Strictly Referencing: When is a website not a website?

A common mistake made in referencing is grouping all sources found online under the category and reference type of a website. Your aim should be to reference the information you have in front of you rather than where it was sourced. Simply grouping items found online as a website would be the equivalent of referencing a book by the publisher details rather than the author and title.

For example, a government publication found online would be referenced like this in Chicago.

United Kingdom. Department for Education. Cloud computing: how schools can move services to the cloud. London: The Stationary Office, 2016. Accessed: November 4, 2019. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cloud-computing-how-schools-can-move-services-to-the-cloud. 

An electronic journal article might appear like this in APA.

Gillum, J. (2012). Dyscalculia: Issues for practice in education psychology.  Educational Psychology in Practice, 28(3), 287-297. doi:10.1080/02667363.2012.684344

While a video posted on the Tate website would look something like this in Harvard.

TateShots (2016) Grayson Perry: think like an artist. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/talk/what-makes-artist-grayson-perry-conversation-sarah-thornton (Accessed: 11 November 2019). 

Identifying the type of information you are using as well as the source, are essential skills of evaluation and developing a critical approach to information. In many cases you will be unconsciously using your judgment to assess the value of information for your purpose. So when you are using any source of information, ask yourself what it is you are looking at, what details are recorded about it and whether it measures up as a quality piece of information. You’ll find more guidance about evaluating information on our Evaluating Information guide.

It’s all a matter of style

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.

Referencing top tips: the basic steps

Learn the basic steps of a reference, and you can hit the rhythm with any style you need.

Referencing – why is it so important?

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.

Find out more on our Managing Information skills guide.

Routine for 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.

We’ll tell you where to get advice and help

Understand why we reference and how

How to avoid plagiarism

How to manage your information to make your life easier and assignments less stressful, giving you the routine for success.

Self Care Week: Top Tips

Self Care Week is the 18-24th of November. It’s an awareness event that focuses on embedding support for self care across communities, families and generations. We’ve compiled a list of services, resources and recommendations from Newcastle University to help manage your wellbeing and establish positive habits.

Student Health and Wellbeing

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Based on Level 2 of King’s Gate, Student Health and Wellbeing work with local and national organisations to help to maximise your academic potential and allow you to have the best possible experience while you’re studying. They offer advice and assistance on many topics, from spiritual support to mental health counselling. You can find self-help resources and information here.

iNCLude

iNCLude is a new free app aimed at helping develop positive behaviours to ensure you’re focussing on more than just academic studies. The app centres on several themes: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give. There’s space to record your feelings in a mood journal and information on campus wellbeing events through your personal feed. To find out more (and download the app) click here.

Silvercloud

Silvercloud is a suite of online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) programmes, which can be tailored to your specific needs. It is free and can be accessed anywhere on a PC, tablet or mobile phone. The modules on Silvercloud can be worked through at your own pace and a practitioner from Student Services can help you navigate through the programmes. To start Silvercloud click here.

Be well@NCL

Be well@NCL is a collection of books designed to help manage and understand common mental health conditions and wellbeing. Reading a book by someone who understands what you’re facing can help you start to feel better. The books within the collection are recommended by professionals and are available to borrow from the Phillip Robinson and the Walton libraries. You can find out more about Be well@NCL here.

Responsible studying

The Academic Skills Kit (ASK) helps develop positive study habits, from note taking to exam revision. Visit their website for available support and resources.

Rosie, a Library assistant at the Walton Library, is a fan of the Pomodoro Technique when studying. She says:

“This technique has changed my life! If you are a procrastinator and/or you’re easily distracted, you need to try it – you set a timer on your phone for 25 minutes, work hard on your task for that period and then reward yourself with a 5 minute break. After you’ve done that 4 times, take a longer break.

Breaking work up into chunks with rewards in between means that you get more done than if you try to work non-stop for hours, and it’s easier to start an assignment when you know you only have to work at it for 25 minutes at a time. This technique is better for your stress levels and mental health than beating yourself up for leaving assignments until the last minute.”

Creative activities

Image credit: James Fish

We’ve got creative activities available on our Self Care display in the Walton Library. Taking a break from your work to do desk yoga, colouring in or origami is beneficial in the long run – it’ll help you increase focus, retain information and maintain top performance.

There’s a variety of activities on campus you can do while taking a break from studying, for example:

Stacey, a Library assistant at the Walton Library, likes to knit to improve her mental wellbeing. She says:

“The health benefits of knitting have been known for a while. A 2007 study conducted by Harvard Medical School’s Mind and Body Institute found that knitting lowers heart rate by an average of 11 beats per minute and induces an “enhanced state of calm,” as the repetitive movements release serotonin which can lift moods and dull pain.

Knowing this and gaining the ability to watch your toddler running around wearing clothes you’ve made is a wonderful feeling, as if you are covering your loved ones with wool and love – the only downside is cost (and explaining a million times it isn’t just for old ladies!) Knitting gives me that ‘enhanced state of calm’, or the ability not to be totally radgie ALL of the time, which is essential for my wellbeing.”

Finding Information: Troubleshooting your search results

Photograph of tools, including a hammer, spanner and measuring tape, laid out on a table

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.

Apply limits

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.

360 Searching

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.

You can also find more help and advice on our Finding Information Guide.

Finding Information: The key to your search

Keys hanging on hooks on a piece of wood.

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.

An example of keywords from an article on Library Search
An example of keywords from an article on Library Search

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!

Finding Information: Types of Information

Light bulbs

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.

Finding Information: Knowing Where to Look

Photograph of several closed doors, one painted yellow the others painted white.

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:

For more help on finding information, take a look at our Finding Information Guide.