How To Reference: A Guide for Media and Communications Students

By Sarah Krause

Nothing puts a lecture hall full of students to sleep quite as soundly as the topic of referencing. It’s boring, it’s tedious and you’d be hard pressed to find a single human who finds the process enjoyable.

Unfortunately it’s also necessary.

If you want to avoid plagiarism, and all the consequences that come with it, then it’s important to get into the rhythm of referencing correctly as early into your university career as possible. If that’s not reason enough to get on board, then just think of all the easy marks that are on offer for simply following your course’s referencing guidelines.

If you stick to these four quick steps, you’ll be referencing like a natural in no time!

  1. Know your referencing style

The first step, particularly if you’re just starting your degree, is to identify which referencing style your school or institution requires you to use. This can vary from faculty to faculty – sometimes even from professor to professor – so double degree students make sure to check both sides of your degree!

Two of the most common referencing styles that you will become familiar with as a Media and Communications student are APA (American Psychological Association, 6th edition) and Harvard style.

QUT allows students to utilise either APA or Harvard, so long as the one style is consistently employed throughout an assignment. If you’re a QUT student (or you need some hot tips on how to use APA or Harvard) then citewrite is the place to go for step-by-step referencing guidance.

At UQ, the school of Journalism and Communication requires students to utilise APA referencing. The school also has its own style guide for students to follow.

Similarly, Bond University specifies APA referencing as the preferred style for degrees in the social sciences, including Communications.

  1. Know when you need to reference

Referencing requires you to acknowledge the original source of the ideas contained in your writing. This may take the form of either in-text referencing or footnoting depending on the style required. If an assignment includes an idea that is not your own – whether you’re quoting or paraphrasing – you must cite the source where you found the original idea. A failure to do so may amount to plagiarism.

  1. Reference as you write

The temptation will always be to leave referencing as the last step on your assignment To Do list. However, unless you want to find yourself manically Googling whether you’re supposed to reference with a full stop or a comma just ten minutes before your assessment is due, then its best to avoid this trap. Instead, save yourself the heartache and last-minute stress by referencing as you write.

  1. Don’t forget your bibliography or reference list

In addition to in-text referencing, you will often be required to submit either a bibliography or reference list with your assignment. Both provide readers with more information about the sources you have used in your work so that they can locate them if need be.

It is important to note that bibliographies and reference lists are two different things. A bibliography must include only the sources you have actually cited in your assignment, while a reference list includes all the sources that you have come across in the course of your research. The referencing style you are using will dictate which approach is required.  

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