Research and referencing skills


This page has been created to help you develop your referencing skills and clarify why referencing is so important. For more on referencing and other academic skills please see Enhancing Academic Skills Online.

How to cite and write bibliographies

This section explains the importance of citations and why you need to use them in your essays. Please use the documentation below to improve your understanding of citations. The College has policies on plagiarism and your own department might provide advice on citations and bibliographies, so please check these as well.

Why do I need to cite?

Thorough and accurate citation and referencing are essential when you refer to the work of others in assignments. It ensures that you use information ethically and responsibly and that you respect academic values. It also:

  • enables you to show the extent of your research by your use of a wide range of sources
  • strengthens your arguments by your use of good quality resources
  • acknowledges the work of others and their influences upon you
  • allows the reader, examiner or other researchers to locate, read and check your sources
  • helps you avoid plagiarism, which can have serious consequences 

When should I reference?

You should provide references when you are:

  • directly quoting from the text of another work
  • paraphrasing someone else's work, theories or ideas
  • using someone else's work when developing your own ideas and arguments
  • indirectly referring to the text of other works
  • using illustrations, diagrams, tables or figures from other sources

If a fact is regarded as common knowledge, e.g. dates, events, (The Battle of Hastings was in 1066), you would not be expected to provide a reference. If in doubt, provide a reference.

Citation styles

There are various citation styles, but they normally fall into two categories:

  • name and date, e.g. Harvard - use the author's name and date in your parentheses in your in-text citation (Smith, 1989), then provide a separate list of the sources cited alphabetically by author at the end of your work
  • numeric, e.g. Chicago - your in-text citation will comprise a number that links to your footnotes/endnotes, like this [1]. You will also need to provide a full bibliography.

The most important thing to remember when referencing is to be consistent

Name and date systems


There is no standard definition of the Harvard referencing system and many variations have evolved. For a simple guide we recommend:

Pears, R. and Shields, G. (2013) Cite them right: the essential referencing guide. 9 edn. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Print copies are available in the library, and we also have access to Cite Them Right. We also have a library guide to help with the Harvard Referencing style.

APA (American Psychological Association)

This is the citation style used by the American Psychological Association and widely used throughout Psychology. We have print copies of the manual in the library.

American Psychological Association (c2010) Publication manual of the APA. (6th ed.) Washington, DC: APA. 

More information is available from APA or from Cite Them Right.

MLA (Modern Language Association)

The main style guide to refer to is:

Modern Language Association of America, (2009) MLA handbook for writers of research papers. 7th ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America

More information can be found using Cite Them Right, or using guides produced by the University of Georgia and Purdue University, Indiana

Numeric systems

MHRA (Modern Humanities Research Association)

The printed MHRA guide is available in the library:

Modern Humanities Research Association (2013) MHRA style guide: a handbook for authors and editors. (3rd ed). London: Modern Humanities Research Association

You can download the MHRA guide for free.. Dr Lucia Boldoni from the English and Comparative Literature Department has also produced a concise ECL MHRA Guide.

IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers)

This is the citation style used by the Computing department. Consult the IEEE's referencing guidelines for how to reference.


This is a common citation style, used by the Music department. We have printed copies available in the library:

The Chicago Manual of Style (2010). 16th edn. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

There is an online version of the Chicago style. We also have access to a free trial of the Chicago Manual of Style Online for 3 months from 1st March 2016, with access on-campus only.

Departmental styles

Anthropology Harvard
Art Harvard
Computing IEEE
Cultural Studies Any - be consistent
Design Any - be consistent
Education Harvard
English and Comparative Literature MHRA
Harvard for Linguistics students
History MHRA or Chicago (notes and bibliography version) 
Institute of Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship Harvard
Institute of Management Studies APA
Media and Communications Any - be consistent
Music Chicago
Politics Harvard
Psychology APA
Social, Therapeutic and Community Studies Harvard
Sociology Harvard
Theatre and Performance MHRA or Chicago
Visual Cultures Chicago

Managing your references online

Whilst you can keep notes of the sources you use by hand, there is software available that can make managing your references simpler. This is particularly time-saving if you're dealing with large numbers of references. 

Zotero is free open source software and you don't have to be a student to use it - you don't need to sign in with your Goldsmiths email address and your references are available even after you finish your studies. Once you download the plugin for your Internet browser, you'll be able to directly capture references from catalogues, databases, and websites. There is also a plugin for Word that allows you to create in-text citations and bibliographies. Documentation is available on the website, but we've created our own brief video tutorials and provide workshops as part of the Enhancing Academic Skills programme.

EndNote Web can only be used by Goldsmiths students and your access will last as long as you're a student. It searches library catalogues and databases via its site to collect references for you. You can organise your references to make them easier to manage, or create a formatted bibliography and cite references whilst you write your work in Word. Goldsmiths has its own EndNote Web guide. Contact your subject librarian for more help. 


Plagiarism is cheating and can be defined as "to copy (ideas, passages of text, etc) from someone else’s work and use them as if they were one’s own” (Chambers 21st Century Dictionary, 1999)

It is a serious offence whether accidental and unintentional e.g. careless use of copying and pasting or intentional e.g. using essay writing services. Goldsmiths has clear guidelines about plagiarism.  At the very least, a student found guilty of plagiarism can expect to receive a fail for the piece of work, but other, more serious punishments may be given, including dismissal from College in extreme cases. Click here for Goldsmiths' policy on plagiarism. 

Avoiding plagiarism

Plagiarism can initially be difficult to understand and many students might not realise what constitutes plagiarism and what doesn’t.

For your assignment, you will have done plenty of background reading to help you formulate your own ideas.  When writing, you will discuss what you have learned from your background reading to show how this has influenced your views and arguments. 

To avoid plagiarism the sources you use and refer to must be correctly cited and referenced.  Although plagiarism is not just words (it includes ideas, images, etc), paraphrasing/summarising is an important area to consider. Substituting words in a quotation with synonyms, rearranging the words in a quotation and changing the order of sentences are all examples of plagiarism if references are not provided.

More help on avoiding plagiarism is available from Plagiarism Advice (established by JISC) and the University of Leicester  


Copyright is an Intellectual Property Right along with Trade Marks, Patents, and Designs.  For detailed information, see the IPO's website. UK copyright law is mainly set out in the Copyright, Design and Patents Act (1988), though this has been substantially amended by more recent Acts and European Copyright Directives that aim to harmonise copyright across the EU. 

Copyright gives economic and moral rights to the creators of works, and provides a legal framework for such works to be used fairly by others.

Copyright is infringed where a whole or ‘substantial part’ of a work has been used without permission and no exceptions to copyright apply.  A ‘substantial part’ of a work is not defined in law and may be quite small. 

Copyright for student work

Students at Goldsmiths own copyright in their own work.  Some colleges and universities do make a claim to copyright in student work and ask students to agree to this when they enrol.

MA course work held by the library is non-published work under the CPDA 1988 and no copying is permitted. They are also not available for use by members of the public. MA theses held by the library include a cover sheet which states that no copies can be made and is usually signed by the author. 

PhD theses are made available to both students and members of the public in both print and electronic format, held in the library and on the repositories, Goldsmiths Research Online (GRO) and EThOS. For information on the use of copyright material in PhD theses and the copyright itself of a PhD thesis, see here

Further advice on copyright

Advice can be requested from any organisations that represent copyright holders (many also collect royalties on behalf of members). For example, in the following areas:

Books, journal articles, etc

Copyright Licensing Association (CLA)

Performing music in public Performing Rights Society
Playing or broadcasting music or music videos in public PPL/VPL
Showing films in public Motion Picture Licensing Company (MPLC), although the CPDA covers films broadcast in an‘educational establishment for the purpose of instruction’
Illegal recordings and use of film and broadcasts Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT)