5 referencing FAQs, answered by Peer Learning Advisors

Confused about referencing at Uni? You’re not alone.

Working in the Library means that our Peer Learning Advisors (PLAs) get a LOT of referencing questions. So, we asked them to put together a handy list of FAQs to get you through your next assessment!

1. What is referencing and why is it important?

Jacinta: Referencing is when you use published literature as evidence to back up something you are saying in your essay or assignment. It’s super important to use references in your writing for two reasons: 

  • The inclusion of references gives extra weight to your arguments and demonstrates that a statement is based on fact/prior knowledge, not just your own opinion. 
  • By referencing a textbook, journal article or other source, you are acknowledging the original person or group of people who did this work. If you worked really hard on an assignment, you wouldn’t want someone else to steal it and take credit for your efforts! It’s the same with referencing – we reference the authors to make sure they get credit for their hard work. 

Credible Hulk [Digital Image]. (2019). Retrieved from https://knowyourmeme.com/photos/1552334-angry-hulk-vs-civil-hulk

2. Do I have to reference everything that I write?

Margaret: It depends on what type of writing you are doing. If you are doing a creative writing piece, then you may not need a reference but if you are doing academic writing most require a reference. Even PowerPoint presentations should reference their sources.  

Kiara: The general rule is that if you are making a point that is not an original thought of yours (for example when paraphrasing), you need to provide a reference. The same applies if you are quoting directly from a source – you need to cite it. If you are providing an analysis of an issue entirely from your perspective (in an essay, for example), you won’t need to cite it.

3. How do I make sure that my referencing is consistent?

David: Check your referencing, and then check it again. Your lecturers will always provide you with the preferred referencing style and you can find the guidelines for that style in the Library Academic Referencing Tool. If you follow that guide through all your work your referencing should be consistent. Always check your referencing over before submission to ensure you haven’t missed a comma, period, or italicisation.  

4. I have an idea that I want to include in my essay, but I can’t find a source to use as a reference. Does that mean I can’t include the idea? 

Jacinta: If this idea is central to your essay, I would suggest you keep searching for an appropriate reference. There must be something out there which would be relevant! Perhaps try refining your keywords to see if something new comes up.   

David: It depends. You may have come up with a truly original idea that nobody else has ever considered! More likely though, you just need to research a little bit harder. This might mean changing your search terms or focusing on particular databases. Drop-in to a PLA session or contact the Library staff for help with research methods. 

5. What tools or resources can I use to help me with referencing?

David: The Library Academic Referencing Tool is the most important and useful tool; an absolute necessity. If you want some help with the finer points or more specialised areas the staff on the Library Support team would love to help you out. 

If you are planning to do a lot of academic writing and have some spare time you might be interested in some specialised referencing software like EndNote or Zotero. These programs can be useful for organising large collections of references and allow you to add notes and categories and fun, nerdy stuff like that. However, these programs can take a while to set up and understand, and often create their own problems with accuracy and consistency, so I would recommend wrapping your head around it during a break period. 

Olivia: Another tool I use is the La Trobe Library citation button. This can be found in the search results of the article you are looking for. I find this feature great at producing most (and sometimes all) of the information you need about the source to reference it correctly. However sometimes it can be inaccurate, so it is important to double check everything and add in the required missing information. 

In terms of online referencing tools such as Word, I would personally not recommend them as when I was a First Year student, I found it would produce inaccuracies I would then have to catch and fix. 

Want more help with referencing? Help is available! You can: