We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

University Library

Referencing and Citations

Understanding References

To find useful sources of information for your work it is important to be able to interpret references correctly. Knowing the difference between a reference to a book chapter or one for a journal article can save you time in getting straight to the resource you need. Cite Them Right Online is an essential guide to referencing which explains the basics of how to reference not just books and journal articles but also online resources, newspaper articles, reports, and more.There are also plenty of examples of different citation styles included e.g. author/date systems such as Harvard and numerical systems such as Vancouver.

Why cite references?

  • it is important to acknowledge the resources created by other people which you refer to or use in order to complete your assignments or research. These resources can include books, journal articles, web pages, newspaper articles, lectures, images, etc.
  • it is a very serious academic offence (known as plagiarism) to pretend that someone else's work has been created by you. This applies even if you copy just a few sentences. Learning to cite references correctly will help to ensure that you do not commit plagiarism by accident.

Basic Terms

  • Reference - details of any item (e.g. book, chapter, video, web page, article) used as a source which enables that source to be found by someone else.
  • Bibliography - a list of references at the end of a document e.g. essay, thesis, journal article.
  • Citation - brief details about a reference given in the text of a document e.g. (author:date)
  • Style - the exact way in which references and citations are laid out. There are many different styles e.g. Harvard, British Standard (Numeric), Author/Date, Vancouver. Find out which style is preferred by your Department or lecturer and use it consistently in your work.


The Library Guide Writing your Bibliography and Citing References - is a basic introduction to citing references using the Harvard and British Standard (Numeric) styles. You can also see how to construct references for different resources in this presentation.

The Learn Higher website from the University of Bradford School of Management has a useful website that can be tailored to your needs.

Managing Your References

In order to create a bibliography for an essay you will need to keep a record of all the sources of information which you have used. If you are working on a dissertation or other research this can be quite a time-consuming task, but there are reference management software programmes which can help with this. One of these is EndNote which enables you to build up your own database of references, helps you to cite those references within your work and creates a bibliography for you in a number of styles. For more details on how to get the most out of EndNote see the ITS Guide 92.