“Referencing and citing is easy and should not take long.” Wrong.
So, you have finally come to university and you are clever enough to realise that, despite this supposedly being the best time of your life, you will face some challenges such as struggling to meet assignment deadlines, maintaining a work-life balance, finding a house with new friends, homesickness and…doing your own laundry.
However, what you might not have expected is for referencing and citing to be a challenge.
Whether you are doing an Arts, Humanities or a STEM degree, you will have to undergo the laborious task of ensuring that your footnotes, bibliography and in-text citations contain the correct details of secondary sources in the correct order. After all, one incorrect reference or citation can lead to you losing marks.
Fortunately, here are three steps to overcome this difficulty of referencing and citing.
1. Know your assigned referencing and citing style guide.
Clearly, before you work on your referencing and citing, you need to know what referencing and citing style your university department wants you to write in (e.g., APA, Harvard, MHRA etc.).
Your department should have a digital referencing and citing guide that explains what specific style you should use, but you can always ask your lecturers if you really do not know which one to use.
2. Read or download your department’s referencing and citing style guide.
It is understandably long and tiring to read your department’s referencing and citing style guide, but it will be worth it later on because you will eventually know how to cite different sources off by heart.
Even if you choose not to read the whole guide, you should at least download and open it whenever you are writing your assignments to see whether your references and citations match the structure of the guide’s examples.
Some of you may believe that you can easily avoid this task by using a reference generator to form your references and citations for you. However, even a reference generator can make mistakes as their generated references or citations might not exactly match the order of details specified in your department’s style guide.
*On a side note, make sure you write down the secondary sources that you have read during this step. The last thing you want is to forget the name of a useful source and then spend countless hours trying to find it again.*
3. Spend one whole day checking the order of details in your references and citations.
The last step would be for you to spend one whole day checking the order of details in your references and citations. With so many details to put in a specific order, you will become tired after reading so much content and are thus likely to make a few mistakes in terms of the arrangement of details (e.g. putting the author’s surname after the source’s title when it should come before according to your style guide).
More simply, you should check whether the order of details in your references and citations matches the order of details specified in your department’s style guide.
Also, make sure that the details of your secondary sources are correct. It may be the case that the order of details in your references and citations is correct, but you have the wrong author, title or publication year.
Hopefully, you now feel more prepared for referencing and citing after reading these steps. Aside from that, good luck with referencing and citing.
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