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Why you need to reference (Open Learning)

Knowing when to reference

The sentence below refers to a study on properties:

Example sentence

The full reference for the study referred to above is:

Example reference

The sentence currently has no in-text citation (to refer to the full reference which would appear in your reference list), but how and where should this be added?

The in-text citation must include the authors surnames and the date, but, since the sentence refers to the whole study, page numbers are not required.  It must be clear which information it refers to, but providing this condition is met, there are several options for how to incorporate the in-citation into the sentence:

Option 1:

option 1

Option 2:

option 2

Option 3:

option 3

Option 4:

option 4

Options 1 and 2 are both examples of standard or passive citations.  They refer to the concept discussed, rather than the authors of the study.  All of the in-text citation is inside the brackets, so does not form part of the sentence when it is read.  Passive citations are often placed at the end of the sentence.

Options 3 and 4 are both examples of active citations, as they refer to the authors as part of the sentence.  The information in the sentence is the same, but the authors names are outside of the brackets and form part of the sentence when it is read.

All four options are correct.  In your own writing, use a mixture of active and passive forms of in-text citation so that it does not lack variety for your reader.  Choose the style which best suits the specific point you are making, after considering the advantages and disadvantages of the passive and active styles:

Passive citation

(Bowman and Jenkins, 2011)

Advantages and disadvantages of passive citations


Active citation

Bowman and Jenkins (2011) conducted …

Advantages and disadvantages of active citations