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Compass-vs Referencing

Every academic essay will contain references. References give evidence for what you say. They show that you have researched the topic and used the information you have found.

At least nine referencing systems are commonly used in higher education. Your University website should give advice on the referencing systems in use. Ask your tutor which system is used in your subject. If you're taking joint subjects, you may find you have to use two different systems.

The easiest way to learn referencing is just to do it. These instructions assume that you are using the Harvard system, which is very popular and straightforward.

Early in your essay, and then at various points throughout, you will make a statement that you need to support by a reference. Immediately after the statement, you write in brackets the name of the author from whom you got the information, followed by a comma and the date of publication. This is an example (Smith, 2012).


At the end of the essay, you prepare an alphabetical list of all your references. In the Harvard system, each item is written in a continuous line and comprises:

  1. The author’s surname followed by a comma and their initials.
  2. The date of publication, in brackets.
  3. The name of the book or title of the paper. (If you are quoting from a book, its title is written in italics. If you are quoting from a journal paper, this is not italicised. It is followed by a full stop and then by the title of the journal from which it comes. This title is written in italics.)
  4. If you are referencing a book, give the place of publication, followed by a colon and then the name of the publisher. If you're referencing a journal, give the volume number (in brackets), followed by the issue number and finally the span of pages containing the particular paper.


Here is an example of a few entries from a Harvard bibliography:

Kress, G and van Leeuwen, T. (1996): Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. London: Routledge.

Lea, M.R. and Street, B. (1998) Student Writing in Higher Education: an academic literacies approach. Studies in Higher Education 23 (2), 157-172.

Leavis, F.R. (1948) Education and the University. New Edition. London: Chatto & Windus.

Snapper, G. (2009) Beyond English Literature A Level: The Silence of the Seminar? English in Education 43 (3), 192-210.

This brief explanation does not cover all instances. For example, when quoting a web page, you may need to use the website name as the author's name. You also need to give the URL, and finally to indicate in brackets when you accessed the page: for example, (accessed 12 July 2012). But, no matter what the situation, you should be able to work things out quite easily by simply looking at the way the professionals do it. There is also a wealth of advice on the Web.

Contact me if you would like particular help.


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