Proper referencing is very important.

Writing at university and working in research require you to study the work and ideas of other people and then bring those together to generate your own ideas and conclusions.

In-text citations and referencing is a way to acknowledge the work of other people and distinguish the work that is your own. It is vital for academic honesty and avoiding plagiarism.

Reasons for referencing

Referencing correctly is important for several reasons:

  • To show respect for the original source. Using someone else's work as your own without properly acknowledging it is considered intellectual theft.
  • To demonstrate that you have done the research. Your teacher wants to see that you have considered the experts when forming the basis of your arguments.
  • To show what research you've done. Your teacher must assess the quality of your research. Accurate referencing following a specific style will enable the reader to easily locate and verify your research.
  • To avoid plagiarism. Failure to properly acknowledge the work of others means you are implying that the idea or words are yours. This is plagiarism and the consequences may affect your academic progress at university.

Read the VU Academic Integrity and Preventing Plagiarism Policy for more details.

Plagiarism is the act of taking someone else's work or idea and passing it off as your own. The consequences for plagiarism apply even for unintentional plagiarism.

Types of plagiarism

  • Directly quoting other people's words from online or printed sources without acknowledgement (you also need to acknowledge using images, tables, graphs, statistics, videos, music, formulae, laboratory data).
  • Paraphrasing or summarising someone else's thoughts or ideas without crediting and citing your source (even using someone else's ideas and rewriting it in your own words needs to be referenced).
  • Careless or incomplete referencing of your source.
  • Copying or buying an essay and handing it in as your own work.
  • Falsely creating a reference that doesn't exist.
  • Presenting another student's research data as your own.
  • Collusion – presenting an assignment as your own independent work when it has been produced in whole or part with other people (for example another student or tutor).

Avoiding plagiarism

The best way to avoid plagiarism is to recognise when you need to provide a reference.

  • If you have quoted directly from someone else's work you must place double quotation marks around the text and provide a reference.
  • If you have paraphrased someone else's work or used another persons idea or theory you must provide a reference.
  • If what you are writing is common knowledge or your own thought you don't need to provide a reference.

Other strategies to avoid plagiarism include:

  • Start early. Mistakes often occur when you are rushed and there are no short cuts for referencing. Remember, you may be penalised for incorrect referencing.
  • Always note all the details you need for your reference list, particularly when printing from the Internet or electronic journal databases. Consult the referencing style guides for these details.
  • Remember to check with your lecturer which referencing style they would prefer you to use.
  • You may be asked to use a plagiarism detection software to check your assignments.

More information about why you need to reference and the importance of avoiding plagiarism is available in the Academic Integrity at VU guide.

Style guides

We have provided guides for each of the referencing styles used at VU.

Before you write your reference list or bibliography, ask your unit teaching staff which style they prefer you to use and refer to the instructions included with your assessment.

APA Style Guide - 7th Ed

This guide is an introduction to the American Psychological Association (APA) referencing system. It's based on, and gives credit to the information given in the APA's official style guide: American Psychological Association (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.).

Australian Guide to Legal Citation (AGLC)

The Australian Guide to Legal Citation (AGLC) is mandatory for our law & justice students when preparing assignments and research papers.

For more information consult Australian Guide to Legal Citation (Melbourne University Law Review Association, 4th ed, 2018).

Harvard Style Guide

VU Library is transitioning away from support of the Harvard Referencing Style which is based on a 2002 publication. The VU Harvard style guide is based on the Harvard or author–date style presented in Style manual for authors, editors and printers 2002, 6th ed, AGPS, Canberra, ACT.

APA 7th can be considered for use as an alternative author–date style. For specific advice, it is suggested that VU coursework and research students refer to the relevant teaching or research academic staff member.

Oxford Style Guide

Oxford is a citation style that uses footnotes at the bottom of the page rather than in-text citation styles such as Harvard and APA.

This guide is a brief description of the Oxford citation style described in Style manual for authors, editors and printers, 6th ed., Canberra, ACT., AGPS, 2002.

IEEE Style Guide

The Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE) referencing style is a notational system in which a number is placed in-text for a citation. Full reference details are given in a reference list, arranged in citation number order at the end of a document.

VU EasyRef

VU EasyRef is an easy-to-use, interactive referencing tool with examples on how to reference using APA, IEEE, Oxford and AGLC4 referencing styles.

For comprehensive examples, use our style guides tailored for each referencing style.


EndNote can be used by all current VU students (onshore) and VU staff. It's suitable for researchers and students who need to manage large amounts of bibliographic data.

The EndNote software can be downloaded from the MyVU portal. For instructions on how to download and use EndNote, please refer to our guide to using EndNote.

EndNote Online

EndNote Online is the web-based version of EndNote. It's easy to use and suitable for short-term research projects, making it a great alternative for undergraduate students. Access to EndNote Online is also available to Offshore VU students.

When you log in to access EndNote Online for the first time, you'll need to create an EndNote Online account.

Refer to our guide to accessing and using EndNote Online.