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General Referencing Guide: Basic Principles of Referencing

Basic principles of Referencing?

Basic principles of referencing

Both the Harvard, and APA referencing methods are 'Author-Date' methods and follow the same basic principles.


Whenever you include a piece of information in your work that needs to be referenced, you will need to include a very brief reference to the source of that information within your work itself.

The brief reference that you place in your work will usually include the name of the Author of the information, and the Date when the information was published.

If the source of your information came from a specific page (or pages) of a publication, then you should also include those page numbers in your brief reference.


The brief reference that you place in your work is usually referred to as an 'in-text citation'.

An in-text citation  will typically look something like this... (Armstrong, 2008), or, perhaps, something like this .. (National Health Service, 2018, p. 10)

Note that in these examples, the author's name and year of publication both appear within the parenthesis (brackets). However, if you actually refer to the author within your general narrrative of your assignment, then the author's name should be omitted from the parenthesis.




Employees will often be more motivated if they are given more responsibility over their own work (Armstrong, 2008).


According to Armstrong (2008), employees will often be more motivated if they are given more responsibility over their own work.


Your in-text citation informs the reader of your work that you are giving credit to another author for the piece of information that you have included in your. However, because you have only (typically) provided an author name and publication date, it is unlikely that your reader will be able to properly locate and check your original source information.

Therefore, a full reference to the source of the information must also be made, and placed in a list at the end of your assignment.

A full reference placed in a list at the end of your assignment may typically contain information such as:

  • Author's name
  • Date of publication
  • Title of the work
  • Place of publication or website URL


For example, a full reference may look something like this (book)..


Armstrong, M. (2008) How to manage people. London: Kogan Page.


or, maybe, something like this (website) ..


National Health Service (2018) Why 5 a day? Available at (Accessed: 1 March 2019).


As you can see, the full reference provides your reader with all the information necessary to properly locate the source information that you have used in your assignment.

Every in-text citation that you place in your work, should have a corresponding full reference in the list at the back of your assignment. 

Both your in-text citations, and your full references, include the name of the Author, as well as the Date of publication. Therefore, these two pieces of information make it very easy for your reader to determine which full reference correspond to which in-text citation.


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