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Referencing systems

Many academic and professional disciplines, journals and publishers have specific conventions for citing sources. There are several ways you can find out which referencing style you should use:

Your department might allow you to choose a style as long as you apply it accurately and consistently. The order, punctuation and organisation of references is different for each style and must be followed to the smallest detail. The various systems have advantages and disadvantages. If you are allowed to choose a citation style for your paper, you should consider which system best suits your needs. There are three main categories of referencing systems:

1. In-text system
For example: your text here (Miller, 2003: p. 27)
Sources are arranged alphabetically by author surname in a list of references. In-text styles are also called 'parenthetical', 'author-date' or 'Harvard' styles.
2. Footnote system
For example: your text here4
The number refers to a footnote or endnote which provides complete bibliographic information. Most styles also include an alphabetically arranged bibliography. Footnote styles are also called 'documentary-note' or 'note-bibliography' styles.
3. Numeric system
For example: your text here (4)
The number refers to a list at the end of the paper which gives full details of the sources used in order of their first appearance in the text. Numeric styles are also called 'citation-sequence' or 'author-number' styles.

Activity

Choose one or more citation styles that would be effective on each of the following situations. Please answer all the questions.

  1. You want the reader to identify the author of the cited source without having to look elsewhere.

  2. You want to regularly refer to more than one source at a single reference point.

  3. You want to include sources in the list at the end of your written work which you have consulted but not actually cited.

  4. You want to use many sources that have an institution, association or governmental body as an author, or sources where the author is unknown.

  5. You don't use referencing-management software (e.g. EndNote) and you want to add or delete multiple references or change the order that references appear in the text.

  6. You want to include extra information that is not in the main text.

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