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Engineering Library: Referencing

Information about the Department of Engineering Library, including information for researchers


When using ideas, quotations, diagrams and concepts from other sources in your own academic work you will need to reference them correctly. Referencing is good academic practice and helps your reader understand where particular phrases and ideas in your work are from. Referencing also helps you to avoid plagiarism.

This module will help you to understand why and how to reference other sources, discuss the University's guidance on plagiarism, and show you some useful resources to help with your referencing, including reference managers that can help you keep track of your references from the beginning of a project to the final write-up.

The Engineering Library team offer support and training on referencing, so feel free to contact us if you have any questions. If you want to book a one-to-one supervision for more personalised support, please use our Booking Form.

To see what training is available this year please see our Training Programme


Skills for the Informed Engineer Digital Badges

Completion of the Referencing activity in this module fulfils the requirement for the Information Management badge and counts towards the Informed Engineer badge.

Badges will be awarded at the end of each Term.

What to Reference

You will need to reference anything you find in another source that isn't your own original work, including:

Direct quotations Paraphrases
Data Interviews
Figures and tables Lecture slides
Websites Computer code

How to Reference

References are there for readers to be able to follow up the original source of a quote or idea in your work. This means that you will need to include enough information to allow your reader to do this. You will need to include:

  • Author(s) and/or editor(s)
  • Title of the book, article or other source
  • Date of publication

Depending on the type of source you are referencing, you may also need:

  • Title of the book or journal a chapter or article appears in
  • Publisher and place of publication
  • Volume or issue number

And for online resources, the date of retrieval (when you accessed it) and the URL or DOI.

The website Cite Them Right provides information, templates and examples for a range of referencing styles and sources. 

Referencing Styles

There are several different referencing styles and formats that can be used to reference sources in your work. Some of the most common include Harvard, APA and IEEE. The University, and the Department, do not have one specific referencing style that you must use, although specific courses may do. If you are unsure which referencing style to use, speak to your supervisor or course leader. 

There are some key points which will be common to most referencing styles:

  • When presenting the views and work of others, you must give an indication of the source of the material, such as the author and title.
  • If you quote text verbatim, make this completely evident; use quotation marks and add page numbers to your reference.
  • If you wish to re-state an author's point in your own words, this is paraphrasing and will need to be referenced. 
  • If you reproduce an illustration or diagram or include someone else's data in a graph or table, be sure to reference the original source.

(Adapted from the University of Cambridge website on Referencing Conventions)

Guides to Referencing Styles:

  • Harvard 
    The most commonly used style of referencing; used widely in academic journals.

Guide to Harvard Referencing from Imperial College, London

  • APA (American Psychological Association)
    Citation technique usually used in the Social Sciences

APA Tutorial from the University of Cardiff

  • IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) 
    writing and referencing guidance used in the fields of Engineering and Technology

IEEE Referencing Style Sheet from the University of Bath

Reference Managers

Reference management software can help you to organise and keep track of all the articles, books and other sources you have read, and ensue that your references are formatted correctly. 

Reference management software will let you download references from catalogues and databases, store pdfs and take notes, keeping everything in the same place and searchable so you can track it down later. 

You can find a useful comparison of different reference managers on the Wikipedia Comparison of Reference Management Software page.

Two of the most popular reference managers are Mendeley and Zotero. These are free tools that enable to you download, store and annotate references and documents. One of the most useful aspects lets you cite references in a document and automatically builds your bibliography/list of references.

You can watch a short video on using these below, or see the Mendeley and Zotero guides for more information. Please note that if you use an institutional (i.e. University of Cambridge) login on Mendeley you will not have access to the desktop version.

Referencing Quiz

The quiz below will help test your knowledge of referencing, based on what you have learned in this module.

Completion of the Referencing Quiz activity in this module fulfils the requirement for the Information and Data Manager badge and counts towards the Informed Engineer badge. Badges will be awarded at the end of each Term.

Session Slides

Referencing Resources

University of Cambridge Guide to Referencing Conventions.

Cite Them Right, featuring guidance, templates and examples for a range of referencing styles.

Good Academic Practice and Avoiding Plagiarism Guide by Cambridge University Libraries.




Plagiarism is using someone else’s ideas, words, data, or other material produced by them without acknowledgement. It includes Self-Plagiarism - using your own ideas, words, data or other material produced by them and submitted for formal assessment at this University or another institution, or for publication elsewhere, without acknowledgement. Plagiarism is both poor scholarship and a breach of academic integrity.

Examples of plagiarism include:

  • Quoting another person's work without due acknowledgement of the source.
  • Paraphrasing another person's work by changing some of the words, or the order of the words, without due acknowledgement of the source.
  • Using ideas taken from someone else without reference to the originator.
  • Cutting and pasting from the Internet to make a collage of online sources.
  • Submitting someone else's work as part of a candidate's own without identifying clearly who did the work. 

If you would like guidance on any aspect of plagiarism or referencing, please ask a member of the library team.

The University of Cambridge website has information on Plagiarism and Academic Misconduct.

You can also access detailed guidance on the Good Academic Practice and Avoiding Plagiarism Guide.

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