How to Give References

In this sub-section, different ways of giving references are outlined: how to integrate them into your writing, how to quote, how to paraphrase and how to summarise.

Instructional video from the free online MOOC "Writing in English at University" which was developed at Lund University in 2016.

Practices differ depending on discipline

References are provided in different manners within different disciplines. In some fields and reference styles, they are mainly given as numerals indicating a certain source, whereas other disciplines favour a style where references are integrated in the text to a larger extent.

Hyland (2005) outlines clear differences between different research disciplines and also explains how these differences affect the text:

[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.   (p. 159)

Whether to use integral or non-integral citations thus to a large extent depends on the academic discipline and conventions in the field. For further information about the differences between disciplines, see the following part of the AWELU resources on Genres and Text Types:

Integrating references into the text

When references in the form of quotations or paraphrases are provided, they must be integrated into the text, both language-wise and content-wise. As is further described in the AWELU text on quoting, quotations (as well as paraphrases) must be contextualised, introduced and identified:

Methods vary between disciplines, and as all writers of academic texts know, it takes some practice to master the art of using references in a relevant and correct fashion.

A common way of introducing what someone else has said or written is to say "According to....". Another way of identifying and introducing the source is to use what is called a reporting verb. As shown below,  this kind of verb reports what someone else has stated.

In in-text references, the name of the author(s) cited will be provided in the running text:

  • Smith (1983) argues that...
  • Several studies show that... (Smith 1983, Jones 1998).

In such references, a linguistic device known as a reporting verb or reporting phrase can be used to identify the author of the source in the text. As the term suggests, these verbs report what the source states.

Depending on the effect desired, writers need to choose a suitable reporting 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 the following part of the AWELU section on Grammar and Words:

Integral and non-integral citations

References can be integrated into the running text to different degrees. Sometimes, the terms integral citation and non-integral citation are used to describe the nature of in-text citations.

Integral citations

In integral citations, the author of the source referred to is acknowledged in the running text.

Example: Integral citations (click to expand)

Integral citations

The following extract from Journal of Behavioral Medicine comes from an article about the relation between anger and pain. After the quoted passage, we have extracted the reporting verbs.


For instance, Weber and colleagues (Weber 2004; Weber et al. 2004) suggest that inhibited anger expression may be manifested as the result of three distinct ways of responding to angry feelings: (1) cognitive restructuring, (2) rumination and (3) submission. The last two tactics are defined by Weber as ineffective at reducing anger, and may map well onto the anger-in items of the AEI. Linden and colleagues (Hogan and Linden 2004; Linden et al. 2003) have also identified multiple empirically-distinct dimensions of anger-in. Results of factor analyses showed that anger inhibition may appear as high levels of anger avoidance and anger diffusion, which appear akin to cognitive restructuring and distraction, and as low levels of assertiveness. Their results also pointed to rumination as closely related to anger inhibition. Further, Sukhodolsky et al. (2001) acknowledge the close similarity of anger-in as defined by the AEI and rumination, but suggest that the anger-in subscale tells only of whether a person inhibits anger expression. They argue that the items of the anger-in subscale do not address well enough what happens to anger after it has been suppressed. They submit that rumination may be a complementary process in which anger is revisited, rehashed, and kept unresolved after overt expression is withheld.  

Burns, J. W., Quartana, P. J. & Bruehl, S. (2008). Anger inhibition and pain: Conceptualizations, evidence and new directions. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 31, 259-279. doi: 10.1007/s10865-008-9154-7.


Here, we have extracted the reporting phrases from this paragraph:

For instance, Weber and colleagues suggest that...

The last two tactics are defined by Weber as...

Linden and colleagues have also identified...

Results of factor analyses showed that...

Their results also pointed to...

Further, Sukhodolsky et al. acknowledge .... but suggest that...

 (from Burns, Quartana & Bruehl, 2008)

Non-integral citation

In non-integral citations, the author of the source referred to is only acknowledged through the reference, not in the running text. Depending on the referency style, the citation will be given in a note or in a parenthetical reference.


Non-integral citations

As the following examples show, in non-integral citations, neither the works that are referred to, nor the writers of these works, are introduced in the running text. All information is provided in parenthetical references or notes:


Example 1

Below are the opening sentences of an article about nitrogen and phosphor levels in Swedish forests:

In northern forest ecosystems nitrogen (N) is often considered to limit tree growth (Tamm, 1991). The high N deposition caused by anthropogenic emissions may, however, lead to N saturation in the forest ecosystems and thus N leaching (Aber et al., 1989), something which has already been observed in central Europe (Gundersen et al., 2006).  

(Akselsson, Westling, Alveteg, Thelin, Fransson & Hellsten, 2008, p. 284)


Example 2

Here is a passage from a doctoral thesis within the field of Social Work:

Despite the goals of and expectations placed on social work practice, very little is known about the outcomes of social service interventions. This is true for both their effectiveness (Cederblad, 2005) and efficiency (Mossler, 2008). This has led some to advocate for evidence-based practice (EBP) within the social services, spurring a wave of debate (see for example, Hansson, 2005; Jergeby & Tengvald, 2005; Månsson, 2000, 2001, 2007; Pettersson & Johansson, 2001; Sandell, 2005; Tengvald, 2001a, 2001b).  

(Olsson, 2008, p. 16)