References. Referencing is to give a citation in the body of the paper, say author and date, and at the end of the paper provide a list of the full references. It is important because research reaches conclusions by referencing previous research in order to advance the author’s argument. Reviewers may judge the quality of a paper from the quality of its references including things like:

  • Do citations give page numbers?
  • Are author names spelled correctly?
  • Are major works in the field referenced?
  • Are the references up to date?
  • Are there journal references, not just books, web sites or magazines?

It is not acceptable to cite a 600-page book that discusses many things as support for a specific statement without giving a page number. One need not be too “trendy”, as research is not a fashion show, but recent references show the paper is up to date. References should reflect the quality, breadth and recency of the research.

Use a reference database. Different research formats are very particular about how each reference should be structured, so it can take a long time to manually write up a reference list. If you submit to another journal with a different reference standard, the same references have to rewritten in a different format. It pays to use software that can automatically transform any reference in its database into any reference format, e.g. Zotero is free, open source, reference management software that lets you paste in-text citations and then automatically generates a reference list from them, based on word processors such as Microsoft Word, LibreOffice and OpenOffice.

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