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Referencing in Part I

The expectations relating to referencing will vary according to the stage of your studies and whether you are writing a supervision essay, an exam essay or a dissertation/research report.

Supervision essays are often based on assumed knowledge presented in lecture handouts and in course textbooks. Normally you will only need to quote names relating to past experiments or ideas e.g. Mendel or Meselson-Stahl. It is not normally necessary to quote the full reference. It is good practice to include a bibliography which identifies the sources of information used to write the essay.

Click here for examples (pdf file).

Exam essays
There is no need for a bibliography in exam essays, but you should acknowledge ideas where appropriate, e.g. the names of those who were seminal in establishing a particular hypothesis.

Assessed practicals / project work
For certain work e.g. Part IB Ecology Projects it will be necessary to reference fully as described for Part II Dissertations and Research Projects below.

Recording references
In Part I, there is normally no need to use specialist software to keep track of the works you consult, but it is never too early to establish your own method. This might take the form of handwritten cards or a simple spreadsheet and can save you time later during revision or writing up project work or assessed practicals.

Referencing in Part II

Supervision essays: should acknowledge sources as described in the previous section, although by this stage you will include a more detailed list of references, perhaps to papers from which you quote concepts or experimental findings. Lecturers may also include information that specifically identifies the source of experiments e.g. Jones et al. (2009). If a lecturer acknowledges a source, then you can assume you will probably need to acknowledge the source also if you refer to it.

Exam essays: It is accepted that you will not be able to recall the full details of all sources in an exam essay or the primary reference for every fact, but a good essay will identify the author of major or recent concepts introduced e.g. Jones et al. (2009).

Dissertation and Research Project Reports will need to be fully referenced with a Reference List as described in the course guide or other material issued by your Department. There is normally a specific style that you need to adopt and use consistently, such as the Harvard System for which a number of guides are available online. Click here for an example (pdf).

Alternatively, you will need to adopt the convention adopted by a journal in your discipline – in this case you should look at the Guide to Authors for that particular journal. The format of references in a reference list will vary according to the specific journal.

Remember that assessment will include an evaluation of whether your referencing conforms consistently and accurately to the appropriate style.

Recording references:It will save you a lot of time if you make a note of the sources of information used in a dissertation or research report as you go along. This will allow you to ensure that you reference appropriately. It would also be worth considering at the outset the most efficient way of constructing a reference list using the tools available to you. At one extreme, software such as EndNote can automatically generate a reference list in the correct format. At the other extreme you can type out the reference list yourself. If you are constructing your own reference list with numbered references, you are strongly advised to include the author names in your drafts, and to change the names to numbers at the very last stage.

Activity: comparing journal conventions

Open and read this pdf document that lists one reference which has been formatted for different journals.  Make a note of the difference between each style.  What is missing from some? 

You will notice the variation in style between journals is significant in some cases. If you are advised to choose one of these for a Part II project, for example, then it is worth double-checking with your supervisor or Director of Studies that some of the shorter conventions are acceptable. Whichever convention you decide upon, remember to use it consistently throughout your reference list.

Activity: correcting references

Each of the references in this pdf document is inconsistent with the format of the following reference: 

Singh R. et al. (2006) Biofilms: implications for in situ bioremediation. Trends Microbiol. 14, 389-397

Can you spot the errors?

Click here to access a pdf file of the corrected reference list.