Monday, November 2, 2009

The anatomy of an essay (Part 6): Winning ways with referencing

Hi Grammophiles!
Special greetings to all those bloggers who have recently joined our community.
A well-referenced piece of academic writing will definitely win extra marks. Without a variety of good references your work can look stream-of-consciousness, unplanned and unresearched.

Here are a few ideas:
  • Refer to Brady's post on evaluating sources

  • Quantity does matter (as well as quality). If you are writing a 2000 word paper (which is roughly 10 pages) think of the way three references in your reference list appears to your marker, as opposed to 10. The more references used, the more scholarly (or well-rounded) the work appears

  • Use a well-recognised and approved referencing system and learn to use this consistently. Often, your university or course will insist on you using a particular style of referencing. For example, at Purdue University, you might be required to use the APA (American Psychological Association) style. At UniSA, the Harvard (Author Date) style is more common

  • This has probably been said before on this blog, but it's worth mentioning it again. Use a variety of viewpoints (Duff, 2007; Hussin, 2008 p. 39; Carter, 2009a, p. 149). If you can show a 'club' of writers, this will help your case

  • If your referencing system allows, consider using 'author prominence' to create strong arguments. Use 'information prominence' to acknowledge facts or ideas:
    Author Prominence: Duff (2009) highlights how using authors in this way can add weight to the argument you are attempting to drive home.
    Information Prominence: This is often (but not exclusively) used in scientific writing where data is used to illustrate a point (Carter, 2007 p. 3).

  • Try and interpret the paraphrase or quote for your reader within the context of your argument. 'This means...' 'This is important because...' 'This differs from Carter's (2006) view because...' 'An example of this is where...' In the example below, 'your voice' is in red.

Of course, as we said in an earlier post, sometimes you are required to write a piece of 'reflective' writing, which means you are providing a sometimes more emotional account of your observations and experiences.

At your university, you might have some variations to these 'rules' or some other ways to use referencing effectively. Please do chip in to the conversations on this blog - we'd love to hear from you.

Andrea Duff
Learning Adviser
University of South Australia