Guidance for students on referencing

Referencing is an essential part of academic writing.

When you write an assignment you will be drawing constantly upon information you have read in books, journal articles and other sources. You are required to acknowledge these sources through referencing.

Accurate referencing is very important because:

  •  it demonstrates that you have researched or read around the subject which you are writing about

• it provides evidence for your arguments

• it allows any reader of your work to find the original sources you used

• it shows that you are not passing off someone else’s research as your own thoughts

You should reference whenever you use someone else’s work in your own work; not only when you quote but also when you paraphrase or summarise someone’s ideas.

At Sheffield Hallam University most courses use a style of referencing called APA 6th. However, some courses use a different subject area and your course and module leaders will advise on what style you are required to use.

There are lots of resources to help you learn how to reference using APA 6, including apps and online tools which make putting together a reference list quick and easier.

Detailed support for APA referencing is available at You can also get help with referencing at library Helpdesks and through the Assessment4Students website. You can find guidance on other referencing styles at If you are new to referencing, start by trying our online interactive referencing resource

Guidance for students on proofreading
The International Experience team have been working on creating guidelines on third-party proofreading for undergraduate and post-graduate taught students in Sheffield Hallam University. This work has been done in response to student demand, both from UK and international students. Academic staff will also benefit from the guidelines as they clarify the acceptable level of proofreading and should therefore reduce the number of academic misconduct cases.

Please read the guidance on third-party proofreading for UG & PF taught students. The International Experience team have also created a FAQ page for students and guidance for academic staff. This guidance document outlines the exemptions process.

Teaching and Assessment of Referencing
Assessing student’s referencing – What to consider

There are a number of aspects to consider when assessing student referencing:

  • the range and quality of the sources that have been chosen
  • how the information from the sources has been used and evaluated
  • whether it is possible to understand which resources have been used and where to find them
  • if references are clear and unambiguous
  • that a consistent style has been maintained 

Ideally, the references should be presented in the referencing style you have recommended, but functionality and consistency are the most important points. The presentation of references is much less important than the quality of the sources selected and how they have been used.

Referencing styles – letting students know what is expected

Students often find the presentation of citations and references difficult. They therefore need to be told clearly which referencing style to use and how they will be marked on using it. Ideally the same style should be used by all staff who teach on a course.

The APA 6th ed. style of referencing is recommended, because it enables your students to use the many apps and tools available to help with referencing and for them to benefit from the wide range of support resources that are available for this style. However, if there is an academic reason why another style needs to be used instead, students should be given detailed guidance on how to cite and reference in that style.

It should be noted that different referencing tools and apps that use APA can sometimes produce slightly different references. To ensure consistency in referencing, students are recommended to use only one referencing tool / app rather than a mix of different ones. The Library advises students to always check and correct their references produced by tools and apps before submitting their work. See more information here

Full guidance on referencing is available

Feedback to students

When providing feedback to students, they need very clear guidance to enable them to improve. If they are simply told that they have ‘poor references’, they may be unsure if their references are weak because of the sources of information used or because of how they have presented them.