Referencing

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Overview

Academic writing is mainly associated with formal language. In academic texts, we aim to ensure that the meaning that we would like to transmit does not vary from person to person. For this reason, we avoid vague language as its comprehension changes in accordance with individuals’ background knowledge. In addition, we also benefit from terminology in academic texts to avoid communication problems.

Supporting our claims with reference to other sources is the main characteristic differentiating academic writing from the other types of formal writing. Our citations, whether through quotations, paraphrases, and summaries, provide evidence to our readers about the accuracy of our claims. References to other sources give our readers the impression that as the author of that paper we are knowledgeable about the relevant literature, and we make previous researchers’ ideas traceable by our readers so that they can find the sources we cite to retrieve more information directly from these original sources. In the case of benefiting from someone else’s ideas or expressions, we need to inform our readers that these are coming from other sources; otherwise, we would be plagiarizing them. Yet, it is not a good idea to provide all details about the cited sources in our main text because it spoils the readability of our paper. That is why we use in-text citations to cite the other sources in the main text of our papers. Depending on the academic writing style that we are using, we may be expected to cite the author’s surname along with date of publication or to include a superscript Arabic numeral to identify the cited source.

The brief information provided in the citation will not be enough by itself for our readers to find the related source. The main purpose of an in-text citation is to inform the readers about the existence of ideas and/or expressions that are coming from other sources and giving them some clues that will be helpful in finding the related reference entry in the reference list. Therefore, we add a reference list following our main text at the end of our academic papers. In the reference list, we provide detailed information about these sources. Reference lists need to provide detailed information for all sources that are cited in the running paper. This detailed information is used to access the related sources if needed by readers. Therefore, accuracy of the information presented in references is essential; otherwise, it would not be useful for readers. It is important to be aware that writing a reference entry in such a way as to be untraceable by the readers is considered plagiarism as well. For this reason, all the information that we provide in references must be double checked to avoid any mistake.

Consistency is among the most essential characteristics of reference lists, and various writing styles have different requirements for how to write the components of a reference entry—for example, ensuring standardization considering capitalization, punctuation, indentation, and some others. It is important to remember that it is the responsibility of the author of the paper to write the reference entries correctly. Some academic publishers (e.g., University of Chicago Press) and professional organizations (e.g., American Psychological Association) have published manuals for authors to guide them how to write reference entries and deal with other matters of style; however, some authors may wish to get support from digital tools in the production of reference entries. A list of references does not include the presentation of any original idea, so the use of digital tools to aid you create references is not regarded as academic misconduct. Writing tools such as Microsoft Word also enable integrating citations and reference entries in various styles. Using this feature may help you avoid any inconsistencies in your references in addition to ensuring exact matches between the cited sources and reference entries listed.

Preparations that can help you succeed in your writing assignment may include brainstorming, searching for other sources, outlining, and writing and editing rafts. When searching for other sources, pay specific attention to distinguishing credible sources from less credible ones. Citing sources from illegitimate publishers will decrease the value of your work. For some writing tasks, your lecturer or instructor may enable peer feedback exchange, which is expected to improve your writing. However, to avoid being accused of collusion, you need to make sure in advance that such peer feedback exchange is organized or approved by your lecturer.

Suggested Readings

American Psychological Association (APA). (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (
7th ed.
). APA.
Bailey, S. (2011). Academic writing: A handbook for international students. Routledge.
Razı, S. (2021). Advanced reading and writing skills in ELT: APA style handbook (
2nd ed.
). Nobel.
Williams, K., & Davis, M. (2017). Referencing & understanding plagiarism (
2nd ed.
). Palgrave.
Zemach, D. E., & Rumisek, L. A. (2003). Academic writing: From paragraph to essay. Macmillan.