Why Reference Your Academic Papers?

Why Reference Your Academic Papers?

Know the different styles and when to use them: MLA, APA, Chicago & Harvard

You have probably heard several times, that when you are writing an academic paper it is important to use referencing for your writing. But ever asked why it is so important?

If you are writing a piece of work and are making use of other people’s ideas then you have to reference them. To do so you must include detailed information on all the sources you took consultations on, and they should be mentioned in both within your text (as in-text citation) as well as at the end of your writing as a properly formatted reference list.

Making use of the right sources in your academic work will provide you with necessary supporting evidence for your assignment. In a way referencing is a form of acknowledgement of the sources that you have taken ideas from in your work. Students are required to reference all the sources that they use in their paper, which should include ideas, data, facts, images, audio, video, websites, statistics, and diagrams as well.

A well-referenced paper does the following for you:

It shows that you have done your reading:  The best way to showcase the depth and breadth of your reading is with an accurate referencing of all the sources.

It helps the readers to pinpoint the references in your work:  Most researchers depend on the referencing of one’s work to identify the sources.

It helps to support and strengthen your argument:  The objective of most academic papers is to carefully construct an argument in a sense that one is taking a side or position on an issue. They must support it with evidence gathered from the sources that they have read so that they can make the best effort to convince the readers.

It shows your academic integrity:  With proper referencing you get to show that you have acknowledged your sources and have tried the best to prevent plagiarism. Plagiarism is a shameful act where people’s ideas, words or materials are used without proper acknowledgment. It can either be intentional (cheating deliberately) or even unintentional (happening accidentally).

The big three referencing styles:

There are three main styles of referencing also known as (schools of style) that used to properly format an academic paper. These are referred to as – Harvard, APA, MLA and CMS.

About the APA style of referencing:

The official guidelines in this referencing style has been put forth by the American Psychological Association and is now at its sixth edition. Mostly social sciences prefer this style of referencing. So for students of medicine, psychology, sociology, or social work, this referencing style will be used in abundance.

For more details on APA style, check out our sample research papers.

Understanding CMS style of referencing:

The style guidelines are put forth in the Chicago Manual of Style and is now in its 16th edition. The Chicago style as it is colloquially called is mostly found in the academic papers of humanities, especially with literature students as well as for those who study the advanced segments of arts or history.

Note this style is also called as the Turabian style and are extensively used in research papers for other subjects as well.

Get the latest edition Chicago style form template at our sample papers.

About MLA referencing style:

Guidelines have been given by the Modern Language Association and most humanities students are familiar with the same. Artists, Theatre students and English majors will know MLA as they have used this style for more than half a century now.

Learn the correct MLA style referencing format with our latest edition templates.

Harvard style of referencing:


The Harvard system of referencing is in a way a misnomer as there are no official connections to the institution. It is just a name for author and date citation system. It is identified by the use of author and date in parentheses. Some of the first practitioners of this system of referencing were among the Harvard faculty from the late 19th Century so this name stuck mostly in the Common wealth countries along with England.

Clear your doubts with a Harvard style outline example at our sample papers section.

Ending note:

While it may not be necessary to learn all the different referencing styles for students. Depending on your discipline of study you may be required to use only one style. But note that the rules for properly citing and referencing sources may continue to change overtime, so, it is your responsibility to be current.

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