Topic outline

  • "Referencing is a standard practice used in academic writing to show your reader which ideas you have gathered from other sources and where those ideas came from" (UniSA, 2018, p. 2).

    There are many referencing styles out there, with different professions and disciplines preferring specific styles.  Referencing styles include 'author-date' (e.g. APA, Harvard), 'footnote' (e.g. Chicago, Legal  Citation), and 'notational' (e.g. IEEE) methods. Formatting rules on how you structure your citations, what bibliographic elements to include and which punctuation markers you use will also vary from one style to the next, so it is important that you find out which style you are required to use in each of your courses, and follow the relevant referencing style guides.

    While many referencing styles exist, the purpose of referencing remains the same regardless of what style you are required to use.


    • acknowledges the ideas of others
    • allows you to use these ideas to build an argument
    • shows the range of ideas and approaches you have found and thought about
    • reflects standard academic practice and values
    • emphasises that you have used expert and reliable sources
    • prevents circumstances where plagiarism can occur

    This short video explains the purpose of referencing (Video: 2 minute, 22 seconds). 

    NOTE: The example references shown in the above video are in Harvard UniSA styleMost other examples throughout this referencing site are in APA 7 unless specified otherwise.  Always check with your course lecturers and tutors about which referencing style you are expected to use and follow the examples provided in the relevant style guide.  Learn more about different Referencing styles here.