A Guide To UK Referencing Styles

A Guide To UK Referencing Styles

When writing any assignment for your studies, you will need to ensure you are properly referencing the points you make. In the UK, several different referencing styles are used. As such, you will need to know the right referencing style to use, and how to use it both in text and in your sources list at the end of your essay. Here is everything you need to know about UK referencing styles, and how to use them to ensure you are given the best grade on your work.

Table of contents

  1. Why Is Referencing So Important?
  2. What Referencing Styles Are Used In The UK?
  3. How Referencing Is Done
  4. References At The End Of Your Essay
  5. Referencing FAQ

Why Is Referencing So Important?

Why is referencing your work so important in any assignments? Firstly, you will see that properly referencing your work will count towards your final grade. Good references are looked for when professors are marking your work, so you want to make sure that you are referencing evidence correctly to get the best grade possible. You should see this in the grading guides that comes with your syllabus, so make sure you read this carefully. This will show you exactly what your professors are looking for.

Proper referencing is also important, as if you are doing it correctly, it shows the marking professor that you are taking the work seriously. If there are errors in the way you are referencing a source, it can reflect badly on the rest of the work you have done.

As well as this, it’s also vital to reference your work correctly because you do not want to be accused of plagiarism. Right now, it’s never been easier for students to try and take shortcuts and plagiarize their work from other sources. Of course you won’t be doing that because you want to get the best grades, but even if you are writing your own work, it’s easier than you think to be accused of plagiarism.

Most education institutes now will use some form of plagiarism detection software. This software is advanced enough it can see if work is plagiarized even if a student has taken care to hide that fact. However, if you are not citing your sources correctly when writing, it will also pick this up as plagiarism. This means that you will be pulled up on plagiarism and you will have to defend your work from this accusation. Of course you don’t want to have to do this, so knowing how to reference your work is absolutely essential.

Finally, you also need to be citing your sources, as you need to be showing where you have got the evidence for the points you make. This is vital to your education, as citing sources shows that you’re not only can make the points you want to make, but you can also back them up with relevant evidence. This ties into the first point about getting the best grades, as proper citation shows professors that you know the source material when you’re writing.

These are just a few reasons why you need to properly reference and site your sources in text. Now that you know this you’ll need to know how to use the proper referencing style for your university, and use it correctly to get the grade you want.

What Referencing Styles Are Used In The UK?

With all this in mind, you now need to know what referencing style your university uses. There are several referencing styles that are used with UK universities and each university will have a different one that they expect you to use.

If you are a brand new student you should have been informed of what referencing style you will be expected to use in all your work. If you’re not sure which one you should use, then you can look up which referencing style is requested of you in your syllabus or your university documents.

There are several different styles that you may be asked to use as a student. These include the following:

Harvard: The Harvard style is the most common referencing method used by universities right now in the UK. You may see it referenced as the ‘author date’ system. In text, typically you will just use the author and the date in brackets to reference the work you’re using, and the full details are only put in the bibliography at the end.

MRHA: The MRHA, or Modern Humanities Research Association style, will use numbers in the text, and these are linked to footnotes or end notes in your essay. These are most commonly used in English literature and similar essays. Alternatively, you may see name and year in text citations used, which is often done by film and theatre and television students in their essays.

MLA: The MLA, or Modern Languages Association Referencing style, is typically used for subjects that cover languages such as English. You may also see it used in any humanities subject. Like the Harvard system, it also uses the author and page number in text, while the full citation will be in your referencing list at the end of the essay.

Oxford: The Oxford referencing style is one that’s also very common in UK universities. Unlike the Harvard system, Oxford referencing will use footnotes at the bottom of the page as opposed to the in text citation style you’ll see here. As such, you will need to add superscript numbers to insert them alongside the authors work that you are referencing in text.

How Referencing Is Done

Once you know the referencing style that you should use your essays, you now need to know how you can use it in your essay itself. There are actually several ways that you can reference of the works by other authors, so you will need to decide which way is best for you that works with the citation style that you are required to use.

There are three main ways you may reference another person’s work in your essay, these include:

Quoting the author: You may want to directly quote the author in this evidence you’re using, to bolster a point that you are making in your own writing. This method allows you to directly show the reader what that author said, so you can then use that to to show the evidence behind the point you are making.

If you do choose to quote the author, it’s important that you only choose the quotes that directly supports your points. As such a quote that is around two or three lines long is usually best. Don’t be tempted to add in more and more detail from that quote, even if it’s very tempting to bolster your word count. You directly need to pull out the quotes that support your points with no extra ‘fluff’.

Paraphrasing the author: Another option you have is to paraphrase the author, rather than quoting them directly. This is often a good idea if using a quote from your author would be too long to add into an essay.

Instead, you will take that quotes and boil it down to the most important points. This is why citation is so important, as without it this could appear to plagiarism software as if you’re taking the idea and presenting it as your own.

Referencing the main point of the author: Finally, rather than paraphrasing the author as you did in the above point, you may wish to just reference their main points.  For example, you may want to point out one authors idea, while comparing it to another author’s.

As such, you will still need to cite that source when you make that reference to the author. Depending on the citation style you are using, that may be just adding the author and the year of publication in brackets. Whichever reference style you use, you will need to make sure that you are doing this.

References At The End Of Your Essay

As well as in text citations, you will also need to reference all the sources you have used at the end of your essay. You will see this list either referred to as a reference list or a bibliography. While they may look like the same thing, there’s actually some differences that you need to be aware of.

A reference list will actually list all the sources that you have used in your essay. If you have cited a source in your writing it will need to be included here. A bibliography on the other hand, will be a list of all the different sources that you consulted as you were writing your essay. That includes anything you cited in the essay, and anything else you read to properly understand the subject at hand.

You will need to check whether you are required to write a reference list or a bibliography at the end of your work. This should be made clear in the assignment brief you are given, but if you are not sure you check with your professors.

With these basics in mind, you’ll now need to know exactly how to use these referencing styles. Here is your guide to the most common referencing styles in the UK right now, and how you are to use them in your essays.

Referencing FAQ

How important is it that I use citations in my essay?
Which citation style should I use?
Is paraphrasing an author’s work not plagiarising it?
What’s the difference between in text citations and reference lists/bibliographies?
Should I use in text citations or footnotes?