What is referencing and why is it so important?

If you’re a university student, you are probably familiar with the practice of referencing while writing your assignments. It is the process of acknowledging others’ work, words, or ideas when using them to support your own claims. This could be a quote from an interview, a line from a book, or even the lyrics of a song. Whether you quote it exactly as it was, paraphrase it, or summarise it, you should reference it by mentioning the source. However, things that are considered common knowledge don’t need to be referenced. For example, if you are mentioning that New Delhi is the capital of India and you don’t cite a source for that information, it will not be considered as plagiarism.

Each institution and publisher prefers a different style of referencing. Some of the commonly used referencing styles are APA style and MLA style.

Referencing is an integral part of academic writing, but what makes it so important and why should you do it? Here are three reasons why.

Avoids plagiarism

Starting with the most obvious and well-known reason – you must reference to avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism is the act of using someone else’s words or ideas without acknowledging the owner, presenting them as your own. It is a very serious concern in the academic world, and is considered unethical and a punishable offence as it violates the intellectual property rights of the owner. Most universities have very strict rules to prevent plagiarism.

Here is an example of how even unintentional plagiarism is considered a blunder – 


Acknowledges prior research

Another important reason for referencing is that it acknowledges prior research conducted in your particular field. It shows the reader that you have not simply entered the study blindly, that you are knowledgeable in the area, and therefore are capable of evaluating and presenting your findings with authority. 

It also shows that the research you are conducting matters in the field. Prior research shows that the topic is of importance and interest to the community and can indicate a need for further research as well. It can illuminate a research gap that your study can fill, therefore adding importance to yours.

Adds credibility

Finally, referencing plays a critical role in adding credibility to your research. 


It may not be possible to cover all grounds while conducting your research. However, there may be prior research that already confirms the premise that leads to your study. Referencing that research as your source can strengthen and confirm your premise.


Most importantly, in research, it is important to support all claims with valid evidence, and referencing well-regarded sources in your study can go a long way in making your arguments more persuasive. This is particularly important in conceptual papers where the data you present is mostly secondary information. 


Moreover, referencing makes all of your sources easily findable, and therefore your study verifiable.

Referencing does more than just keep you from getting punished for plagiarism. It can add value to your work, whether it is a research paper or simply a college assignment. It may feel like a tedious task but there are many tools that can help you reference your sources easily, such as Mendeley and Zotero, which are both available on AuthorCafé. 


AuthorCafé makes it easy to import your bibliographies and references to your paper by integrating with these reference management tools. You can also organise and keep track of all your references in the reference library, and cite as you write. The best part is, AuthorCafé adjusts the numbers automatically and formats the reference list in your preferred style. Sign up to use these features for free!


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