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Why is Referencing Important in Academic Writing?

In academic writing, it is important to reference all the sources you use. This will help show your readers where you got your ideas from and give them a better understanding of what you are trying to communicate. If you hear a new idea or theory, but you don’t know much about it, it’s always a good idea to reference the source.

If someone had some good advice for you on how to write an academic paper, but they didn’t tell you where they heard it, would you want to know? Of course! So why wouldn’t we do the same in our own writing? Here are some questions that might help guide your referencing process.

Why referencing is important

  1. Reference where you got your ideas. You can’t know what your audience needs until you ask them! So, if you don’t reference the source, you are not putting the listener first.
  2. Reference who influenced your thinking. Reference where your ideas were first advanced. For example, if you learned a new concept in the Social Work program, you should reference who advanced the concept academic writing. For example, it’s more likely that you will remember a sociologist who advanced the concept of poverty, than an anthropologist who did.
  3. Reference what makes you different. Do you have a unique research program or theory that differentiates you from others? Make sure you reference this to show your uniqueness.
  4. Reference the subject matter of the paper.

When should I use referencing?

We already know that this isn’t hard or even that hard at all, so there is no need to spend too much time on this! As long as you remember to include it in all of your writing, referencing is a solid writing practice academic writing. The only time you can’t reference is when the whole piece is free of terms that can be used to refer to a source.

In other words, when there isn’t a reference in the paper, or the paper’s in a difficult language, it doesn’t need to be referenced at all. You may think “Aha! There’s a big list of terms I should reference, and that means my writing won’t be complete without them.” That may be the case, but you can do it correctly without using those terms at all.

What kind of referencing should I use?

You are writing about an academic topic, so your references will probably be more academic in nature. A person might not be able to answer your question about how to get to your boss’s office, but they could tell you a book or article written on the topic. They may also give you some ideas on how to do it in a more effective way writing. It might be helpful to use sources like the following:

Books and journals



Google Scholar

You may also refer to websites like Wikipedia, which is free and useful when you are looking for a quick answer. One way to think about your referencing is: Who are you talking to? If your academic article is aimed at an academic audience, you probably won’t want to reference something more specific.

How do I start a reference?

When writing about a specific source, you can start by academic writing a few sentences about it. After that, you can write a paragraph or two about it and then go back to your introduction and summary and add in some quotations to go along with the references. It is also a good idea to use the first thing that you said about the source in your introduction as a starting point for your essay.

This should provide the reader with a basic overview of the source and leave them wanting to learn more. You should begin with an introduction, where you introduce the sources that you will be using in your essay. You should be talking about the sources’ basic ideas and concepts.

How should my references be formatted?

Titles/Cite Pages – Most academic articles are broken up into sections, or subsections. The main titles and body text are often found at the top of the page, while other sections are underneath them.

Structural Elements – The structural elements are the longer sections of the paper that describe the idea or topic at hand writing. These can include examples, anecdotes, background, and statistical tables.

Templates – There are a lot of online tools you can use to create complex references. The concept of a template is basically a collection of codes or instructions for your particular information needs.

What should I include in my reference list?

Because academic writing is a complicated and technical topic, you have to keep your referencing to a minimum. However, it is important to make sure you use sources that are as widely referenced as possible. Your reference list should include the following:

  1. A primary source: a book, magazine, or other form of published material
  2. A secondary source: an article, book, or other form of published material
  3. A primary source: a book, magazine, or other form of published material
  4. An article, book, or other form of published material
  5. Any other useful source that your readers might find useful
  6. If you can, include photos, graphs, graphics, or even videos


In this post, we learned how to reference in writing. Remember, referencing is a very important part of academic writing and can definitely improve your overall writing. If you have any questions on how to reference in your academic writing, leave a comment below and we will answer it for you.



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