Written by Dr. Hannes Nel
I discuss the following aspects of essential information in references in this article:
- Book references.
- The Harvard and APA systems.
- The Author-date system.
- The Vancouver system.
- Journal article references.
- Articles or chapters in edited works.
- The internet.
The four most-used references are to books, journal articles, articles or chapters in edited books and the internet.
Book references. Essential information for each book reference has three components:
- Name(s) and initials of author(s) together with date of publication.
- Book title (from a full page, not the spine) including edition if other than the first.
- Details concerning the imprint (publisher and place of publication).
The most popular referencing systems for books are the Harvard system, the APA system, the Author-date system and the Vancouver system.
The Harvard and APA systems. Two widely adopted styles of referencing, well established in the natural sciences and quite widespread in the social sciences and education, are the Harvard and APA (American Psychological Association) systems.
Characteristic of the Harvard system is the use of author and date as the form of referring to sources in text with author’s works listed alphabetically in a separate list of references. The vastly simplified system, in comparison with the previously universal academic practice of footnotes that used Latin abbreviations (op. cit., loc., id., ead., et al., and ibid.) are currently in use by many different academic disciplines.
Some universities require that, in the text, initials are not used with the Harvard system unless there is more than one author with the same surname.
Example: (K Maree 2011:72) versus (Maree 2011:72)
There are, however, many different interpretations of the Harvard system with the result that you might get rather confused if you consult too many sources to find the “right” referencing system. Use the one that your university prescribes or accepts. Most importantly, whatever system you decide to use, you must use it consistently. If you decide not to use initials, then do not, unless there is more than one author with the same surname. To avoid making mistakes it is probably better to use initials with all references. If you do not add a space between the colon and the page number, then do so consistently. If you use a space, then also do this consistently. If you use, or omit, commas then do so the same in all the sources that you acknowledge.
The same applies to the bibliography at the back of your thesis or dissertation. If you put the publisher first followed by the city where the book was published, then do so with all the references that you list. If you do it the other way around, also maintain consistency.
The APA is a variation of the Author-date system. Minor and subtle differences exist between the Harvard and APA systems and writers often adopt a mixture of the two (rather do not do this unless the system in use by your university happens to be one).
The Author-date system. The Harvard and APA systems have in common the author followed by the date, and it is the Author-date system of referencing that now is followed in many universities. Such “modified” systems mostly have at least some of the following characteristics:
- Full stops after initials and date without brackets around the date.
- To link authors – without a preceding comma where there are just two authors.
- Use and rather than & to link two authors.
- Use title case for book and periodical names.
- Put the edition number in brackets.
- Publisher followed by the place of publication (joined by a comma).
- Normal punctuation rules for abbreviations.
Here is an example showing these features:
Chaka, C. and Bourke, K.S. 2010. Writing Official Letters (2nd ed.). Butterworth, London.
The Vancouver system. In the Vancouver system, a number in brackets is used in the text to cite an author or work, and this number identifies the work whenever reference is made to it. Here is an example:
Binto’s key study (1) on lifelong learning shows that it is especially adults above the age of forty who find it difficult to return to the books. Lakgoba (2) and Majeko (3) came to similar conclusions.
The references then list the cited works in the order that these are referred to in the text. Adopting the Harvard system, references in the Vancouver system would appear as follows:
- Binto, K (2011) The Road to Lifelong Learning, Third edition, Juta, Cape Town.
- Lakgoba, R (2008) The Principles of Adult Learning Applied, Mc Graw Hill, New York.
- Majeko, E (2010) What’s Wrong with our Educational System?, Longman, New York.
Advantages of the Vancouver system are its simplicity and readability. Further, reference details are often more quickly located when ordered numerically rather than alphabetically. A potential difficulty is that if a paragraph or section containing references is cut from a report, the remaining references need to be renumbered, though the problem is overcome using a word processor with an automatic footnote/endnote facility (which all the latest office software can do).
Journal article references. The place of publication and the publisher are not included when journal articles are referenced, because this information is usually well known, particularly for the more important periodicals, or is not of much significance. However, you should include the volume number, issue number if used, and the inclusive page numbers for the article. The essential information, then, for journal articles also has three components and, as for book references, each component is followed by a full stop:
- The name(s) and initials of the author(s) together with the date of the periodical.
- The title of the article.
- The title of the periodical, volume or issue number and page numbers.
Here is an example of a reference to an article in a journal:
Khoapa, S. 2010. Perspectives in Education. The Quality Assurance Journal, 121, 23 – 27.
If both the volume and issue numbers are available, the volume number comes first with the issue number following in parenthesis. Here is an example:
Khoapa, S. 2010. Perspectives in Education. The Quality Assurance Journal, 121 (12), 23 – 27.
In the same way as citing books, citing references to journals in the text of a research report may take the form of author name(s) and date in a sentence or appended in brackets:
Khoapa (2010) is of the opinion that …
Some authors (Khoapa 2010; Blom 2011) disagree with the notion that…
If reference is made to more than one work as in the last example above, it is common to order the works by date.
Articles or chapters in edited works. Both the author and title of the chapter or article, together with the editor and other details of the book are included in the one bibliographical entry where reference is made to a chapter or article in an edited book. There are three components to such information that are necessary to list, each followed by a full stop, namely the name(s) and initials of the author(s) together with the date of the edited work; the title of the chapter or article; and the name(s) of the editor(s), title of the edited work, publisher and place of publication.
Page numbers of a chapter or article can be added after the title of the edited work. The third component is preceded by the word In which serves to link all its sub-parts together:
Cele, J-P. and Koen, D. 2011. Epistemology. In K.T.L. Kotta, Concepts in Educational Research, Mc Graw-Hill, Cape Town.
Drieke, S. 2009. The shortage of science teachers. In L.L. Lalu (ed.) The Scarce and Critical Skills Needs Dilemma, Longman, Toronto.
Note that the initials of editors precede their names since this information is not used to order reference entries alphabetically. The hyphen in front of the second initial indicates a hyphenated name as in the first example shown above (here Jean-Pierre). The date that you will show in the list of references is the date of the edited work, which is not always the date of the original article, because the edited work is listed as the source of the information.
Including references in the text of an article, book or chapters in edited works follow the pattern illustrated above with books and journals, with the name(s) of author(s) and date as part of the sentence or appended in brackets. The reference is to the author(s), not the editor(s). For example:
According to Mabokang and Mabokela (2018), ….
A different situation exists in rural areas (Long 2017) ….
The internet. Online sources are increasingly being cited in assignments, dissertations and theses. Academic conventions for referencing online information are not yet as well established as referencing other information sources. However, the basic principles and the purposes are the same: to acknowledge one’s indebtedness to others and to provide readers with sufficient information to locate the original source. It is important to write the web site address 100% correctly else it will not be traceable. The university with which you are involved might have its own rules for acknowledging online sources and they might differ from what is given here, so make sure that you know what the rules are and apply them consistently.
Do not lean too heavily on internet sources and always be wary of sources that might be incorrect, poorly researched or just false. Even so, the contents of books and magazine articles can also be incorrect, poorly researched, outdated or false. One should always seek corroboration of data regardless of the source. Give web site addresses where you found data as accurately as possible so that others can check what you wrote. Acknowledge the author of an internet article and, as far as you possibly can, try to establish the trustworthiness of the author. Contact the author if an email address is given.
As with books and journals you will need to write the author’s name first if one is given. If not, you will need to list the web sites alphabetically according to the title of the article. An online source will normally consist of three lines, with the author and title of the article on the first line, the web site address on the second line and the date on which you accessed the web site on the third line. Here are two examples:
If an author is given:
McEwen, B. 1 January 2007. Tips for assignment writing.
Accessed on 24/08/2011 (or 2011/08/24, just as long as you use it consistently the same)
If an author is not given:
Assignment Writing Tips.
Accessed on 24/08/2011 (or 2011/08/24, just as long as you use it consistently the same)
In addition to the essential information that should appear in references, there are two salient requirements that you should keep in mind.
The first is consistency and the second is to abide by the policies of the university where you study.
Enjoy your studies.