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References, citations and bibliographies

When you’re writing an essay or report you will probably use ideas from a number of sources and you will have to acknowledge the sources that you have used. To fail to do so may result in your being accused of plagiarism which may mean that you will receive a fail mark.

There are two ways in which you may use other people’s work in yours: background reading where you read several items and then incorporate concepts into your work and directly quoting from or referring to the work. Generally you’ll use both of these - you might read a couple of chapters of a book but also refer to a specific idea or quote a sentence from the book - all of this is fine so long as you include citations for the works used. At the end of your paper you should list all of the items that you looked at as references AND you must also include notes (usually numbered) for any specific ideas or quotes taken from those works.

Citation styles

There are a variety of different styles that can be used when doing references. Sometimes your teacher or faculty will tell you which style to use. The styles determine the order and format of the parts of a citation however most include the same information:

  • the title of the work,
  • the name(s) of the author(s) and/or editor(s),
  • the year in which it was written or published,
  • the name of the publisher,
  • and for notes the page number(s) your quoted piece appears on.

Whichever style you are using it is important to be consistent.

More information

Electronic sources

The internet and other electonic media such as CD ROMs are treated a bit differently. Most web sites do not have relevant publication dates. With web sites it is usual to use the date that YOU looked at the page as the content may change after you look at it, and you should always include the URL of the page used.

So for a web page you will probably need to include:

  • the page name e.g. References, citations and bibliographies
  • the URL e.g. http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/Learning/KeySkills/References/index.asp
  • the author e.g. Christchurch City Libraries
  • when you accessed the page e.g. Monday 2 November 2014

Databases

Christchurch City Libraries provides members-only access to a collection of databases which give you the full-text of thousands of reference titles and popular, professional and academic journals and magazines. Many of these resources will indicate how you are to cite the articles - check the fine print down the bottom if it’s not immediately clear. If you can’t find anything then try to fit it into your citation style including the name of the database and the date you viewed the resource as well as any other information that seems appropriate. If in doubt please ask your teacher what they require.

Citation Tools

There are a number of online tools to either manage your references or simply generate them in various styles:

BibMe
Very simple online interface: enter details for your book, film or whatever and it constructs a bibliography in APA, MLA or Chicago style. Once you're finished you can save it to your free account or export to Word.
Citation Machine
Choose a style, enter the information - out pops a citation.
EasyBib
Free online automatic bibliography generator.
NoodleTools
NoodleBib requires subscription and is a full references manager but you can use NoodleBib Express for free to generate individual MLA or APA citations.
OttoBib
Uses ISBNs to generate citations in one of five styles.
Zotero
This extension for the FireFox web browser will manage references from a variety of sources including library catalogues and even take snapshots of web pages.