TLDRoff
There are a number of different ways to reference your work some of those favoured by universities are the Harvard Referencing system, APA referencing, MHRA and MLA referencing.

It is a fact of life that most of the time people will not accept something as "true" without some sort of evidence to back it up. Simply saying "because I say so" is a guaranteed way to get your opinions ignored. We live in a very noisy world with lots of competing opinions bombarding us through various media sources. As part of your university training you will be developing study techniques that are designed to give your opinions credibility and authority. Referencing your work is one of the ways to demonstrate that your opinions are informed and built on work conducted by experts in your field. There are a number of different ways to reference your work but one of the most popular is the Harvard Referencing system. Using the Harvard referencing system, for example, supports your work in a number of important ways:

  • Sharing research.
  • Giving credit the work of others.
  • Verifying your evidence.
  • Giving your work a level of authority.
  • Indicating wide reading.

Remember, not referencing can sometimes look like academic dishonesty or plagiarism. Showing exactly where your information has come from demonstrates that you are consciously drawing on the work of others and not pretending that it is your own.

Checklist Guide

The best way to get the hang of referencing is to do it. This is not information that you need to memorise as there are a numerous useful resources available to help you find out exactly how to reference specific kinds of information. It isn't just books that need to be referenced but articles, websites, reports, emails, social-media, TV shows, blogs etc. If it communicates information then there is a referencing method for citing it.

For now there are just a few things to note:

  1. Whenever you use information from another source you must reference it – not just direct quotes but paraphrases as well. Imaging your tutor reading your essay and asking the question "says who?" every time you make a point.
  2. Never leave any fact, claim or observation unsupported by a reference to the source of information you researched to gain your understanding. Don't simply make claims and assertions and expect your tutor to accept your opinion.
  3. Harvard references, for instance, consist of two parts: the in-text citation contained within brackets inside the essay itself and the full bibliographical details contained within the reading list at the end of the essay. So, something like this…It has been argued that cats make better pets than dogs as they are more independent and require less hands-on care from their owners (Fisher 1993). Note: you only include the author's last name and the date in the text – this is true for most references although you sometimes have to include the page number if you are quoting the exact words used in the text. In the reading list at the end of your essay you will include the full name, title and publishing details of the text…Fisher, John (1993) Behaviour of dogs and Cats. Hutchinson.
  4. Remember it is often better to paraphrase, use your own words, than simply repeat the same words as you have read in a text or on a website. That said it is sometimes appropriate to include an important quote from an authoritative source. If you do quote make sure you include all quoted text inside quotation marks "Like this".

Final Comments

Referencing your work will not only improve your essay grades but prepare you for whatever career you end up in. Showing that your opinions are founded upon relevant research and reading will gain you credibility. It is far more difficult to dismiss someone's opinion if it is shown to be built on sound research and supported by other experts in the field.