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InfoWise is an information literacy programme developed by Nelson Mandela University Library and Information Services.


You need to give full reference details of information resources you have consulted in order to:

  • Help your readers to find the original sources of the ideas/facts you have referred to or based your arguments on
  • Make it clear which ideas are your own and which are someone else's
  • Show how widely you have researched your subject
  • Show your understanding of the topic by incorporating other people's arguments and evidence alongside your own analysis
  • Protect the writer's intellectual property
  • Avoid plagiarism


Good note taking habits can assist you in differentiating between references from other sources and your own ideas. 


When should I reference?

Whenever you use an idea or information from someone else's work, for example from a journal article, textbook or website, you should acknowledge the original author to make it clear where that idea came from.

This is the case regardless of whether you have directly quoted, paraphrased, translated or summarised their work.


Use this diagram to help you decide when you need to reference (cite):

Diagram: When should I reference?


Quoting involves:

  •     Using exact words, phrases or sentences from a work of someone else
  •     Enclosing the direct quote with quotation marks
  •     Referencing where the information was taken from
  •  In-text reference the author's last name, the date of publication and the page number on which you found the quote
  • Then, write a full reference in the Reference List at the end of your work.

You may want to use a quote if the:

  •     Phrase is unusual and would have less impact if paraphrased
  •     Quote substantiates your argument
  •     You want to compare the claims of one theorist with others

Be selective in your use of quotes. It is preferable to demonstrate your understanding of the topic in your own words. Too much quoting weakens the impact.


Paraphrasing is:

The restatement of what someone else has said or written, but in one’s own words while keeping the original meaning.

Even if you paraphrase you must always provide a reference in your text and a full reference in the Reference List.

How should I reference?

In order to enable others to locate these sources, and to acknowledge the original authors, you will be required to provide reference details using a specific referencing style.

Referencing styles:

  • are guides designed to help you to cite and reference correctly
  • offer standard formats to ensure that you include all the information your readers will need to find the work you are referring to
  • will most likely be determined by your department/school 


Referencing elements

 Referencing the work of other people involves two distinct elements:

• an in-text citation

• a reference list


In-text citations:

  • are inserted in the body of your text and indicate that you are talking about, referring to or paraphrasing someone else’s work.
  • are also required when you directly quote another person’s original words.

An in-text citation will include minimal details; usually the name of the author(s) and date the work was published. This is usually referred to as the author-date method, however there are some numeric referencing styles which use footnotes. In-text citations provide enough information for your readers to find the full reference in your reference list.


Reference list

A reference list is a complete list of references related to the sources you have used in your work. For every in-text citation you have included within your work, there should be a detailed reference in your reference list. Each reference within the list provides full details of the source, written in the format required for the referencing style you are using. A reference list would typically be included at the end of your work.

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