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If you are visiting this site, you have an interest in research. Therefore, it is likely you are going to be writing an assignment, article or paper and you will want to provide references. This is something many writers put off until they have finished their work, but this is a mistake. Referencing needs to start as the article starts and learning how to do it needs to start before that.

Learn how to reference once and then for the rest of your life you will know how to do it. Read on; I have made it as simple as possible.

Why are there two titles, "referencing" and "bibliographies" this makes it confusing already?
Well yes you are right, but this is the result of different views in the academic fraternity. For some disciplines the two words can have different meanings. The fire service suffers from the same problem, just think of how many names there are for a branch. It can also be called a jet, a nozzle and so on. Easy for firefighters to understand, but not so easy for academics.

Why reference your work?
There are at least three reasons for putting references in your written work:

• it is an acknowledgement that you are referring to another author’s work and providing a reference avoids the risk of being accused of plagiarism;

• it allows people who read your work and have an interest in digging deeper into the subject, to find the piece of text you are referring to;

• it is an indication of the depth of your reading and understanding.

What is the best tip you can give me?
The best advice I can give you is to start referencing as soon as you start writing. In fact make up a file called ‘references’ and put the bibliography in it for every book you read. As soon as you start to read a book, put the reference in your reference file.

Referencing is the simplest part of writing. It only requires you to copy readily available detail. However, this can become a nightmare if insufficient attention is given to detail.
Where do I reference?
Whenever you refer to an authors’ work you reference it immediately in the text and then again at the end. There are many ways of doing this but, to avoid confusion, I am only going to explain one method.
What detail do I need?
If it is a book you need the name of the author, the year the book was published, the title of the book, the place it was published and the name of the publisher. You enter these details in that order. Most of this detail is on the first page or so of the book. Here is an example:

Holloway, S. (1973) London’s Noble Fire Brigades 1833-1904, London: Cassell.

Note the order, the punctuation marks and the italics. These are all important and you must follow the same format for book references. As soon as you start to read a book, put the reference in your reference file.

What if it is not a book I am referencing?
If it is a journal article or a chapter in an edited book you will need some other details, but do not worry about that yet.

Putting a reference in the text as you write it
The examples below refer to a piece of work written by Howell in 1994.

If you are quoting directly from Howell’s work then the reference will look like this:

It is argued, “perceptions in the Fire Service have been unfounded and so far no real evidence of women being physically incapable or disadvantaged on the fireground has been shown” (Howell 1994: 13).

It should be clear from the example that the piece of text in the speech marks belongs to Howell and it is a requirement to include the date and page number. Note also the full stop after the reference.

However, if you wish to use your own words to refer to a specific argument in Howell’s work then you will still need to mention the page numbers it is on.

Howell (1994: 13-14) suggest that there is no evidence of women having physical difficulties on the fireground.

However, you may wish to be even less specific and then your reference to Howell may look like this:

Howell (1994) suggests that the fire service has some difficulties with equal opportunities.

Ok I know how to reference in the text, but how do people know what Howell’s book is called?

At the end of the piece of work you create a list of books you reference in the text.

What does this list look like?

It is an alphabetic list of all the books you have referenced. The format for this list is as I explained earlier:

Holloway, S. (1973) London’s Noble Fire Brigades 1833-1904, London: Cassell.

Remember, there will need to be a clear and consistent method for recording all the details about the piece of work. The author, the year the book was published, the title of the book, the place it was published and the name of the publisher.

However, Howell’s work is not a book it is a dissertation and this goes in your reference file differently.

Howell, M. (1994) Women firefighters ‘the inequality gap’, unpublished dissertation for MBA: The Business School; University of Hertfordshire.

However, were you to be quoting it from a published source such as the online version you would put

Howell, M. (1994) Women firefighters ‘the inequality gap’, downloaded from on dd. mm. yyyy

Note you cannot record a page number for an online document but you should record the date that you downloaded.

Is that it?
Sadly it is not. Whilst it is correct to reference all books, unpublished articles and online documents in the format provided above, each different type of published work has a specific format. Some more examples are shown below and the differences are often very small but significant. Note in particular the punctuation and the use of italics.
Books or booklets
Home Office (2000) Race equality: The Home Secretary’s Employment Targets, First Annual Report: Staff Targets for the Home Office, the Police, the Fire and the Probation Services, London: Home Office.

Holloway, S. (1973) London’s Noble Fire Brigades 1833-1904, London: Cassell.

Edited Books

This becomes a little more difficult. In edited books it is normal for each chapter to be written by a different writer. When you refer to that chapter in the text then you reference it as per normal. But when you put the reference in your reference file it is done like this:

Hearn, J. (1996) ‘Is masculinity dead? A critique of the concept of masculinity/masculinities’, in M. Mac an Ghaill, (ed.), Understanding Masculinities, Buckingham: Open University Press.

Note Hearn’s chapter is not italicised, but it is set apart by single speech marks and followed by a comma:

‘Is masculinity dead? A critique of the concept of masculinity/masculinities’,

Then the authors name follows but note the initials come first under these circumstances:


in M. Mac an Ghaill, (ed.),

Then the italicised title of the book follows:


Understanding Masculinities, Buckingham: Open University Press.

For a journal article you need the additional details of the issue number and the pages the article was on. For example:

Burke, E. (1997) ‘Picking the best—how we choose today the firefighters of tomorrow’, London Firefighter, 127, 25-27.

Baigent, D. (2001a) ‘Experience versus degree: which works out best’? Fire, 93, 1150, 23-24.
Conference papers
These have their own format again:

Buck, G. (1997) Psychometric research and development ltd, the role of complexity in critical incident management and the paradox for organisational succession planning: whatever happened to the likely lads?, unpublished Paper to the Fire Service Research Conference, The Fire Service College, 19-11-97.

See also

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