How to give references
References can be provided in different ways. In some academic fields, notes are used to indicate sources used, whereas other disciplines favour a style where references are integrated in the running text. In the humanities and social sciences, for instance, references are often integrated into the running text, whereas in the sciences, it is more common to indicate source information in notes. As we explain further below, the terms integral citation and non-integral citation are used to describe to what extent references are integrated in the text.
Linguist Ken Hyland (2005) explains the difference in conventions between academic fields in the following way:
[W]riters in the humanities and social sciences [are] far more likely to include cited authors in the sentence rather than in parentheses or footnotes (a practice called integral citation), and to place them in subject position. In the hard sciences, only Biology [conforms] to this pattern. The conventions of impersonality in science help to account for the relatively low incidence of citation in the Physics and Engineering corpus and for the predominance of non-integral structures. By reducing their emphasis on individual actors, writers reinforce the ideology that the legitimacy of hard-science knowledge is built on socially invariant criteria […] This also explains the overwhelming use of footnote formats in the sciences, replacing cited authors.
Hyland, K. (2005). Metadiscourse: Exploring interaction in writing. London: Continuum.
For more information about difference in writing between disciplines, see
Practices differ depending on field, which means students need to find out what applies in their subject area.
Integral and non-integral citations
If you quote or paraphrase, you must integrate the source text you use language-wise and content-wise into your text by considering the following:
- You need to contextualise your reference
- You need to introduce the reference
- You need to provide a reference to the source
Methods vary between disciplines, and it takes practice to master the art of using references in a relevant and correct fashion. Two common ways of introducing what someone else has said or written is to say According to... or to use a so-called reporting verb. Both techniques serve to introduce the source:
- According to + author’s name: According to Johansson, ….
- Author’s name + reporting verb: Johansson argues that… / Johansson shows how…
A reporting verb (or reporting phrase) is used to identify the author of the source in the text. As the term suggests, such verbs report what the source states. Depending on how you wish to present the source and how you wish to position your own research/argument in relation to the source, you need to choose a suitable verb. Common reporting verbs are: show, present, argue, suggest, report, address, identify, describe, analyse, note, demonstrate, criticise, compare, observe.
For more information about how to find useful words and expressions, see
Read more about how to quote and paraphrase here:
In non-integral citations, the author of the source referred to is only acknowledged through the reference. This means that all information about the source is provided in a note or parenthetical references, depending on the reference style.
The parts of a reference
The following video provides information about different parts of references and how these are used in different fields. The informtion in this video also also connects to what we say in
Instructional video from the free online MOOC "Writing in English at University" which was developed at Lund University in 2016.