Frequently asked questions

Writing Mentors and Language and Learning Advisers at Study Support are on hand to help you develop further skills in academic writing and referencing. You can also email us your short queries.

Here are some of the referencing FAQs we hear from students.

Which referencing style should I use?

At Deakin, different referencing styles are used in different disciplines and units.

Consult your unit site each trimester to find out which style you are required to use.

In addition, note that some units may use variations of the styles presented in our guides. If you are in any doubt, seek advice from your unit teaching staff.

Why are there different versions of some styles?

You may find that different universities (and publishers) use different versions of the Harvard and Oxford styles of referencing. With these two styles, in particular, there is no single “correct” style but rather a general set of principles that inform the style.

The Deakin Harvard and Oxford guides are based on authoritative style manuals. Deakin students are expected to follow the Deakin guide to referencing, unless your unit site, supervisor or publisher require you to follow another variation of these styles.

You should aim to do the following:

  1. Always act with academic integrity; that is act honestly with accuracy, consistency and transparency.
  2. Check your unit site for the required referencing style.
  3. Check if you are expected to follow any variations of that style.
  4. Follow the Deakin guide to referencing to format your citations.
  5. Where you can’t find advice on your specific source, follow the logic of the guide to format your references as clearly and consistently as possible.
  6. Consult Study Support if you have any further questions.

How do I find sources for my assignments?

Unit readings

  • You should start by looking through your weekly unit readings. These readings align with the weekly structure of the unit and will be most important to draw on in your assessments.
  • Check the citations within your readings for further sources of information.

Use the Library

Consult Study Support

  • Bring a draft or your assessment task question – and ask a Writing Mentor, Maths Mentor or Language and Learning Adviser at Study Support. We can give further advice on how to effectively incorporate sources into your work.

What is an in-text citation? A footnote?

There are three different ways of acknowledging sources in the body of your paper.

In-text citations are used in both the APA and Harvard referencing styles. The family name of the author(s), the year of publication, and sometimes the page number, are provided in the body of the paper.

Here is an example in the Harvard style of referencing:

Ekwall, Gerdtz and Manias (2008:39) suggest that…


Footnotes are used in AGLC and Oxford styles of referencing. A superscript number is placed in the body of a paper. This number refers the reader to a footnote at the bottom of the page.

Here is an example in the Oxford style of referencing:

Kostof notes that Ggantija is a wholly synthetic and reproduceable form.1

1. S. Kostof, A History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals (2nd edn, New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 35.


Numbered citations are a third method and they are used in the IEEE and Vancouver referencing styles. Each source is provided with a number, which is provided in the text, and the same number is used for that source throughout the paper.

They argue that approximately 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day is beneficial for our wellbeing at each stage of life. (6)

For each of these three methods you must also include a full list of sources at end of the paper – either a bibliography or a reference list. See your required referencing style guide for further details.

What if I can’t find my source in the guide?

Sometimes the answer will be clearly provided in the guide, but at other times you may need to look at more than one section to find how to reference your specific source.

Example 1:

You want to reference a web page with no listed author and no date. Your required style is Harvard.

  • Double-check the source type: Are you sure this is simply a webpage? Make sure you are not looking at an Online article or a Blog post..
  • If there is no individual author, it is often the case that the organisation that publishes a website can be given as the author. Go to the Harvard Explained section to find out how to format a Group Author.
  • Under Harvard Explained, read how to format a source with No Date.
  • Finally, look at the Web page topic under the Web and video section.

Example 2:

You want to reference a report that is a document found on a website. Your required style is APA7.

  • Double-check the source type: Determine if this is a business report, a government report or another kind of report. Our example is a Government report.
  • Firstly, look at Government sources on how to include government authors and find an example of a government report.
  • Then, go to Web and Video to read more on the topic Web Documents.

The main thing to remember is that accurate referencing is a matter of practice and as you progress through your studies you will gradually become more familiar with referencing different sources.

If you still have any questions about how to reference, seek advice from academic staff within your unit, or Study Support.

What is the difference between a bibliography and reference list?

Each time you reference a source in the body of your paper, that source requires a matching entry in a list of references at the end of your paper.

A reference list includes only those sources that you have cited in your paper.

A bibliography is a list of all of the works that you have consulted in preparing a paper, including sources not cited.

If you are unclear whether you need to create a reference list or a bibliography, ask for clarification via the discussion board in your unit site and then check the Deakin guide to referencing.

For most styles, both bibliographies and reference lists are arranged alphabetically according to the family names of authors. However, in IEEE and Vancouver styles for example, they are listed numerically in the order they first occurred in the paper.

See your required referencing style guide for further details.

How much can I quote? Is there a limit?

Preferences vary between referencing styles and discipline areas but direct quotes should, in general, be kept to a minimum. You should always have a clear purpose for using a quote. We recommend only including direct quotes when it is essential that the reader sees the original wording – it might be a memorable quote, a definition, a standard or regulation, a literary work, or a controversial statement. Here are two examples:

‘The registered nurse recognises that people are the experts in the experience of their life’ (Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia [NMBA], 2017, Standard 2.3).

Butler et al. (2009:30) take this one step further: ‘What lies at the origin of technology is the vision of a society in which machines replace man [sic]'.

It is important not to quote sources too often or too much – summarising and paraphrasing sources often demonstrates a deeper understanding of a topic.

Direct quoting is common in fields such as History, Literature, and where policy documents or regulations need to be cited. However, you should also be aware that direct quoting is discouraged in many disciplines, especially in the sciences. Reading widely in your subject area is the best way to gain an understanding of how to best report sources in your assignments.

Read more about quoting and using sources.

Is an online journal article a better source than a website?

When selecting sources to support your writing, you will need to evaluate whether the source is appropriate to your task and a reliable source of information.

Academic journal articles (as opposed to non-academic journals, magazine and news articles) are often peer-reviewed and considered more credible sources of information. This does not mean that they cannot be critiqued – it just means they are more likely to have been through a process of validating information.

A journal article can usually be identified by the use of volume and issue numbers, and a DOI.

Websites vary more as they could be authored by organisations or individuals with different interests and purposes, and they can also be easily modified at any time. Again, it is important to evaluate your sources for reliability and credibility.

It is always best to start with:

Do I always need to include a URL for online sources?

You need to check your specific referencing style for accurate and up-to-date advice. The following is general advice only.

In a number of referencing styles, you are required to provide the full URL and the date you accessed online sources such as:

  • Websites
  • Web documents
  • Online news reports
  • Blog posts
  • Online videos e.g. YouTube
  • Podcasts.

However, in many referencing styles, most e-books and journal articles accessed via online databases are cited in the same way as print books and articles. In general, these sources do not require a URL nor a date of access.

Once again, always check the referencing style guide required by your unit for accurate and up-to-date advice.

Can I reference Wikipedia?

Note that Wikipedia can sometimes be helpful for obtaining a general overview on a topic – but due to its changeable nature and multiple authors, it cannot be relied on as an source for academic writing. Further research and reading will be required.

If you are thinking of citing an online source in your work:

  1. First determine your purpose for including the source.
  2. Always ask yourself: Is this a credible and reliable source of information?
  3. Gather as much bibliographic information on your source as you can.
    It is always best to provide more details rather than less.

Note: Some webpages do not have an obvious author or date. The authoring organisation and the “last updated” date can sometimes be found in the footer of the web page.

How do I add a hyperlink?

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