This quick reference guide involves zero black magic.
But many new students are convinced that referencing is the work of the devil.
They take one look at all those rules about dates, commas, italics and brackets – and flip out.
Right away, referencing starts getting weird.
In fact, it looks a little bit like witchcraft.
It’s a kind of dark art – difficult to master, impossible to control, and ever so slightly sinister.
That Reference List format may come out looking alright.
Or it might appear as a monstrously deformed creature with ears on its elbows.
To many students, a Reference List format is completely random and uncontrollable.
I’ve witnessed some epic struggles with how to make a Reference List.
I’ve seen Reference Lists which include entries like:
- The Internet
- www … and even …
- Common sense.
This just confirms what so many of us who teach online have noticed: plenty of students are seriously unprepared for online learning.
It’s not surprising that so many drop out, and disappear without a trace.
So there’s no point in directing new students straight to a formal referencing guide.
APA or Harvard rules are like arcane, dust-covered books of spells.
Completely intimidating, and instantly overwhelming.
Many online students need some grounding in the fundamentals of how to make a Reference List first…
They need to get out in the field, and collect some eye of newt before they can understand how to add it to the cauldron.
If you’re tired of going over and over the basics of a Reference List format (and why referencing such an essential skill), here’s a quick overview of the 3 things your students need to know now.
Feel free to use these micro-lessons with your own students.
The Quick Reference Guide for Beginners
1. Why Referencing Matters
There are 2 vital reasons to learn the dark art of referencing.
A well-referenced piece of work shows that:
- You’re drawing on the work of established experts.
This demonstrates informed thinking, and shows you’ve done some research.
It suggests your work is transparent, correct, and based on evidence you can name.
- You haven’t plagiarized your work.
If you don’t reference your information source, you’re committing the crime of plagiarism. This amounts to stealing someone else’s ideas and intellectual property.
Most learning institutions take it pretty seriously.
Plagiarism is usually punished, and the severity of the penalty depends on the institution. You may lose marks, be suspended, or fail the course as a result.
2. When to Reference
There are 3 scenarios that demand a reference.
You should acknowledge your information sources when:
- You directly quote part of a source (make sure you use quotation marks)
- You paraphrase the words of others, saying the same thing in a slightly different way, and
- You use your own words entirely, but your thinking has been directly influenced by some published work.
You must acknowledge your sources in a citation, and with a reference.
We’ll get to that next.
3. How to Reference
When you acknowledge someone else’s work in your own writing, you need to do it in two places:
- Include your source in the body of your assignment, right after you draw on a published work. This is called a citation. It looks like this:
Eye of newt is a staple ingredient for many spells, and should be collected only when the moon is full (Witchypoo, 2015).
- Add your source to a Reference List at the end of your assignment.
- This is called a reference. It looks like this:
Witchypoo, E. (2015). Eye of Newt: The Beginner’s Guide. Sydney: Whiskers on Chin Press.
These are the fundamentals of how to make a Reference List: the Why, When, and How.
Once you have these core principles on board, you can take the next step: applying a specific referencing style.
Your educational institution will have a preferred Reference List format available online.
Simply follow the formatting rules given in the examples there, and apply them to your own sources.
So there you have it: a quick reference guide just for beginners.
Wing of bat, eye of newt, and tongue of frog are all optional.