The Ultimate Guide to Academic Referencing


The difference between academic writing and non-academic writing is the latter’s heavy reliance on references—academic referencing. Academic work is a product of studies that have been carried out over time and have proved to have universal validity.

In this case, you are not expected to make up things in your mind and then put it on paper and call it academic writing.

A course assignment essay will therefore draw on a number of sources to inform its credibility. But again, the author has to acknowledge those sources, this is called academic referencing.

I have covered in depth the reasons why you should reference your academic work here.

How to Find Publication details

To find the publication details of a book, flip to the copyright page which is normally after the title page and before the “contents” page. On this page, you will find details of the publisher, library cataloging details among others.


From our image above, we have the following details.

Author’s name: Alec Motyer

Publisher: Inter-Varsity Press

City of Publication: Leicester

Year of Publication: 2005

Academic Referencing styles

There are several academic referencing styles available. APA (American Psychology Association), Oxford Referencing (aka. Footnote/Bibliography referencing), Harvard Referencing.

It’s important you ask your Faculty coordinator which style your school uses as different schools and colleges tend to adopt different styles. For the purposes of this guide, we shall use the APA style.

The APA style is, which is author-date based, hinges on in-text citations throughout the assignment essay and a reference list at the end of the essay.

Reference List and Bibliography List: The Difference

At the end of any academic writing, a list of references is given detailing all the material that one drew on to produce their work. It may be journal articles, books, newspaper articles, online articles, ejournals among others.

The reference list and a bibliography list look similar but they are not the same thing.

A reference list includes all the sources cited in your work while a bibliography list includes all the materials that informed the background of your work, even those you didn’t cite in your work.

You can use one and not both depending on the referencing style you are employing.

Both the reference and bibliography lists must be organized in alphabetical order by the author’s surname and never number your reference or bibliography list.

Listing several publications or sources by the same author

When listing sources by the same author, use the author’s name in one publication and for the others, use a dash (____) in the place of the author’s name. See the example in the image below.


How to Reference

What is presented below are ways of referencing your work. It’s important to point out that different authors may pick a particular form to go with it all to the end. For purposes of consistence, use one form—not all—in your academic paper.

In-text Referencing

As the name suggests, these ones appear within the text of your work. Use the author’s surname, year of publication and page number, all bracketed.

Using our example above, it would look something like this:

(Bakura, 2003, p. 56)

Page numbers are included for direct quotes while paraphrases require that the page number be excluded. E.g.

(Bakura, 2003)

Numbered Referencing (Footnotes and Endnotes)

These also appear within the text but as numbers at the end of a statement, sentence, or word which then refer you to the foot of the page for a detailed source in the case of a footnote or to the end of the article or book for the case of the end note as both their names suggest.

When using numbered references, you can either use footnotes or endnotes but not both.

I prefer footnotes to endnotes as its easier and time saving to look at the foot of the page for reference than it is to look at the back of the book but some think footnotes always distract the reader.


Footnotes and endnotes may also serve as recommendations for further study of any topic. Some authors use them (especially footnotes) to shed more light on the topic at hand.

Unlike the reference and bibliography list, numbered references require the page number of the cited material as well.

Indents or Citations

Sometimes you need to transfer a block of text from the already published work into your own work in order to prove your point. To show the source of this text, you can either number reference or in-text reference it (refer to the examples above). This is also called a citation.


Only use indents when the paragraph you are transferring is more than two lines long. If it’s less than two lines, it’s advised that you place it within your paragraph using quotation marks.

For example:

According to Toplady (1978, p. 23), “the computer will revolutionalise the workplace in  a powerful way”…

Something else to note


Shorthand for Latin word ibidem is the term used to provide a citation in either a footnote or endnote of a source that was cited in the preceding endnote or footnote.



An abbreviation for Latin phrase opera citato meaning “in the cited work”. It is used to refer to a work previously cited and hence referring you back to the reference list. Op.cit should never be used alone because it would render itself meaningless, therefore the author’s surname and either the year, or the publication title is used.

For example:

(Grudem and Asmus 2013, op.cit.)


(Grudem and Asmus The Poverty of Nations, op.cit.)

If appearing in footnotes or endnotes, the brackets are eliminated and page numbers added. For example p. 23 to indicate a single page, and pp. 23-29 to indicate multiple pages.

²Grudem and Asmus 2013, op.cit., p. 23


²Grudem and Asmus “The Poverty of Nations”, op.cit., pp. 23-29

et al.

Latin for “and others” is used in the case when a source to be cited has been authored by three or more people. For example:

Yako, S. et al. (1999) The Death of Flies, London: Goldman Academic.

How to Reference different Kinds of Sources

In our examples below we will illustrate first how in-text referencing is done and there after the how your sources will look like in your reference list. When you get this, you will have mastered academic referencing.


author(s), (year of publication) book title, City of publication: publisher and page number(s) if appropriate.

For example:

(Yako, 1999, p. 796) or (Yako, 1999) if you are just paraphrasing


Yako, S. (1999) The Death of Flies, London: Goldman Academic. pp. 796-811

Edited book

author(s) ‘article title’ in Book title (year of publication), edited by Name of editor, City of publication: name of publisher, page range

For example:

(Dean, 2009, p. 99)


Dean, J. ‘Class Formation in Secular Societies’. In Politics and Class Formation (2009), Kwase, P. (eds), Kampala: Fountain Publishers pp. 97-138

Unpublished Work (e.g., theses, dissertations, conference paper)

Author(s) (Year) title, (unpub MA/PhD thesis), University, country.

For example:

(Mategyero. 2013, p. 67)


Mategyero, N. (2013) The Impact of Religion on Work Ethic in Uganda, (unpub MA thesis), Makerere University, Kampala Uganda


this one maintains the order of books except that you replace the publisher and city of publication with ebook version and its URL (website link)


(Yako. 1999)


Yako, S. (1999) The Death of Flies, London [Kindle Version] retrieved from


Author, (year) article title. journal title, volume, (issue number), page number(s). DOI (if applicable)


(Atalay, 2007, p. 47)


Atalay, M. (2007) ‘Kant’s Aesthetic Theory: Subjectivity vs. Universal Validity’. Percipi (3)1, pp. 44-52. DOI: 3701/3201781

Some journals may not have a DOI (Digital Object Identifier).

Newspaper or Magazine article

Author (Year, date) title, publication title. Page number(s)


(Kayiwa, 2016, October 28) or  (‘Kampala’s free Wi-Fi hot spots’2016, October 28) for articles without an identified author


Kayiwa, E. (2016, October 28) ‘Kampala’s free Wi-Fi hot spots’, New Vision. p. 4

For articles that do not have an identified author, use the article title instead of author’s name:

‘Kampala’s free Wi-Fi hot spots’ (2016, October 28), New Vision. p. 4

Online News Articles

For articles found online, use the article page URL instead of the page number.

Kayiwa, E. (2016, October 28) ‘Kampala’s free Wi-Fi hot spots’, New Vision.  Retrieved from


This can be left out.


During my undergraduate years, it was always my organization that raked me the marks. I always made sure that I reference my work, not just the references or bibliography after the essays, but I also utilized in-text and numbered referencing.

Above all, I made sure that I do it right, that is, proper academic referencing for different sources (if it was a book, journal, or newspaper). I also organized my reference list in alphabetical order according to the authors’ surname.

This, if done right will get you some good grades and if done wrongly some professors will deduct your marks.

My plea is not to reference your work for marks alone, there are enormous benefits—of which marks is just a byproduct. When you delve into different material when doing your course assignments, you will learn more about the subject at hand.

Remember this: The exam is for one day and after that it will go but you will have your entire life ahead of you. Therefore labour to learn beyond passing exams.




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