You are expected to acknowledge the books, journal articles and other sources of information that you use when preparing and completing your university work. This is done by briefly referring to (citing) the sources of information in the text of your work, and by producing a corresponding, alphabetical list of references (or a bibliography) at the end of your work.

Referencing demonstrates that you have done the following:

  • acknowledged your sources of information
  • read around the subject
  • taken on board related research
  • explored others' opinions
  • checked your facts
  • substantiated your arguments
  • come to your own conclusions

References also enable the reader to find your sources of information for themselves.

Student using his laptop in the library.

When to and how to reference

Each time you use someone else's ideas, words or facts, it is essential that you acknowledge this in your work. Not acknowledging other people's work is intellectually dishonest and can be illegal. It is known as plagiarism. You do not need to reference common knowledge, but you should reference things that you have personally read, seen or heard.

Please check with your college which referencing standard they want you to use. The following referencing styles are used at UWE Bristol:

On occasion you may find that the example given in the UWE Bristol Harvard A-Z does not give enough information for the reader to locate the file you used. In this instance you may need to use a ‘best fit’ approach and adapt the example. 

Use our interactive self-study How to reference and avoid plagiarism online workbook to learn more about the basics of referencing at UWE Bristol. There is a How to reference and avoid plagiarism reading list to complement the workbook. You can also sign up to attend our How to reference and avoid plagiarism workshop.

View study skills workshops on the Events Diary

Word count

  • In-text citations and quotations are included in your assignment's word count.
  • References, bibliographies and footnotes containing references are not included in the word count, unless it is clearly stated in the coursework instructions that the module is an exception to this rule.

Please consult the UWE Bristol Policies for further advice (includes the Assessment Content Limit policy).

Example reference

The below examples are in the UWE Bristol Harvard style.

Citing a source of information in your own text

The need for care and guidance (Pearson et al., 2007) is evident...

As Pearson et al. states (2007, p.72), "The basis of evidence-based practice is, of course, evidence."

The corresponding reference

Pearson, A., Field, J., Ford, D. and Jordan, Z. (2007) Evidence-Based Clinical Practice in Nursing and Health Care: Assimilating Research, Experience and Expertise. 2nd ed. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Please note: You must put your italics, capitalisation and punctuation in the right place for all referencing styles.

Managing your references

Our Referencing tools web page offers help and advice with managing your references, including getting started with suggested reference management software.

Common terms


An alphabetical list of all the sources of information you have used in preparing your written piece of work, even if the sources are not referred to directly or cited within the text.

Your module handbook will tell you if you should include a bibliography.


Acknowledging a source of information within the text of your work. For example, an in-text citation.

Common knowledge

Common knowledge is information that most people would know without having to look up, for example, the world is round.

However, what may be common in one culture, society or area of study may not be common to others outside of that group. When in doubt, reference your sources.


Plagiarism is presenting the ideas or discoveries of another as your own.


References are the details of your information sources, providing enough information to enable the reader to understand what you are referring to.

Reference list

A reference list is presented in alphabetical order by author (in cases where you have used an author more than once, the most recent reference should be listed first). It lists all the references you have cited directly in your written text. The reference list is usually found at the end of a piece of written work.

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