How To Reference: A Painful Tale

Eliza S. is a 2nd year BA student studying Media and Comms and Film and Cultural Studies. She enjoys coffee, procrastination, fantasy fiction, wasting time online, rhyming, long walks far FAR away from any beach and (obviously) writing.

Referencing is confusing. It’s easy to get wrong, and easy to lose marks for. So I’m about to try and make a few lives a lot easier.

Originally I was going to write up a referencing guide to give you beautiful readers, and then I realised something. There are entire websites dedicated to outlining the ins and outs of citations. So many websites. So instead of trying to give you a website’s worth of content in a blog post, here is my crash course on how to find the information you need.

Welcome to my referencing tip list.

Which Reference Guide To Use

Firstly, the obvious, our own unimelb referencing guide re:cite is a useful and simple to use source.


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Re:cite is an overview of six different styles of referencing, and because it’s the unimelb website it covers the styles that you’ll most likely be asked to use. Different faculties will have different preferences for what style you should use, but I’ve yet to come across an essay where I haven’t used one of these six.

Secondly, if no one has told you about the UWA Library referencing guide then I’m sorry you’ve been living your life in such darkness. Walk into the light.


This is guide outlines how to reference things like Tweets, Facebook statuses and YouTube videos. It also covers footnoting and a few more styles than re:cite if you’re in need of a different style when studying subjects at a different university or overseas.

The Big Three

If you’ve been given a choice on what style to use and don’t know where to start, here’s a little guide on three of the most commonly used citation styles.


Harvard is my personal go to. It’s an Author-Date system, which means for in text referencing all you need to do in most cases is put in the last name of the author and the year of publication (note: this isn’t the case for every kind of citation, always double check).

Here’s what some in text referencing would look like.

Snoogle (2003) notes that because baby ducks are seen as cute because they are fluffy.

Or, if you don’t mention the author’s name in text then

As ducks get older and lose their fluffy exterior it cannot be denied that these animals evolve into merciless murdering fiends (Snoogle 2003).

In a bibliography a reference is generally set out like this

Author Year of publication, Title of book, Publisher, Place of publication.

For example

Snoogle, S 2003, Ducks: Docile or Dangerous, Animal Mania, New York.

Note that there is no comma between the author and year of publication. Also note that for other kinds of sources, such as journal entries, page numbers may be required.

(more information about the Harvard style:


The American Psychological Association style, for all your social science students out there, is also an author-date in text style, with a few minor differences to the Harvard system. The most obvious of which is the bibliography entry.

Snoogle, S. (2003). Ducks: Docile or Dangerous (2nd Ed.). New York: Animal Mania.

Look at all that punctuation, count those full stops, and don’t forget the colon.

In this style there are also sources where page numbers or volume numbers will be required.

(more information about APA:


Shaking it up a bit, MLA is an author-page in text style. Are you shocked to your very core? I was.

So in text references will look at little more like this

Ducks are evil really. No I wasn’t attacked by a duck when I was a young child, why do you ask? (Snoogle 1902-1904).

And for the bibliography.

Snoogle, Simon. Ducks: Docile or Dangerous, New York: Animal Mania, 2003. Print.

A rule to remember with MLA is at the end of bibliography entries you need to put the medium of publishing, like Print or Web. This can be useful if you’re citing Television or DVDs.



If none of the above styles seems right for your assignment, or if you’ve been asked specifically to use a different one, here’s some direct links to guides for a few more.






I didn’t know about this until halfway through my Bachelor. And by halfway through my Bachelor I mean about three days ago.

To use it go up to the ‘REFERENCES’ tab, select the style you’re using under ‘Citations and Bibliography’, and then hit ‘Manage sources’.

manage sources

A widow will open up, and you can enter all of your sources

citation list

Then it’s just a matter of using the ‘Insert Citation’ button for in text references, and the ‘Bibliography’ button to create a list of references at the end of your essay.

insert citation

But be careful lovely readers, never ever trust a citation generator completely (looking at you google scholar). There will be a comma out of place or a misspelled name, or your references will be mis-alphabetised, these are inevitable pitfalls.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of this handy tool.


This is what makes referencing tricky. It lulls you into a terrible false sense of superiority.

“Oh please. I looked up my referencing style. I read a blog post all about referencing. I am on my referencing game, I have all the right names in all the right places, don’t patronise me!” Would you stop shouting at me through the internet ether? I’m trying to explain something.

The fault, my friends, will be in the details. Have you put a comma or a full stop after the author’s first initial in the bibliography? Is your bibliography in alphabetical order? Did you put the name of the book or the name of the publisher in italics? Do you need a filmography as well as a bibliography? Did you accidentally include your reference list in your word count?

Do you see how many questions I’m asking you reader? Look at all that attention to minor detail you need to get through a successfully referenced essay.

“Help, I fell of my high horse and can’t get up.”

Yes that’s what I thought. Constant vigilance readers. Triple check everything.


Is the bold, underlined, italicised capitals enough to get across the importance of this point?

Whatever style you choose the most important thing about referencing is to be consistent. Don’t switch between styles, or have a comma after a few names but not others, or page number some journal articles but not all of them.

If you aren’t sure whether to put a full stop somewhere, and websites are telling you different things and you can’t contact a tutor and the world is falling apart, just make sure you do the same thing for every citation. Be decisive, leave the full stops in or take them all out.

Usually tutors are pretty forgiving of referencing errors, especially if you’re in first year and don’t quite know the rules yet. Just try your best, be consistent, and you’ll be fine.

Have any tips of your own? Did I made a terrible mistake that you need to correct? Is there a referencing guide you want to recommend? Leave a comment below!

– Eliza

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