University of Birmingham Referencing

University of Birmingham Referencing

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Learning how to reference correctly is a very important skill.  When writing an essay or thesis, referring to the sources you have used is an academic requirement.

Why reference?

Referencing correctly is an important academic skill as it shows the reader of your work the sources you have used to research your topic and gives support and weight to your arguments and conclusions. In summary, there are four good reasons for referencing;

(i) To allow a reader of your work to find and check the sources you have used.

(ii) So that you can come back to your own work and know where you found a particular quotation or piece of information.

(iii) To avoid accusations of plagiarism.

(iv) To make you think twice about using outdated and inaccurate books, articles, or websites.

As a general rule you should not put your trust in any resource which does not give references.

Cite Them Right

The University has adopted the ‘Cite Them Right’ ( style of referencing and according to the co-authors, Graham Shields and Richard Pears, referencing is;

“…the process of acknowledging the sources you have used in writing your essay, assignment or piece of work. It allows the reader to access your source documents as quickly and easily as possible in order to verify, if necessary, the validity of your arguments and the evidence on which they are based. You identify these sources by citing them in the text of your assignment (called citations or in-text citations) and referencing them at the end of your assignment (called the reference list or end-text citations). The reference list only includes the sources cited in your text. It is not the same thing as a bibliography, which uses the same referencing style, but also includes all material, for example background readings, used in the preparation of your work.” (

Referencing Software

There is referencing software to help you reference

  • RefWorks is a web-based package and is available free of charge to all members of the University.  Recommended for Undergraduates and Postgraduate Taught.
  • EndNote, is recommended for PhD students, researchers and lecturers and a personal copy needs to be purchased.

Referencing systems

If you are not sure which referencng style to use, consult your tutor or Subject Advisor


Plagiarism is the act of using or copying someone else’s work and pretending that you thought of it or created it. In order to avoid suspicion of plagiarism it is important to make appropriate use of references.

If you are in doubt about what plagiarism is and how to avoid it you should consult your tutor and read the University’s code of practice on Plagiarism.

Sign up to the University’s Interactive course. Anyone can sign up via Canvas.  You will need to enter your University Username and Password to sign in.


At present copyright law allows only small extracts of items to be copied legally provided that they are referenced (and following the guidance herein fulfills that perfectly!). Only copy what is completely necessary, and only when the use falls into one or more of the following categories:

personal private study;
non-commercial research;
criticism and review;
illustration for instruction;
parody pastiche or caricature;
or quotation.

Students’ use will fall under personal private study, criticism and review, illustration, and/or quotation. For further information, see our extensive copyright guidance.