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I’m better at referencing movie quotes than academic literature! My tips for academic referencing

Updated: Feb 8

This is mainly for first year students who have possibly never had to reference before, or may not even know what referencing consists of, I know when I first started university I was completely in the dark about referencing, I had never had to reference before and didn’t even understand the point of it. The funny thing was, my university never gave us a brief on referencing or taught us how to properly reference, tutors just seemed to assume that we already had it programmed into our first- year brains. But do not fear, the minute you understand how to reference it becomes second nature when writing your assignments.


Tip 1:

What is your referencing style?


Psychology usually uses the APA style referencing but sometimes joint- honours degrees can use Harvard style referencing, so make sure you find out from your tutors which style of referencing you should be using. Styles of referencing essentially mean the different ways the references are written, for example what to include within your brackets and in your full reference, you can find examples of these online quite easily which helps to give you a template.


Tip 2:

Microsoft word can help your referencing needs!


Microsoft word also has a referencing feature (I know! Who knew?!), its featured in the top menu “References – Insert Citation” just make sure if you use this feature you have it set to the correct referencing style i.e. APA.

I remember when I told some of my fellow students at university I used Microsoft word to structure my references I got a lot of mixed reviews, however what they didn’t know was, I only used Microsoft word to structure the basis of my references and compile a list of references I had used within my assignment as I was writing it, I would always make sure at the end of my assignment to go back and check through to make sure these references were correct and followed the correct APA referencing guidelines.


Tip 3:

Reference as you go!


I would really recommend referencing as you write your assignment. I know a lot of students preferred to leave referencing until last, but if you are writing an assignment over a few days or weeks you can easily miss out references which can lead to being marked down. Often if I was mid- way through writing a paragraph I would make a note on the side of a reference name and just put “ (ref 1) ” next to my sentence and go back and fill it in properly later, this assured I didn’t miss out any references and risk plagiarism or losing marks.




Tip 4:

Academic referencing, what does that even mean?


I know when I first started university lecturers and tutors would throw this phrase around yet never fully explained it. Essentially it means using academic literature such as journal articles within your assignments, you can use text- books but try to limit the amount you use. Text books don’t often provide you with previous research, however they are great to give you some background information on the topic area perhaps when you are planning out your assignments. Google Scholar will become your best friend at University and this is the best place to find your journal articles (journal articles are just previous research on the topic area and often provide you with a introduction, method section, results, discussion section and a conclusion of the study), they will become really handy in supporting your points within your assignments.

Tip 5:

Reference like it’s going out of fashion!


My final tip regarding referencing would be you can never have too many references! Now, when I say this I do mean depending on the length of the assignment, but I personally found particularly in second and third year when I started adding more references to my assignments my grades increased. For example for 2,500/3,000 word assignments I would try and include around 40 -50 references, you might find you can include more depending on the nature of the assignment but I do believe the more academic references you include the better your grades will be, as it shows the tutor who is marking the assignment that you have done a lot of background reading on the topic, and that you are taking into consideration the different points of view.





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