Referencing and Citations

When writing any scientific document it is absolutely essential to credit any published work for information used in your document.  This is done through citations and the reference list or bibliography at the end of your document.

There are different ways to cite references in  text and the style usually depends upon the
policy of the journal or institution. Several universities have prescribed formats for citations and references. Similarly, the format of reference lists depend on the preference of the journal or institution.

The purpose of the reference list or bibliography is to provide information about a source in such a way that somebody else could get hold of the source. It should therefore be so complete that an interested reader can get hold of the original source or publication if they want to.

Why do you need to cite?

If you use, quote or refer to somebody else's work without giving them the necessary credit, it is regarded as plagiarism (which is a nice word for stealing somebody else's work ). So when in doubt - always cite.

Unless you did the original research and published the original paper, you need to site the source.
What are regarded relevant sources for citing? Anything where somebody else  published information should be cited.  Even a presentation somebody did as part of, for instance, a keynote speech, is regarded as a source.  In general, when you do scientific writing, you need to choose scholarly peer-reviewed sources. These are sources regarded by the community as acceptable.  The  peer review process usually ensures that published material reflects a high quality of scholarship in a given field and sources usually state  that it is peer-reviewed. Most scientific  journals publish only peer-reviewed papers. Papers published through scientific databases are generally peer-reviewed and one way to access papers that are usually peer-reviewed, is through Google Scholar. Please note that Wikipedia is not (yet) regarded as a scientific source.

One style used frequently in South Africa, is the Harvard style. Several variations on the Harvard style exists.  This site of the University of Western Australia gives a good introduction to the Harvard referencing style. For student reports, please note how to cite books, journal articles, publications in conference proceedings, and web sites. You could use either the [author, year] or [number] style, but please be consistent when you choose a style. For more information, you could also refer to these sites:

Additional links


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