Magoosh GRE

How to Reference & Quote Appropriately in your PhD

| June 1, 2013

It is very important to properly reference any facts, ideas, or information from other authors. Failure to do so can be construed as an act of plagiarism and this can lead to failure in completing your PhD. Plagiarism is not just directly copying words from another person’s work. Plagiarism also occurs when you rephrase someone else’s ideas in your own work and fail to give credit to its original source.

Aside from avoiding plagiarism, referencing also has other benefits. Referencing correctly demonstrates that you have read widely on a topic. You are also supporting your hypothesis with the work of other authors. This gives credibility to your work. By correctly referencing, you allow the reader to follow-up on your references and to check the validity of your arguments. This is an important part of the academic process as it leads to accountability of the student.

It is important to have an accurate record of your research materials so you should carefully record the details of the sources you study. Below are some guidelines on how to collect the details about your references.

How to Reference ProperlyFor books, record the following information:

  • Author’s or editor’s name (or names)
  • Year the book was published
  • Title of the book
  • Edition of the book
  • City the book was published in
  • Name of the published

For journal articles, record the following information:

  • Author’s name or names
  • Year in which the journal was published
  • Title of the article
  • Title of the journal
  • Page numbers of the article in the journal
  • Volume and issue numbers

For electronic sources, record the following information:

  • Date you accessed the source
  • Electronic address or email
  • Type of electronic resource

There are various referencing styles that can be used for PhD dissertations. Universities have their preferred referencing styles and usually provide a guide for students on what style to use. Below are the most commonly used referencing styles in academic writing.

  • Harvard System of Referencing[3]
    • This is a citation style wherein partial citations are enclosed inside parentheses and inserted within the text, usually at the end of a sentence.
    • It is accompanied by a list of the full citations (i.e. references) listed in alphabetical order.
    • There are two styles of referencing:
      • Author Date – used mostly in the sciences and social sciences; recommended by the American Psychological Association (APA)
      • Author Title or Author Page – preferred in the arts and humanities; recommended by the Modern Language Association (MLA)
  • Chicago Manual of Style[4]
    • This citation format presents two basic documentation systems:
      • Notes and Bibliography – preferred in the humanities, such as those in literature, history, and the arts. This style presents bibliographic information in notes and usually includes a bibliography section. It is suitable for a variety of sources, including obscure information which may not be appropriate with the author-date system.
      • Author Date – mostly used in the physical, natural and social sciences. Sources are cited briefly within the text in parentheses, by the author’s last name and publication date. The short citations are compiled in a reference list and full bibliographic information is given.
      • Choosing between the two styles usually depends on the subject matter and the nature of the sources cited.



[1] University of Exeter. (2001). Referencing – The Harvard System. Available: Last accessed 30th Mar 2013.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Pears, R. & Shields, G. (2010). Cite them right: The essential referencing guide (Palgrave Study Skills), 8th ed. Newcastle upon Tyne: Pear Tree Books

[4] The Chicago Manual of Style Online. (2010). Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide. Available: Last accessed 13th Mar 2013.


Category: Phd Writing