Quick-Start Guide to Referencing
In this short post I will provide a brief overview of what 'referencing' is, why you should do it when writing blogs, and how you can do it. I'll also link some great resources to help you get started.
What is Referencing?
Referencing is a way of acknowledging the work of others in your blogs or written work generally (although referencing is not limited to print form). When you reference, you acknowledge the sources of information and ideas that you have used to write your blog.
Why Reference Sources in Your Blogs?
Referencing the work of others in your blogs does several things:
- It gives your written work credibility. By having extensive references you have shown your reader that you have done your research of the facts and any surrounding debate on a particular issue. Your reader is more likely to believe what you say when you do this.
- You maintain integrity within your work. There is nothing worse than passing of someone else's work as your own. This is dishonest and ruins your reputation as a writer.
- You avoid legal issues. Systemic plagiarism on a large scale may lead to legal action being taken against you. The owner of the work might have the right to ask you to take down your blog or in more serious cases they might be able sue you in court.
The last point is not just a mere hypothetical. Former Beatle George Harrison was successfully sued for infringing copyright when he wrote his hit song, "My Sweet Lord". The melody of the song was similar to that of another hit song, "He's So Fine", which was written for the Chiffons. Harrison was ordered to pay more than half a million dollars for the copyright infringement.
How to I Reference?
Now that you know what referencing is and why you need to do it when writing blogs, the next question is how to reference. The answer is to use a referencing style.
The University of Queensland defines a 'referencing style' as follows:
"A referencing style is a set of rules on how to acknowledge the thoughts, ideas and works of others in a particular way."
There are several referencing styles that you can use. Here is a list of common referencing styles and where they are used:
- APA 7th (or APA 6th): This style is used in psychology as well as the social sciences and even business disciplines.
- Harvard: While this is not an official referencing style, it is quite similar to APA.
- MLA 9th edition (or 8th edition): This system frequently used for fields such as linguistics and literature.
- Vancouver: This style of referencing is used for the health sciences.
So how do you know which one you should use? Here's a few tips:
- Choose something you are familiar with. Personally, I'm familiar with a more niche system called AGLC 4 (used for legal disciplines in Australia) so I use that for pretty much everything.
- If you have never used a referencing system before, I recommend that you choose APA or Harvard. These are quite universal and can be applied across multiple subject domains.
Now, it is beyond the scope of this post to detail how to use each referencing system so here are a few resources to help get you started:
- University of Melbourne Referencing Styles. This page goes into detail about each of the referencing systems (and other ones not previously mentioned such as the Chicago A and Chicago B systems).
- APA Blog. This provides you with an overview of how to reference different sources.
- Macquarie University referencing guides. This website contains sample references and PDF guides for numerous referencing systems including Harvard, MLA and Oxford.
I also find that generally a quick Google search might also yield surprisingly excellent results. For example, I might search "AGLC 4 videos referencing" to find out how to reference a YouTube clip or a video on a social media platform.
Referencing is important; do not omit it!! It gives you credibility, it shows you are honest, and it helps you avoid a world of trouble in the near future.
Here are a few final tips from me:
- Do not misquote people. By that I mean do not tell half-truths when you're presenting the work of others because this can lead to false impressions of what they actually said. Make sure you present ideas in their entirety.
- Source information from authoritative sources. Reports from a government authority are much more authoritative than someone's opinion on Medium.
- Each source requires a different style of referencing. A blog post is different from referencing an academic journal article; a video is different from a book, etc.
- Examine a variety of competing positions on a given issue. Don't go deep into the echo chamber and only research things you agree with.
 Frank Mastropolo, '40 Years Ago: George Harrison Found Guilty of 'My Sweet Lord' Plagiarism', Ultimate Classic Rock (online, 31st August 2016) <https://ultimateclassicrock.com/george-harrison-my-sweet-lord-plagiarism/>.
 Callum Crumlish, 'The Beatles George Harrison: 'I Did Not Feel Guilty About Plagiarising Song', Express (online, 19th February 2021) <https://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/music/1400047/the-beatles-george-harrison-my-sweet-lord-plagiarism-hes-so-fine-the-chiffons-court-case>.
 University of Melbourne, 'Referencing Styles' (online, 2022) <https://library.unimelb.edu.au/recite/referencing-styles>.
 Macquarie University, 'Referencing' (online, 2022) <https://libguides.mq.edu.au/referencing/Harvard>.
 The University of Queensland, 'Referencing Style Guides' (online, 2022) <https://guides.library.uq.edu.au/referencing>.