Sources and Citations

3.1.    Using other writers’ work in your text

Using ideas from other texts and citing other people’s work is a central part of academic writing. By citing previous research you can incorporate information from other studies with your own discussion of the topic and support your own argumentation with ideas and information from other studies.

When you use information from other people’s work, you must always indicate the source. Using other people’s ideas without acknowledging them is plagiarism.

Referring to other authors' work is done in two ways: 

    1. By giving the author’s name (or the title of the work if the author cannot be identified), the year of publication and often also the page number of the work in the text
    2.  By providing the full citation information in your list of references (bibliography)

The purpose of references is to show the reader where the original idea or information can be found and allow the reader to check your interpretation of it. When using other studies in your work, you also need to make sure that the sources you use are reliable.

There are three acceptable ways of bringing in ideas and information from other writers’ work: paraphrasing, quoting and summarising.

  • Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is the most typical way of citing sources. In a paraphrase you use your own words to report the information taken from a source. A paraphrase is roughly the same length as the original text.

Original:  “Gender is never static but is produced actively and in interaction with others every day of our lives: speakers are seen as ‘performing’ masculinity and femininity” (Thornborrow and Coates 2005: 9)”

Paraphrase:  Gender should not be seen as static. Rather, masculinity and femininity can be viewed as something that is done or ‘performed’ by speakers. (Thornborrow and Coates 2005: 9)

Unacceptable paraphrase: Gender is not static, but produced actively in interaction with others, which means that speakers are seen as ‘performing’ masculinity and femininity (Thornborrow and Coates 2005: 9).

If you are paraphrasing an idea from another work, make sure you give the page number in addition to indicating the author and year of publication in your text reference.

  • Quoting

Sometimes you may want to quote your source verbatim. Quotations are used

    • when the wording of the original is particularly pertinent to an idea that you are discussing
    • when the writer has used a word, expression or term in an original or novel way
    • to avoid ambiguity or misinterpretation of source material

In quotations it is important to

    • use the original wording exactly (including punctuation, spelling, italics, and even typing errors)

If you change any part of the wording of the original, you need to indicate this in the text. For example:

 “Gender is never static but is produced actively and in interaction with others every day of our lives: speakers are seen as ‘performing’ masculinity and femininity” (Thornborrow and Coates 2005: 9, emphasis added).

If the original text has an error or misprint, you can indicate this with  marking [sic] after the relevant item in the text.

    • always use double quotation marks to indicate a direct quote. Quoting someone’s work verbatim without indicating this is plagiarism.
    • quotations that are longer than two or three lines can also be separated from the surrounding text by indenting them, using smaller font and single spacing, and leaving a blank line before and after. In this case, it is not necessary to use quotation marks, but the source must be indicated.

Gender is never static but is produced actively and in interaction with others every day of our lives: speakers are seen as ‘performing’ masculinity and femininity”.  In their talk, men and women can be seen to align themselves with the dominant norms of masculinity and femininity as they ‘do’ gender with one another.  (Thornborrow and Coates 2005: 9)

    • keep the quotation as short as possible
    • give the name of the author, year of publication, and page number when you refer to the source
  • Summarising

You can also summarise a part or section of a book or article in your own words without directly quoting or paraphrasing information from the source. While a paraphrase is roughly the same length as the original text, a summary conveys the same message in a concise and condensed way.

When you summarise information, you should introduce the summary by referring to the source as early as possible in the summarising sentences or paragraph(s). The summarising text can be organised using meta-textual elements (e.g. first, second, third). This helps the reader follow the text.

James (1988: 112-113) identifies the following characteristic features of errors. First, ungrammatical utterances are always erroneous in any context. Second, if a form is unacceptable in its context, it is erroneous even if its form is grammatical. Third, an error differs from a mistake in that it is unintentional.

In some cases, the reference can be placed at the end of a summarising sentence or text.  If you summarise information in one summarising sentence, the reference is placed inside the sentence, as follows:

Several prototypical features of advertising can be identified: advertisements use a variety of substances; they are multimodal, embedded in accompanying discourse, and parasitic, using the voices of other genres (Cook 1992: 219).

If your summary extends over two or more sentences, the reference is not placed inside a sentence, but separately, with a full-stop inside the parentheses.

 (summarising text.) (Hindmarsh and Heath 2000: 45-50.)

In some cases (e.g. if you need to summarise a large amount of information from a single source), you summarising text may extend over a whole paragraph. In this case the reference is placed at the end of the paragraph. However, we do not recommend the use of ‘hanging references’ such as these. Other ways of citing sources usually offer better options for presenting the relevant information in your own words (see 3.2 below).

3.2    Alternative ways of citing other writers’ work

In information prominent citations, the focus is on the information or topic. The reference is given in parentheses:

Literacy practices are central when adult learning in higher education is concerned (Lea 1999: 111).

In some contexts, second language learners have been found to produce more speech than native speakers (Kasper and Blum-Kulka 1993: 9).

In author prominent citations, the focus is on the author as the source of some original idea or information:

Seedhouse (2004) analyses the interactional features of classroom discourse…

In a recent study of student performance Seedhouse (2004)...

3.3    References to sources within the text

  • When are page numbers needed?

If you are referring to an entire book or article, there is no need to give the page number in the text; a reference to the author and year of publication is enough.

Recent research on attitudes within discursive social psychology (Potter 1996, 1998, 2000) adopts a social constructionist view.

If you are summarising or paraphrasing some part of the source, or if the information you are citing can be located on particular pages, page numbers must always be indicated.

  • How to refer to works of fiction

When you use examples from literary sources or films as examples in your work, you can refer to them using the title of the work in italics. References in examples should also include page number, where possible.

  • How to cite a work by several authors

If you are referring to work written by up to three authors, all the authors’ names must be indicated in each reference. If there are three authors, give all the names the first time you refer to the source. After this, later in the text you can give the first author’s name and indicate the others with ‘et al.’ (from Latin et alii). If there are more than three authors, you may use et al.

Leiwo et al. (1987) carried out an extensive study of classroom discourse interaction in Finnish schools.

  • How to cite several works of the same author

If you refer to several studies by the same author, they can be referred to by indicating the year of publication (e.g. Potter 1996, 1998, 2000). If you refer to sources published in the same year, use lower case letters (a, b, c) to indicate which of the sources you refer to (e.g. Potter 2000a, 2000b).

  • How to cite a work with a corporate author

Some documents are published without the name(s) of the author(s). These include publications such as syllabuses, committee reports, statutes, and manuals. These documents are referred to by indicating the full title of the publication and the year of publication (e.g. Lukion opetussuunnitelman perusteet 2004, Common European Framework of Reference for Languages 2003). If you make frequent use of these documents, you can also refer to them using an abbreviated title (LOPS 2004, CEF 2003).

You may also want to cite a study that is not written by specific author(s), but rather by an organization, government department agency or commission. In this case, you indicate the source by referring to the name of the organization and the year of publication of the work.  You can either include the name of the corporate author in the text (with the year of publication in parentheses) or give it in parentheses after citing the work.

Human Rights Watch (2003) specified children’s rights as follows….


A recent study reports on interviews with hundreds of children in different parts of the world (Human Rights Watch 2005)

  • When to use ibid

If you need to cite the same work repeatedly, you can use ibid. to show that you are referring to the same source. However, ibid. (from Latin ibidem) should be used sparingly, and only if the original reference can be found close in the text (e.g. in the same paragraph). Do not use ibid. if there is any risk of confusion as to which of the earlier references it is linked to.

  • How to refer to a source indirectly

If you cannot get hold of the original source of a study and need to refer to the work through another source, the reference is given in the following way:

Adult learners may experience difficulties in adapting to the academic writing community (Ivani… 1998, as quoted by Lea 1999: 108).  [or alternatively: Ivani… 1998, cited in Lea 1999:108]

In this case, you include the source that you have used in the bibliography.

  • How to cite web sources?

In general, web sources are referred to using the same author/date method of reference as for other published sources: give the name(s) of the author(s) and the year of publication or of the most recent update. When you refer to papers and published articles in online journals, always use this method of referring to the source. The details of the source are given in the bibliography.

Collectively authored web sources are referred to using the title of the web page and the year of publication.

If the author’s name cannot be identified, use the title of the document or of the web page and the abbreviation n.d. (=no date). If the title is long, you can refer to the source by giving the first few words of the title.