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Getting to grips with references


Referencing can feel like a bit of a minefield. Let us show you how it’s done ..

  1. Make sure you know which referencing guideline your university uses. There are several different types (Harvard, APA, MLA to name just a few) but your university will use a particular one. Your university library will probably have handouts on this so make sure you pick up a copy before you start writing an essay.
  2. Keep a list of your sources. Sadly, I learnt this the hard way. Keep track of all your research as you go along and make sure you keep a note of their details such as the URL of an article or the publishing house of a book.
  3. Don’t leave your referencing to the last minute as it can be quite time consuming. This is another reason why it’s a good idea to keep a list of your sources and type them up as you go long.
  4. Keep your references and your bibliography separate. References are sources that you cite in your essay, a bibliography is a list of texts that you have read but not used. Bibliographies aren’t essential but are good for showing your wider reading and the amount of effort you have put in to a piece of work.
  5. Be precise. A slight error in referencing can cost you marks. There are so many resources to refer so you can easily avoid this. One really useful book that I’ve come across is Cite ‘Em Right by Richard Pears and Graham Shields, which has referencing guidelines for every type of source imaginable. If you get stuck, there is always plenty of guides on the internet and your tutor can help as well.

Natalie Moore is the student nurse editor, mental health branch for


Readers' comments (4)

  • Andrea Gray

    I have written my first assignment and I too have learned that keeping a list of sources as you go along is very useful!

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  • I believe the whole system of referencing needs sorting, is it too simplistic to have one standard? Also one organisations version or even one lecturers version of say Harvard can differ from anothers. As the article says you will lose points if you get it wrong....ok its important to get right but its not what the course is about....

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  • Roy, I completely agree with you!

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  • Roy, I think that the focus on referencing is a way of teaching an attention to detail that will serve you well in your nursing career. With practice, it becomes automatic to make sure it is done right, just the same as following a protocol for drug admin or setting up an IV or whatever you are doing. Think of it as learning precision. JMHO.

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