Doing research and writing a scientific report or a thesis is not only a matter of finding and collecting data. The information needs to be processed and the sources of information need to be given credit in a coherent and standardised manner. The readers are to understand the difference between the researcher’s own conclusions and those of other researchers or authors. If citation and referencing is not done, the text might be suspected of being the result of plagiarism.
While the choice of referencing system is often a question of discipline, some guides are shared below. The different referencing styles have in common that there will be, inside the text, concise references, as numbers, footnotes or parenthesis, that indicate the sources of information (a bibliographic reference, that is found at the end of the text).
Footnotes are used in accordance with the Oxford style of referencing. Sources are rendered in alphabetical order in the note and the notes might also contain explanatory texts.
Known referencing styles based on the author’s last name plus year of publication intra parenthesis are Harvard (author-year style) and APA (that reminds of Harvard, but with the year put in brackets in the reference list). MLA is also similar to Harvard.
Referencing may also be done based on numbers, as according to the Vancouver style where in-text references are given numbers in chronological order. Numbers that the references keep throughout the text. IEEE is similar to Vancouver.
Useful guides to reference styles
- APA style (mostly used in behavioural and social sciences)
Harvard style (used in several disciplines)
IEEE style (used in the field of technology)
MLA style (used in literature studies)
Oxford style (used in various disciplines such as history, law, theology)
Vancouver style (used in the field of medicine)
Reference management tools
There are a number of different reference management tools but they all have in common that you create a database of your preferred references, which will then be used in your process of writing, creating references in the style used within your discipline. The University of Rwanda library services is going to provide support in the usage of reference management software, such as Mendeley: a Zotero and EndNote.