Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Academic Integrity Toolkit

The tools you need to help you succeed in university study

Which referencing style should I use?

There are many different styles of referencing. By making sure you are using the correct style for your assignment - and using it correctly - you show your marker that you can write with accuracy and rigour, and take responsibility for your work.


Why are different styles used?

Different academic disciplines use different types of source: for instance, in Law you may use legal cases, reports and constitutional papers; in English Literature you will be working with primary texts and secondary criticism; in Psychology you may have to read many primary research papers. Referencing styles are chosen that best deal with these sources.


How do I know which style to use?

Check your course handbook first – you should be able to find it on Blackboard. If it’s not clear, ask your course tutor. Note that Harvard, which is the most commonly used style, does not have a single definite format for setting out full citations. Your tutor or School may ask you to follow a particular format: if not, decide how you are going to set yours out and be consistent.


How do the styles differ?


Used in…

Key features


Various depts.

‘Author-date’ system; brief in-text citation and full citation in bibliography.


Politics, History

In-text citations in footnotes; full citation on first mention of text, and brief citation for following mentions.


Psychology, Education, English Language

Brief in-text citations as with Harvard; hanging indent in bibliography.


English Literature, Film Theatre & Television

Provides for brief in-text citations with brief titles added when citing multiple works by the same author (e.g. novels, poems, plays).



Provides citation formats for books with multiple editions and legal documents.


Food Science

Sources are numbered in order of their first appearance, and listed by number in the bibliography.


Can't I just use a program to do the referencing for me?

There are lots of reference management programs available for free online, but it's important that you understand how to use referencing systems first. Otherwise you might enter the wrong information, and won't know if the resulting citation is incorrect.

If you decide to use a program, it's better to choose one that's supported by your university. That way you can get help if you need it, and can be sure that your references won't disappear just when you need them! At the University of Reading, the Library supports EndNote. There is more information, guides and training sessions on the website.


I’m taking modules in different departments and this is very confusing!

When you start writing at university, you will need to learn new (more detailed) ways to use references whether you are studying in a single department or more than one. Just be careful to check which style is used when you start writing each assignment and find out how it might differ from other styles you use.


Where to find bibliographic details

To cite correctly, you must have all the details. Sometimes it is not clear where to find them, or they have been mislaid. It may be tempting to invent details or use the material without acknowledging the source, but you should never do this – it is academic misconduct

Where do I find the details?

A book

The back of the title page should tell you name/s of authors or editors, title, publisher, date and place of publication. (At the back of the text in some books, e.g. reports.)

A journal article

Look at the top or bottom of the page. If the name of the journal is abbreviated, check the list of periodical abbreviations in the Library.

A website

The title should be in the tab or bar at the top of the webpage. Try to find an ‘About’ page if you can’t find author or date: it may be linked at the foot of the webpage.

I’ve got a great bit of information: but I don’t know where it came from! 

Use what you have to search for the missing details…

  • If you have a lengthy phrase or sentence, try searching for the quote in Google. Put it in quotation marks (“ ”) to get the most relevant search results. If you know it’s a book, try Google Books: or for a journal article, Google Scholar.
  • If you know the title of a book but no more, check the Library catalogue. Even if it’s out on loan, you will be able to check the details (though not page numbers). If you didn’t borrow it from the Library at Reading, you could try a global bibliographic database like WorldCat.
  • If you borrowed the book from the Library, you may be able to jog your memory by looking at your borrowing record on My Account (currently in Unicorn only).
  • If you know the title of a journal article try Summon, or one of the databases available through the Library webpages. Try the databases you usually use first, then a general one covering all subjects or look for a subject specific one.
  • If you’re not sure of the title, check your reading list to see if it jogs your memory. Or trace your reading back – it may be something cited by another author.
  • If it’s a total mystery, you could try asking a librarian to help. They can’t work miracles, but they’ll do their best. The Liaison Librarian for your subject will be the best person to try as they will be more familiar with the texts commonly used in your field.


Remember: if you don’t have the details, you can’t cite it correctly – and if you can’t cite it correctly, you can’t use it!


Can you find the bibliographic details?

1. Find and add the missing part or parts of the following references. 


Berg, J M et al. Microbiology. New York: W.H. Freeman



(2012) Anglo-Saxon art : a new history Ithaca, N.Y.:



Beare, R. J., A. J. Thorpe, and A. A. White. The predictability of extratropical cyclones. Quart. J. Roy. Meteor. Soc., 129,




 2. Find the bibliographic details on this page and write the citation for this book

These are the answers to the exercises:


Berg, J M et al. Microbiology. New York: W.H. Freeman

Edition: 7th ed

Date: 2012

(2012) Anglo-Saxon art : a new history Ithaca, N.Y.:

Author: Webster, L.

Publisher: Cornell University Press

Beare, R. J., A. J. Thorpe, and A. A. White. The predictability of extratropical cyclones. Quart. J. Roy. Meteor. Soc., 129,

Date: 2003

Pages: 219-237


(example answer is in a version of Harvard style): 

Wyke, M. (2007). Projecting the Past: Ancient Rome, Cinema, and History. London: Routledge.