Referencing Systems Overview

These are the most common kinds of referencing systems. The most important thing to remember with all referencing is that you must be consistent. It is not acceptable to acknowledge some of your sources in footnotes (at the bottom of the page) or endnotes (at the end of the chapter), while others are acknowledged in brackets in the text, or vice versa. Below are the most popular referencing styles for essay formatting:

There are several different kinds of referencing systems, but the most commonly used are: MLA (Modern Language Association of America), APA (American Psychological Association), MHRA (Modern Humanities Research Association), Harvard (also known as the Author Date System), Chicago and CBE

You should also check with your lecturer or faculty as to what system they would prefer. Most departments can give you guidelines, but you may have to ask for them. If you have any questions about referencing - ask our writers

The following sections will give you an idea of each style. Please note that the text inside [square brackets] is not intended to be reproduced in your referencing, but shows comments and guidelines only.

MLA Referencing 

In MLA referencing system, in-text citations are used, with the author’s name and the page number. Here are some examples:

Browne states that 'as a group, men appear to be less attuned to emotional signals such as facial expression than are women' (39). [The name has already been mentioned, so you don’t have to give it again. The 39 is the page number].
One author concluded that 'as a group, men appear to be less attuned to emotional signals such as facial expression than are women' (Browne 39).
One text indicated that global poverty is actually on the rise (Marcus, Feldman and Rupert 307).
The GDP for each country was reported in figures rounded to the nearest thousand (Marcus et al. 377-8). [You can use 'et al' only once you have mentioned the joint authors by name previously in your text].
Davidson suggests that accelerated learning is indeed the answer. [No page reference is necessary here since you are referring to an entire book or article rather than a single section or sentence. Be sure to list the work in your Works Cited list].
One author suggests that accelerated learning is indeed the answer (Davidson). [No page number is necessary because you are referring to the entire work].
Two recent articles point out that the number of annual natural disasters appears to be increasing every decade (Matthew 56; Paulson 291).

Your reference list should be titled 'Works Cited' and should look like this:

Bradford, Milton F. 'Hearing loss in the elderly.' Journal of Geriatrics 42 (1991): 38-45 [journal article]

Hobart, K.J. The History of the Moon. London: Piglet Press, 1968 [book]


See also: Proper MLA Essay Format Explained


APA Referencing System

APA referencing is commonly used in the social sciences. You give the author’s name and the year of publication. If you give a direct quote, you also give the page number, but not otherwise. Here are some examples:

Browne (1989, p. 39) states that 'as a group, men appear to be less attuned to emotional signals such as facial expression than are women.' [The name has already been mentioned, so you don’t have to give it again].
One author (Browne, 1989) concluded that men are less in tune than women are to signs of emotion, such as the expression on someone’s face. [no page number needed, since this is not a direct quote; however, you may give a page number if you know it].
One text indicates that global poverty is actually on the rise (Marcus, Feldman & Rupert, 2001).
GDP for each country was reported in figures rounded to the nearest thousand (Marcus et al., 2001). [You can use ‘et al.’ only once you have mentioned the joint authors by name previously in your text].
Davidson (2004) suggests that accelerated learning is indeed the answer. [No page reference is necessary here since you are referring to an entire book or article].
One author (Davidson, 2004) suggests that accelerated learning is indeed the answer. [No page number is necessary as you are referring to the entire work].
Two recent articles point out that the number of natural disasters appears to be increasing every decade (Matthew, 2006; Paulson, 2007).

Your reference list should be titled ‘References’ and should look like this:

Bradford, Milton F. (1991) Hearing loss in the elderly. Journal of Geriatrics 42(1), 38-45 [journal article]

Hobart, K.J. (1968) The History of the Moon. London: Piglet Press [book]


See also: APA Essay Format


MHRA Referencing System

These guidelines are based on the MHRA style guide, available at www.mhra.org.uk. The MHRA system differs from the above two in that it uses footnotes and endnotes rather than in-text citations. Use a superscript to mark each new footnote or endnote. Here are some examples:

Browne states that 'as a group, men appear to be less attuned to emotional signals such as facial expression than are women.'1
One author concluded that men are less in tune than women are to signs of emotion, such as the expression on someone’s face.2
One text indicates that global poverty is actually on the rise.3
Marcus et al. indicate that most American expect a recession.4

1 Place the number at the end of the sentence, not straight after the name. Place the number after the punctuation.
2 Mark Browne, ‘Gender differences in emotional sensitivity’, Psychology Today, February 1989, p. 39 [Journal article]
3 K.L. Marcus, H.I. Feldman & P.R. Rupert. A Global Review (London, Piglet Press, 2001), p. 236.
4 Marcus et al., p. 69 [because you have already cited this work, there is no need to give the reference in full again]

Note that you will still need to give a full bibliography at the end of your paper, listing all works mentioned in all endnotes and footnotes. Please see the MHRA website for more information.

Harvard Referencing Style (Author-Date System)

The Harvard referencing style is basically the same as APA. In-text citations are used, giving only the author and date (in brackets), unless a direct quote has been used, in which case give the page number as well. For more details on the Harvard system, please do an internet search.


See also: Harvard Referencing Format


Chicago System

The Chicago system is basically the same as the MHRA system and uses superscripts (numerals raised above the text line) to acknowledge sources, with endnotes and footnotes. A full bibliography at the end of the paper may not be necessary, but if it does appear it should be called ‘Works Cited’. Ask your department or lecturer for guidelines if you are using the Chicago system, or research it online.


See also: Chicago Essay Format


Other Systems of Referencing

The systems outlined above are the most widely used, but there are others. Undergraduates are not usually marked too strictly on their referencing, but post-graduates are. Be sure to ask your department or lecturer for guidelines, and if they differ from the systems shown here, please include the guidelines with your order requirements when you place your order.

Electronic Sources

Just as there are conventions for citing books and journal articles, there is a right way and a wrong way to cite online sources, whether it is a page in a website or a PDF of a scholarly article. One of the most common errors is that students do not write the date on which they retrieved or accessed the online source. Be sure to inform yourself of the conventions for the style of referencing which you will be using in your paper. You can do an internet research on any of the above systems, and then narrow your search down to ‘electronic sources’.

General Tips on Quoting and Referencing

Correct referencing can make the difference between plagiarism, which is heavily penalized, and legitimate quotes. It is very important to attribute your main ideas to their correct sources, not only to avoid plagiarizing, but also to show that you have read and researched widely. 

Referencing is a rather effort-consuming thing. Ask our professionals to prepare a referencing list for you.

Do not use quote marks in this case. Your own text will run to a normal line length, and the direct quote will be visually separate from that because it will use shorter lines. Indicate the author and so on as usual, either before or after the quote.

  • Direct quotes must always be followed by the page number, for printed articles or books. For electronic sources, give any information that would help the reader to locate the text, such as the paragraph number or screen or section number and/or heading.

  • Do not quote huge chunks of text. Try to interpret and analyze everything you read, and put it into your own words. Use quotes only if you really cannot think of a better way to say something, or if you want to preserve the original author’s way of saying things. Lecturers are not impressed by lengthy or frequent quotes.

  • It is fine to make indirect reference to an author or to summarize his or her viewpoint or findings. This is not a direct quote because you are using your own words. Doing so shows that you have grasped the essence of what that person is saying, and you are able to put it into your own words. Too many direct quotes not only make for a clumsily structured paper, they will leave your lecturer wondering if you are able to express things adequately yourself.

  • At EssayMasters.co.uk, we guarantee that our writers are competent and do not plagiarize or copy other works. We also guarantee that your paper will be properly referenced. If you find that these conditions have not been met, we will redo the assignment, free of charge.

Correct referencing means that you need to do the following:

For direct quotes of up to 4 or 5 lines: Contain the quote within quotation marks and indicate the author and so on as described above (MLA, APA etc.). Do not block off the text as shown in the next point. For direct quotes longer than 4 or 5 lines: Set the quote apart from the rest of the text, in the form of an indented block of text, as shown below.