Attribution, citation and referencing

Why cite?

When preparing a piece of work, it is inevitable that you will refer to sources written by other authors. It is essential that you provide detailed, accurate information about the sources you have used. This information must be provided for a number of reasons:

  • You must correctly acknowledge your use of the statements, opinions, findings etc. of other authors that you have used in your research. Not to do so amounts to plagiarism.
  • Correct citations allow others to use your work as a research source (for which you will be cited!)
  • Accurate citation allows you to return to your work at a later date and still make use of the research previously undertaken

As a general rule, a citation must enable another person using your work to easily identify and locate the sources that you have used in your research.

Citation styles

To avoid confusion when using citations, a number of standard styles have evolved for the layout of citations in written work.

Some of these styles (such as the Royal Society of Chemistry style) are subject specific, whereas other, more general styles are also used (such as the Harvard style).

When writing a piece of work, it is important that you find out what citation style is used in the organisation for whom you are writing (called the house style), and to be careful that you stick this style for the whole piece of work.

The style of citation that you use affects the order in which you record the information (and what you record) so that the original sources can be identified.

Because you must always present citations in one format, it is not sufficient to copy the details in any order into your bibliography or footnotes.

Your citations must conform to your chosen style. In almost all situations, correct citation and referencing will form part of the marks you receive for a piece of work. Incorrect citation = lost marks!

The best way to stick to your chosen citation style is to use a style manual for the type of citation you must use.

Referencing software


EndNote is software that allows you to store and manage your references in a convenient and flexible way. The references for your work are stored in EndNote, and can be inserted automatically into a document as you type.

EndNote will also download (import) references directly from databases such as Web of Science and Firstsearch, saving you the time and effort of retyping and formatting your references.

EndNote is available through the IT Service cluster PCs and in the Medical School and has direct links to Microsoft Word, allowing easy insertion of references in your written work.

For more detail see the EndNote Library Guide