title of the book, the year it was published and the name and location of the publisher (this is important because popular books are often printed many times. For instance, with the Harry Potter books there are hardback copies and paperback copies – page 27 of the hardback might be different to page 27 of the paperback). So the Harry Potter reference might look like this:

Rowling, J. K., 1998. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. London: Bloomsbury.

What help is available?

In the old days, you had to type out all your references by hand. It was a painful process. While it is still good to do this, there are also lots of tools available to help you with referencing and bibliographies.

  • The Anglia Ruskin website has a wonderful webpage which shows you how to reference absolutely everything (even a Youtube video)
  • This website is good but not completely reliable. So use it, but also use Anglia Ruskin to double check.
  • Zotero is fantastic – a favourite of Mr Colm
  • Microsoft Word has bibliography and referencing (see below)


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