What Is Referencing? And it’s Styling

Academic writing such as essays, thesis, or any other paper requires the writer to explain their perception and arguments. It becomes necessary for the writer to support his arguments and point of view by providing proof and pieces of evidence. This evidence is taken from other sources and can be in the form of any quote, research or study was done by any other author. Such sources provide support to the writer’s ideas that he maybe discusses in the content to persuade the readers. This is known as Referencing. It tells the readers where the ideas from other sources have been used. It also gives credit to the original authors of the theories and research mentioned and also creates an impact on the readers that the writer’s argument is linked to a bigger picture. Referencing is also done to avoid plagiarism which is a crime in itself as it means stealing someone else’s work and making it your own.

When to do you referencing?

Referencing is needed when a quote is used, an idea or a fact from an outside source is used in the writing. It does not have to be exact words, even if summarizing or paraphrasing is done then also one needs to do referencing except when the idea is a universal fact or a common knowledge. Usually, the introduction and conclusion in any paper consist of the writer’s ideas so referencing is done in the body where one needs to distinguish between his ideas and the sources that he used. The study that ordinarily would not have known by you or the readers needs to be cited.


A reference list is a list of all the sources used in the paper. It is in an alphabetical form according to the names of the authors. Each point in the reference list contains all the details such as the author’s name, the year of publication, and the title of the source.

However, citation contains information such as the name of the author and the publication year for the readers to find the particular source in the reference list.


A bibliography is a list of all the sources that have been used in your paper. Bibliography includes the author’s name, the titles of their works, the name and location of the company that published the source, the dates or the year it was published, and or the page numbers of the sources.


Different disciplines have different styles of referencing. For all the different styles of referencing, the key elements are three and are somewhat similar.

i. Author or the editor:

The name of the author is supposed to be mentioned as this is the main person who produced the idea that you have used to support your paper.

ii. Date of publication/broadcast/recording:

This is the date or the year when the idea was produced by the author. If it’s a newspaper article, email, or a television recording then the exact date has to be mentioned.

iii. Title of the item:

This is just the topic on which you are writing the article.

There are multiple types of referencing that are used commonly. Each style has its format. All the formatting and styling of various referencing styles are done depending on the type of documents such as books, articles, websites, etc. and the number of authors involved for a particular source or more sources. Some of the different styles of references are:


The Harvard referencing is one of the styles of citations used when a student or an author use other author’s quote, idea or study in his work to support his study and research. This style of referencing is mostly used in humanities as well as social, natural and behavioral science for their assignments and publications. This referencing style is also known as an author-date system.

It comes under the category of parenthetical referencing in which the citation is written inside round brackets known as parentheses.

The Harvard style has two main parts:

i. In-text citation:

This includes the author’s surname and the publication date written in the brackets.

ii. Reference list:

It is an alphabetical list that contains all the citations used to help readers known the origin of every reference mentioned in the paper. Whatever reference is used in the body should be mentioned in the brackets in the body of the work and should be keyed to the entry in the reference list so that it becomes easy for the reader to find the corresponding source of the reference in the list.


i. In-text citation:

  • First of all, one needs to format the in-text citations. For that make sure to provide the author’s surname and the year of publication in parentheses after mentioning the information used as a reference. For example: ‘Banking is one of the ways to provide …‘ (David and Zachary, 2009)
  • If only a quote is being used instead of the whole study then one needs to mention the page number as well. For example: ‘Banking is a way to provide …’ (David and Zachary, 2009, p.10)
  • In cases when there are at least four or more authors then it is not required to mention surnames of all authors. Only the surname of the first author will be written followed by ‘et al’ in italic which means ‘and others.’

ii. Reference list:

The reference list will include all the citations that have been used. The list should be on a separate page with its title such as Reference List. It should be in alphabetical order with general formatting such as capitalizing the first letter of all the main words, italicizing titles of books, or reports.

For example Ryan Z. (2018) A brief history of Banking. 2nd and. New York: ABC Publications.

If there are more than three authors then the entry in the reference list will be like:

Example: Nael, Z., et al. (2009) ‘A brief introduction to banking, 20(2), p18-21.


MHRA stands for the Modern Humanities Research Association. This style of citation is used mostly for books and journals published by this association, but students in the United Kingdom use it most of the time too.

There are two parts of MHRA Referencing:

i. Footnotes:

Notes written on the bottom of a page.

ii. Bibliography:

It is a detailed list of all the sources that have been used while writing the paper.


i. Footnotes:

When a reference is mentioned for the first time, the writer needs to provide its details in the footnote. After that, footnotes numbers should be inserted every time after the reference is used.

For example Maria Jacob, The Banking Handbook (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

ii. Bibliography:

A detailed bibliography should be written at the end of the work in proper formatting depending on what is being cited such as book, journal, film, etc.

For example Jacob, Maria, The Banking Handbook (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)


Vancouver referencing is usually used in subjects like Biology and Medical sciences. It uses an end-note system with an index of sources at the end. It is also known as the author-number system as it uses the citation style that uses numbers within the text linked to the sources entered in the reference list. However, there are many variations in this referencing, so it’s important to know which one should be used in the given paper.


i. In-text:

Every reference is assigned a number after being used for the first time. Then the assigned number is used to mention the reference when it is used in the text.

For example, a recent study shows that the number of banking companies is increasing. (1)

ii. Bibliography:

References are also listed in chronological order in number at the end of the paper in the bibliography.

For example 1. Lopez J. The skills of Banking. Sydney: Grey Macmillan; 2005.


MLA reference is the short form of the Modern Language Association. This style of referencing uses two-part parenthetical documentation. It is often used within liberal arts and humanities disciplines. It is also done in two parts. A brief citation within the text in the body of your article and the other as a detailed list of the works cited at the end of the article.


MLA referencing style follows the author-page style.

i. In-text citations:

They are found in the main body of the work and contain only a fraction of the reference list, such as the author’s surname and the page number. For example Bryan, D., (78)

ii. Reference list:

The reference list is called “List of works cited” in this style. It depends on what material is going to be cited. For example Davis, Bryan. History of Banks. London: Delectable Publications, 2016.


Chicago Reference is an author-date style as the citation in the text consists of the author’s name followed by the year of publication in parenthesis. This type of referencing is usually used by the business, history and fine arts subjects. Unlike MLA referencing, Chicago referencing does not require a title page.


i. Footnotes:

This is very similar to Oxford referencing. In this type, footnotes are marked in the text with the number of citations and all details are mentioned in the bibliography at the bottom of the page. For example Davis, Bryan. History of banks. (London: Delectable Publication, 2016)

ii.Reference list:

This one is similar to Harvard Referencing. The citations are listed in the bibliography at the end of the text. For example Davis, Bryan. 2016. History of banks. London: delectable publications.


APA reference stands for American Psychological Association. This type of referencing is usually used for education, social and behavioral science. It is an author-date style therefore; the citations consist of the author and year of publication in round brackets also known as a parenthesis. Referencing begins on a separate page from the last page of writing.


The parenthetical system of the American Psychological Association includes the author’s name and the year of a publication written in round brackets. If there is more than one author, then the names are separated by using the ampersand and more than one work of the same author is separated by using semi-colons. The citation and references are done in the body of the text. The term “References” is used for the listing of references in APA style. It is a two-part process:

i. Citations in the text:
It is an indication of the source in the text and can be done directly or indirectly. Directly means quotation while indirectly means paraphrasing.

ii. Reference list:
It is a detailed list that contains all the cited references in the text with full details so that the readers follow up on the references and find the source. For example Davis, B. (2016). History of banks. London: Delectable Publications.


Referencing allows the author to acknowledge the original authors and their ideas and give credit to them. It also makes the reader know that whatever your perception is, it has some solid evidence and support from another author. This convinces the readers to read further and persuades them in understanding your argument. Students need to follow the specific style of referencing and its respective format for their university assignment or thesis. It is also very important to read a paper thoroughly before citing it. This is how errors and misunderstandings are created and also leave an unethical impact on the readers. Also, if referencing is not done then it can result in plagiarism which is a crime as it comes under stealing someone else’s work and presenting it as your own. Plagiarism is considered dishonesty and a breach of journalistic ethics.

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