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Academic Writing

Reference List



What is a reference list?

A Reference List is an indication of all of the sources that you used to write your research paper. This includes anything that you summarize, paraphrase, or quote in your assignment. If you borrow an idea to include in your paper, you need to make a reference to the source of the idea in your reference list.

Why are reference lists important?

Reference lists are important for three main reasons:

  1. To give credit to the authors for the contribution of their ideas and research to your assignment.
  2. To lend credibility to your assignment by demonstrating you used high-quality sources to support your points.
  3. To avoid plagiarism.

Here are the characteristics of a reference list:

  • It appears at the end of your research paper on a separate page.
  • Each entry on your list includes the bibliographic information (author, year, title, source) so that your readers can find the sources.
  • Reference lists are organized alphabetically by author’s last name.
  • There are different citation styles of reference lists. Common citation styles at Sheridan include APA (often used in business programs), MLA (often used in arts programs), and AMA (often used in medical programs) to name a few.
  • There are different ways (rules) for listing different source types that you use to research and write your essay. For example, the rules for listing a website are different than the rules for listing a newspaper article.

To create an accurate reference list entry, you will need to decide which citation style you will use and then determine the type of source you are working with (book, magazine, blog, etc). It is important to carefully follow the order, capitalization, punctuation, and font formatting for your style and source type.

As mentioned already, the citation style you use often depends on the program you are taking and sometimes even the course. Always check with your professor to see if a specific citation style is expected for your assignment reference list.

Reference List Examples

Here is a sample entry in a reference list for an online journal article using the APA citation style:

APA Reference entry example

Here is a sample reference list page using the MLA citation style:

MLA Reference list example

The Sheridan Library has Citation Style Guides that can help you create accurate reference lists, no matter what citation style you use.

Additional resources