Referencing is a method of acknowledging the sources you have used in writing your thesis or essay. All research builds on the works of others, and by referencing you show how your work relates and contributes to the knowledge community.

Since referencing is a key element to academic writing, it is important that you reference correctly, meaning that you clearly state your sources when you write a text. When referencing, you support your reasoning and strengthen your arguments, which helps to make your text credible. Furthermore, providing details about the works you use in your text, assists the reader who may want to study your subject further. Referencing is also very important with regard to academic honesty: you make it clear to the reader which are your own and which are someone else’s arguments and ideas. Using another person’s ideas without referencing is considered to be plagiarism, which is unacceptable.

You can cite another person’s work or ideas by paraphrasing, summarising them, discussing them or by using direct quotes. When paraphrasing a source, you formulate your own interpretation of the ideas you are using, whereas a quote is an exact rendering of someone’s spoken or written words (including punctuation and any misspellings).

When you paraphrase, summarise or refer to a work produced by another author, it is important that you clearly denote which ideas are your own and which belong to someone else. You do this by including a citation, which usually includes the author's name, year of publication and page number(s). In addition, you can also use reporting verbs and certain phrases to make it clear to whom an idea belongs, for example:

  • The author claims that…
  • X, argues that…

Don't forget to include the source in your list of references.

Quotes can be useful when you want to highlight something in particular, for example, an incisive wording or a noteworthy statement. A quote can be written in different ways depending on the size of the quote and the citation style. However, when using a direct quote, you must always cite the source and page number and the citation should also be included in your list of references.

In an academic text, you refer to your source, both in the relevant section of the text, and in the list of references at the end of the essay or thesis. There are many different citation styles; some dictate that the citation should be presented in brackets, while others require the use of footnotes. It is important that you are consistent with how you write your citations throughout your work, regardless of which citation style you use. Which style you should use often varies between disciplines, and it is therefore important that you follow the directions given by your teacher.

Libraries around the world have created guides to some of the most commonly used citation styles. In those guide you often also find information about how to refer to sources, that aren't classical academic texts, such as Youtube videos or social media. A couple of examples can be found here below:

By using a reference management program, you can gather and organise the references that you need in your work. You can easily download reference data from catalogues, databases and web pages and import it to Word or another word processing software. This allows you to instantly create complete references in your text as well as in your bibliography, in a citation style of your choice.

Students and faculty staff at Lund University can access one licensed reference management system:

In LIBRIS and LUBsearch, you can create and save references in different citation styles. Make sure that the punctuation in the created references matches your other references, especially if you have used LUBsearch.


  • Search for a title
  • Click Cite below the title details
  • Select your citation style
  • Copy the reference and paste it into your document


  • Search for a title
  • Click it
  • Click Cite in the right side menu
  • Select your citation style
  • Copy the reference and paste it into your document

Introductory video

Short film on why you use references from Lund University's MOOC on academic writing.

EndNote Introductory Course

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