Most pieces of academic writing need to include references to other sources of information – usually academic literature. If a piece of work has issues with referencing or sources, tutors will often make comments such as:
- "Be ruthless with irrelevant material."
- "Use more sources - good ones."
- "Use the correct referencing style."
- "Read beyond the lectures."
What to look for
If you receive this feedback, revisit your work and ask yourself whether all sources are relevant, reputable, balanced and used in your writing to support your argument or offer a different viewpoint.
Part of the process of writing your work involves you doing background research into the topic, evaluating the information you find and using it as evidence within your writing.
Make sure that your sources are relevant to your topic and that you have considered the evidence they provide, embedding this in your writing to support arguments, in some cases illustrating both sides of an argument, and not just for the sake of it.
The quality of the information you find and the range of sources are important.
Check where the information has come from and who has written the information – do they have authority? Provide a balanced range of sources from different viewpoints.
Before you start, check the guidance provided in your module handbook or by your tutor to see what sort of research they expect you to do and how they want you to present it.
As well as finding and using information sources, you need to cite and reference them correctly.
In order to gain marks in this area you need to carefully follow the guidance given on citation and referencing styles: this means how you embed the references into your work.
Online referencing tools such as Citavi, Zotero and EndNote help to improve your referencing skills. They allow you to save data sources, highlight key quotes, and help to integrate citations and references into your work.
Check what referencing style your school uses and whether they require a reference list or bibliography.
Print out this table of tips on research and referencing (PDF).
How to feed it forward
To improve the research and referencing in your writing:
- Check the module handbook and marking criteria for guidance on the research work required.
- Make a search plan to help find good quality information.
- Develop some criteria to help evaluate all your sources of information.
- Read widely and incorporate a range of views in your writing.
- Check the referencing style you need to use.
- Check your citations (in text) and references carefully, using the Library website if necessary.
More tips on searching for information
Find out more about referencing