There are lots of different referencing styles, but which one is right for you?
Once you start creating
citations and references, you need to consider referencing styles. There are hundreds of them out there
and each has a slightly different set of rules about how citations and
reference lists should appear in your text.
Most Newcastle University students use the Harvard at Newcastle style, but there is also Vancouver, IEEE, OSCOLA, Chicago, and many more. Your lecturers will expect you to use one specific style and all of your citations and references should conform to that style accurately and consistently; same punctuation, same capitalisation, same everything.
We have lots of help about using some of the popular referencing styles in our Managing Information guide. The Cite Them Right website is also a valuable online resource that will show you how to hit all of the right steps on your way to mastering an individual referencing style.
When you are writing a piece of work and you use someone else’s thoughts, words or ideas, you must reference them. But why do we talk about referencing so much at University, and why is it so important? Why should you bother spending time on ensuring that your references are consistent, accurate and correct?
It all comes down to why we reference in the first place:
To make your contribution clear by showing which words and ideas are yours, and which have come from your reading.
To acknowledge the work of others and to demonstrate how you have built on the knowledge that you’ve gained from your reading.
To ensure that the reader can follow up on your references for themselves.
To avoid being wrongly accused of plagiarism.
Watch our short video to find out a little more about why we should bother with referencing.
What are the key steps to a successful routine for referencing? Of all the enquiries we get in the Library, referencing is the most common.
Referencing is the acknowledgement of the sources that you use in your work. You must reference all sources that you use in your assignment, project or dissertation, including words and ideas, facts, images, videos, audio, websites, statistics, diagrams and data.
Over the next two weeks weeks we’re focusing on referencing, giving you the routine for success. As a novice, you might need a little help to understand the steps and techniques for your referencing style.
You’ve ran your information search and looked at your
results with a critical eye only to find that they’re not quite working for you
– what can you do now?
In this blog we’ll be looking at the top three problems encountered
when searching for information and how to improve your search to get the
results you need:
Finding too much
If your search has brought back thousands of results and you’re getting overwhelmed with the options:
Search a more specialised resource
Using a subject-specific database will help narrow the focus of your search to your particular areas of interest. Take a look at your Subject Guide to find databases and eBook collections tailored to your subject area.
Make use of the ‘refine’ options usually found on the left-hand side of Library Search or your subject database. Limit your results by date, subject area or information type. Remember, you may need to justify your limits to your supervisor so think carefully about your choices.
Combine search terms with ‘AND’
AND is a Boolean operator, a term you can use to have more control over your search. If you want to find information that must contain two different keywords (or phrases), place a capitalised AND operator between them. Your search engine or subject database will only find information that features both, narrowing your results. The more search terms you combine with AND, the narrower your search will be.
Finding too little
If your search has brought back a handful of useful articles but you need a wider range of results:
Combine terms with ‘OR’
OR is another Boolean operator that helps you to control your search more effectively. Use OR with your search terms that have synonyms or related terms. Your search engine or subject database will find information that features either word or phrase, significantly broadening your results.
Try controlled vocabulary
If you’re not getting enough results, it may be that your search terms or keywords aren’t quite working for you. Controlled vocabulary are a standardised list of words and phrases used on some databases to ensure that searches retrieve all relevant results, even when authors use different terms. Examples of databases that use this technique include ERIC, PsycInfo, CAB abstracts, Compendex and Medline. If these apply to you and your discipline, you’ll find out how to use them on your Subject Guide.
If you’ve found some useful articles, one simple way to find more relevant material is to take a look at the references used by the authors. This will lead you to find older material that was published before your original article which may also be useful. Library Search and some subject databases including Google Scholar and Scopus also allow you to see who has cited the articles you have found in their work (look for the ‘cited by link’). This is called citation searching and allows you to find more up-to-date analysis of your topic. By looking back at the references and forward at the citations, you get a 360 degree view of the research.
Finding nothing useful?
If your search has brought back results that aren’t relevant to your research question or you are finding it difficult to find the right search terms or databases to use, you might find it helpful to book a one-to-one appointment with your Liaison Librarian.
When it comes to finding academic information, there are a few things you need to think about before you start your search, such as where to actually look for information and the types of information you want to find in your search. Another thing that is worth taking the time to think carefully about is keywords.
Keywords, sometimes called subject terms, are simple words and phrases that describe information; you can see them in the item record on Library Search and in Subject Databases.
The results that your search returns are based on this information – if your keywords match an item’s keywords, that item will appear in your results.
To get the best results, then, you’ll need to develop a
balanced list of targeted keywords – these keywords may come from your essay
title or research question, from your subject knowledge or wider reading – you can
even borrow them from the subject terms you find on relevant articles!
As ideas and topics can be expressed in different ways you’ll
also need to think about synonyms and terms related to your keywords to make
sure you can find all of the relevant information.
To find out more about keywords, synonyms and searching take
a look at this short video:
There are some useful tricks you can use with your keywords to save you time when you search, take a look at our Advanced Searching Guide to learn about Boolean, wildcards and truncation!
In our previous blog we explored how looking for information in the right place can help save you time and effort. However, sometimes, the right place to look can depend on what type of information you’re looking for.
While you’re probably familiar with books and you may have been introduced to journal articles, these are just two of the types of academic information available to you. Depending on your research question or essay title you might also find it useful to explore, for example, conference proceedings, maps, company information or newspapers.
Each type of information has its particular use; books provide an in-depth overview of a topic; journal articles are more specialised and focus in-depth on a particular area of a topic, and newspapers give you a useful perspective on events. While Library Search can help you find a large range of information types, some types of information are only available in special databases or archives. Before you start your search, it’s therefore important that you decide what types of information you will need to complete your assignment most effectively. You can find out more about different information types on our Finding Information Guide and in the video below:
When you know which types of information you need for your assignment or project take a look at our Resource Guides, which provide useful links and guides to appropriate sources.
When you’re looking for information to help you write your
essays, assignments or projects it can be tempting to turn to the source of
information you use every day – Google.
While Google can be useful in some ways (such as finding company
websites or journal author’s profiles), it wasn’t exclusively designed to help
you find good quality, academic information that is reliable and relevant. This means you’ll likely have to spend more
of your time wading through huge amounts of information and fact-checking
resources for accuracy.
Thankfully, Google isn’t your only option – there are a number of different places to look that have been created with the aim of providing you with the information that you need, such as your reading lists, Library Search, and key Subject Databases.
Take a look at this video to find out more about how these
sources can help you:
With the high volume of information available to you online when you begin your research, it can be difficult to know which of the sources you find to actually use in your assignments or essays. Ultimately, you’ll want to choose the information that is of good quality and that can help you to answer your research questions most effectively. This means you need to make some critical decisions about the information you have found. Even if the materials you find are from reliable sources, such as Library Search or a Subject Database like Scopus you’ll need to consider how the information you’ve found compares to other information and if it is suitable for your purposes.
To help you make effective critical decisions you’ll need to think about these key areas:
Currency – is the information up-to-date?
Relevance – does it help you answer your research question?
Authority – who wrote it? How qualified are the authors?
Accuracy – how did the authors of the information reach their conclusions? What evidence and data have they used?
If you’re writing a detailed essay, dissertation or thesis,
reference management software such as EndNote can save you a lot of time and
effort but only so long as you put in some time and effort to learn how it
So let us help you get a head start with these three steps:
Step 1: Getting set up & practising the basics
Use our online workbook to get off on the right foot with EndNote; it will guide you through setting up your EndNote Library, adding references and using EndNote with Word.
You can watch this handy video from Clarivate for a visual demonstration too:
Step 2: Organisation from chaos
You’ve probably got a lot of records in your Library now so
it’s time to get organised! Take a look
at these short guides and build up your EndNote expertise:
These tools will help you keep all your information together and make it easily accessible for step three…
Step 3: Now for the real magic
Now you’ve collected and organised your references, it’s time to put them to work for you using Cite While You Write in Word. Watch this video from Clarivate to see how it’s done:
Some EndNote Extras
Keen to learn even more? Take a look at the EndNote Extras section of our EndNote Guide to find out how to merge documents and reference lists, how to share your Library with colleagues or how to find the full text PDF of an article from your EndNote Library.
Outside the Box
While the University has a subscription to EndNote and the Library offer some support to help you use it, there are other reference management software tools available. Take a look at this FAQ to see some comparison charts that can help you decide which tool might be best for you!