Is there anything that people look forward to more than writing an essay, and getting all the stickler little details of referencing just perfect? Well, actually, there are lot of things people like more than that, like having a tooth extracted and waiting in long line-ups, just for example! The good news is, however, we’re here to help. Let us offer some key suggestions for how to make this task a little less painful, and little easier to get perfect.

Basic Requirements: In-text citation & reference page

First off, referencing requires two parts; when you use a direct quotation, paraphrase someone’s ideas or statements, or simply report a fact that is not widely accepted or common knowledge, you need to insert a reference in your text, called and ‘in-text citation’. More on that in a moment.

The second thing you need to do is to make a reference list that lists full details on any and every article/book/website etc that you may have referenced in the text of your paper. So, if you write something in your paper like “while Mr. Trump uses social media daily he is reported to have read very few real books (Smith, 2018: 14)” you would need a reference for that, which would go at the end of the sentence, as it is in the example. That is the in-text citation.

At the end of your essay is a reference page, sometimes called ‘works cited’. On that page you need a report of the full details of the Smith, 2018 reference. That would look something like this:

Smith, A. (2018) Literally the worst person in the world is now President. Journal of Insanity in America. 13(2) 2-16.

This reference along with any others would be placed on that page in alphabetical order, in a style that is determined by whichever style guide has been assigned. More on that to follow.

When to reference

This can sometimes be tricky, depending on your area of study, but basically speaking, any ideas or facts that you got from someone else’s work, you must cite correctly in the text. When in doubt, put a citation. When you have a citation in your text, make sure you have the full reference on your reference page.

Know which style and which version is required

The usual practice for writing assignments is for the instructor to clarify which style you are to use. The most common style guides are APA, MLA, Harvard, and Chicago, although there are others. If you are in a particular field of study it will likely be the same for all your courses and assignments, but it is critical to check and make sure with each assignment. Once you know for sure, find a reliable source for your particular style online (like this one here) and make sure you have the latest version.

This is critical. In each style guide you will find precise details and examples of how to make your reference page, and how to do in-text citation. Each of these is slightly different, but, as annoying as it might be, you are required to get the details right, so know which guide you are assigned and make sure to follow it!