Referencing Systems Overview
These are the most common kinds of referencing systems. The most important thing to remember with all referencing is that you must be consistent. It is not acceptable to acknowledge some of your sources in footnotes (at the bottom of the page) or endnotes (at the end of the chapter), while others are acknowledged in brackets in the text, or vice versa. Below are the most popular referencing styles for essay formatting:
You should also check with your lecturer or faculty as to what system they would prefer. Most departments can give you guidelines, but you may have to ask for them. If you have any questions about referencing – ask our writers.
The following sections will give you an idea of each style. Please note that the text inside [square brackets] is not intended to be reproduced in your referencing, but shows comments and guidelines only.
In MLA referencing system, in-text citations are used, with the author’s name and the page number. Here are some examples:
|Browne states that ‘as a group, men appear to be less attuned to emotional signals such as facial expression than are women’ (39). [The name has already been mentioned, so you don’t have to give it again. The 39 is the page number].|
|One author concluded that ‘as a group, men appear to be less attuned to emotional signals such as facial expression than are women’ (Browne 39).|
|One text indicated that global poverty is actually on the rise (Marcus, Feldman and Rupert 307).|
|The GDP for each country was reported in figures rounded to the nearest thousand (Marcus et al. 377-8). [You can use ‘et al’ only once you have mentioned the joint authors by name previously in your text].|
|Davidson suggests that accelerated learning is indeed the answer. [No page reference is necessary here since you are referring to an entire book or article rather than a single section or sentence. Be sure to list the work in your Works Cited list].|
|One author suggests that accelerated learning is indeed the answer (Davidson). [No page number is necessary because you are referring to the entire work].|
|Two recent articles point out that the number of annual natural disasters appears to be increasing every decade (Matthew 56; Paulson 291).|
Your reference list should be titled ‘Works Cited’ and should look like this:
Bradford, Milton F. ‘Hearing loss in the elderly.’ Journal of Geriatrics 42 (1991): 38-45 [journal article]
Hobart, K.J. The History of the Moon. London: Piglet Press, 1968 [book]
See also: Proper MLA Essay Format Explained
APA Referencing System
APA referencing is commonly used in the social sciences. You give the author’s name and the year of publication. If you give a direct quote, you also give the page number, but not otherwise. Here are some examples:
|Browne (1989, p. 39) states that ‘as a group, men appear to be less attuned to emotional signals such as facial expression than are women.‘ [The name has already been mentioned, so you don’t have to give it again].|
|One author (Browne, 1989) concluded that men are less in tune than women are to signs of emotion, such as the expression on someone’s face. [no page number needed, since this is not a direct quote; however, you may give a page number if you know it].|
|One text indicates that global poverty is actually on the rise (Marcus, Feldman & Rupert, 2001).|
|GDP for each country was reported in figures rounded to the nearest thousand (Marcus et al., 2001). [You can use ‘et al.’ only once you have mentioned the joint authors by name previously in your text].|
|Davidson (2004) suggests that accelerated learning is indeed the answer. [No page reference is necessary here since you are referring to an entire book or article].|
|One author (Davidson, 2004) suggests that accelerated learning is indeed the answer. [No page number is necessary as you are referring to the entire work].|
|Two recent articles point out that the number of natural disasters appears to be increasing every decade (Matthew, 2006; Paulson, 2007).|
Your reference list should be titled ‘References’ and should look like this:
Bradford, Milton F. (1991) Hearing loss in the elderly. Journal of Geriatrics 42(1), 38-45 [journal article]
Hobart, K.J. (1968) The History of the Moon. London: Piglet Press [book]
See also: APA Essay Format
MHRA Referencing System
These guidelines are based on the MHRA style guide, available at www.mhra.org.uk. The MHRA system differs from the above two in that it uses footnotes and endnotes rather than in-text citations. Use a superscript to mark each new footnote or endnote. Here are some examples:
|Browne states that ‘as a group, men appear to be less attuned to emotional signals such as facial expression than are women.’1|
|One author concluded that men are less in tune than women are to signs of emotion, such as the expression on someone’s face.2|
|One text indicates that global poverty is actually on the rise.3|
|Marcus et al. indicate that most American expect a recession.4|
1 Place the number at the end of the sentence, not straight after the name. Place the number after the punctuation.
2 Mark Browne, ‘Gender differences in emotional sensitivity’, Psychology Today, February 1989, p. 39 [Journal article]
3 K.L. Marcus, H.I. Feldman & P.R. Rupert. A Global Review (London, Piglet Press, 2001), p. 236.
4 Marcus et al., p. 69 [because you have already cited this work, there is no need to give the reference in full again]
Note that you will still need to give a full bibliography at the end of your paper, listing all works mentioned in all endnotes and footnotes. Please see the MHRA website for more information.
Harvard Referencing Style (Author-Date System)
The Harvard referencing style is basically the same as APA. In-text citations are used, giving only the author and date (in brackets), unless a direct quote has been used, in which case give the page number as well. For more details on the Harvard system, please do an internet search.
See also: Harvard Referencing Format
The Chicago system is basically the same as the MHRA system and uses superscripts (numerals raised above the text line) to acknowledge sources, with endnotes and footnotes. A full bibliography at the end of the paper may not be necessary, but if it does appear it should be called ‘Works Cited’. Ask your department or lecturer for guidelines if you are using the Chicago system, or research it online.
See also: Chicago Essay Format
Other Systems of Referencing
The systems outlined above are the most widely used, but there are others. Undergraduates are not usually marked too strictly on their referencing, but post-graduates are. Be sure to ask your department or lecturer for guidelines, and if they differ from the systems shown here, please include the guidelines with your order requirements when you place your order.
Just as there are conventions for citing books and journal articles, there is a right way and a wrong way to cite online sources, whether it is a page in a website or a PDF of a scholarly article. One of the most common errors is that students do not write the date on which they retrieved or accessed the online source. Be sure to inform yourself of the conventions for the style of referencing which you will be using in your paper. You can do an internet research on any of the above systems, and then narrow your search down to ‘electronic sources’.
General Tips on Quoting and Referencing
Correct referencing can make the difference between plagiarism, which is heavily penalized, and legitimate quotes. It is very important to attribute your main ideas to their correct sources, not only to avoid plagiarizing, but also to show that you have read and researched widely.
Referencing is a rather effort-consuming thing. Ask our professionals to prepare a referencing list for you.
Do not use quote marks in this case. Your own text will run to a normal line length, and the direct quote will be visually separate from that because it will use shorter lines. Indicate the author and so on as usual, either before or after the quote.
Direct quotes must always be followed by the page number, for printed articles or books. For electronic sources, give any information that would help the reader to locate the text, such as the paragraph number or screen or section number and/or heading.
Do not quote huge chunks of text. Try to interpret and analyze everything you read, and put it into your own words. Use quotes only if you really cannot think of a better way to say something, or if you want to preserve the original author’s way of saying things. Lecturers are not impressed by lengthy or frequent quotes.
It is fine to make indirect reference to an author or to summarize his or her viewpoint or findings. This is not a direct quote because you are using your own words. Doing so shows that you have grasped the essence of what that person is saying, and you are able to put it into your own words. Too many direct quotes not only make for a clumsily structured paper, they will leave your lecturer wondering if you are able to express things adequately yourself.
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Correct referencing means that you need to do the following:
8 Common College Essay Formats and Their Citation Styles
As a college student, you will be required to write dozens of papers on different topics. Depending on the subject you’re studying, you will use some essay styles more than others. This article gives a short description of the most commonly used forms of college essays and the citation styles that you will need to use for each.
1. The Expository Essay
The expository essay explains something, or describes, or presents information and is used to inform the reader. Your professors will ask you to write this type of essay to help you learn more about the subject, to test your ability to research your topic effectively, and to prove your understanding of the subject. When you write an expository essay, remember that it is an impersonal style of writing and that while you may refer to the audience as ‘you’, you may not refer to yourself as ‘I’. It’s a factual essay, so your opinion is not required. Expository essays require citation. The typical citation styles for these essays are MLA or APA formatting or Harvard modes.
2. The Persuasive Essay
As the name implies, a persuasive essay “persuades” the reader to a point of view. Not only will you need to understand the subject, but you must take a position on it, too. You prove your point by using logical, well-founded reasoning. To accomplish this you must choose a side, as well as discuss alternative opinions. Persuasive essays require citation. Most persuasive essays use the MLA formatting style unless otherwise requested by your professors.
3. The Informal Essay
Compared with the other forms of essay writing, the informal essay is written more for the enjoyment of personal expression. It is written to communicate subjectively in a more relaxed, conversational and expressive style than other types of essay. It can be informative or persuasive and can include personal opinion. However, it must still have a strong structure. No citation styles are required.
4. The Review
The aim of a review is to analyze and present a piece of work, such as a book or a film, and evaluate its overall effects and validity. Though your subjective opinion does play a significant part, a review must still maintain certain objective standards. You will be required to prove any assertions you may make. How formal your review is depends on how much of it is analysis, how much is summary, and how much of it is your opinion. The more you include your opinion, the less formal the review will be. You will use citations if you include any reference material, and will likely need to use the MLA formatting guidelines.
5. The Research Essay
The purpose of a research essay is to analyze a perspective or argue a point of view about a narrow topic. It involves locating or creating extensive quantities of objective source material and sifting through it to find appropriate research that supports your ideas. This will lead you to a greater understanding of your subject, which you will demonstrate in your essay as you interpret and evaluate the material and make your point. Normally a research essay must utilize either footnotes or endnotes or a reference list and may also require a bibliography. Citations are almost always required when writing a research essay. The usual forms of citation styles for research papers are MLA or APA formatting.
6. The Comparison and Contrast Essay
The object of a comparison and contrast essay is to explore and expose the similarities and dissimilarities between two or more ideas or things. You will be expected to use your critical faculties and your powers of analysis to describe what the ideas or things have in common and what makes them different to each other. Scholarly research and specific referencing is not normally required for this type of essay so citation is not required.
7. The Literary Essay
There are similarities between a review and a literary essay insofar as they are both evaluative. However, a literary essay goes into the structure of the subject being reviewed in more depth than a review. The literary essay is used to explore the meaning and construction of a piece and evaluate specifics such as theme, character, style, tone and subtext. You must take a viewpoint on the work you are writing about and use critical analysis to demonstrate how the details of the work support your viewpoint. You may use your own interpretation of the piece or a mixture of opinions and references to other people’s critiques of the work. In such cases, you will include citations, applying either MLA or APA formatting.
8. The Cause and Effect Essay
Cause and effect essays are concerned with how and why things happen, and the effects that happen as a result, such as the causes of water pollution and its effects on the community, or the effects of children eating too much refined sugar and its effects on health. A cause and effect essay must be written in a factual tone and be impersonal. Removing the first person gives more authority to the essay. Your choice of sources will have a bearing on the validity of your paper, so choose them carefully. You will include citations, following the MLA or APA formatting styles.
David Plaut is the founder of Reference Point Software (RPS). RPS offers a complete suite of easy-to-use formatting template products featuring MLA and APA style templates, freeing up time to focus on substance while ensuring formatting accuracy. For more information, log onto http://www.referencepointsoftware.com/ or write to:
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