Making the transition from high school to university? Uni Notes can help with resources and reviews!


Short answer: yes!

Long answer: yes - read on!


Coming from high school, academic referencing can seem like a bit of a foreign concept. You might be dealing with academic sources like journal articles or reports for the first time, and that comes with a responsibility to use those resources appropriately.


Why is academic referencing important?

There are lots of reasons. On a sheer humanistic level, imagine not getting the credit you deserve for unique and time-consuming research. When you’re using sources or references without citing them, that’s basically what’s happening - you’re taking somebody else’s ideas without acknowledging that those ideas are not your own. Researchers deserve credit for their work, which is often their livelihood.

On a more personal level, referencing is also important because it demonstrates good practice in research. It shows your marker that you have read widely and considered a lot of different sources on the way to making your contention or argument, which is the type of academic rigour expected in university-level writing.


And on a more basic level, you simply need to adhere to university expectations to avoid penalty or consequence.


Can you just… not do it?

No, not really - at least, not if you want to avoid negative outcomes.


Penalties for plagiarism can vary from lost marks to exclusion from the university depending on the severity and seriousness of the case (don’t worry - you won’t be excluded for a first honest mistake - but you do need to be diligent and careful). And universities are very good at telling if something has been plagiarised.


You might have heard of something called “Turnitin”, for example. Many institutions require you to run your assessments through software like this, which scans for similarity with any other source on the internet. If you have copy and pasted a slab of text, it will be flagged.


Turnitin and similar software is nothing to worry about so long as you’re upfront and clear with your citations and references.


So - how do you reference correctly?

The first thing to know is that there are actually many different types of academic referencing. The different styles will be called things like “Harvard”, “Chicago”, and “APA”. Each comes with different conventions, and different universities will prefer different styles. Even within the same university, there are very often major differences between faculties, schools, and subjects. As such, it’s important to be clear what type of referencing is required in any given subject.

Your institution will likely have a guide online that explains clearly the different expectations. This one from Monash University, for example, has very clear guidelines for APA 6th, APA 7th, AGLC4, Chicago 17th, CSIRO, IEEE, Harvard, MLA 8th, MHRA, Vancouver, and Vancouver 2022 (in practice, you’ll probably only use a few of these through your degree).


But if you don’t fancy doing everything manually, there is software available to help you, including things like EndNote and Zotero. These options come with convenience, but also an initial learning curve. If you’re keen to use them, we recommend getting your head around them sooner rather than later to ensure you get full benefit throughout your studies (the author of this article didn’t, and referenced an entire thesis manually!).

The main takeaway here is that academic referencing is very important and, no matter how you choose to do it, you should take care to be accurate and precise. If you’d like to chat with fellow uni students or ask questions, our University Discussion Boards are the way to go!