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References in Research – Types, Examples and Writing Guide

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References in Research

References in Research

Definition:

References in research are a list of sources that a researcher has consulted or cited while conducting their study. They are an essential component of any academic work, including research papers, theses, dissertations, and other scholarly publications.

Types of References

There are several types of references used in research, and the type of reference depends on the source of information being cited. The most common types of references include:

References to books typically include the author’s name, title of the book, publisher, publication date, and place of publication.

Example: Smith, J. (2018). The Art of Writing. Penguin Books.

Journal Articles

References to journal articles usually include the author’s name, title of the article, name of the journal, volume and issue number, page numbers, and publication date.

Example: Johnson, T. (2021). The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health. Journal of Psychology, 32(4), 87-94.

Web sources

References to web sources should include the author or organization responsible for the content, the title of the page, the URL, and the date accessed.

Example: World Health Organization. (2020). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/emergencies/disease/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

Conference Proceedings

References to conference proceedings should include the author’s name, title of the paper, name of the conference, location of the conference, date of the conference, and page numbers.

Example: Chen, S., & Li, J. (2019). The Future of AI in Education. Proceedings of the International Conference on Educational Technology, Beijing, China, July 15-17, pp. 67-78.

References to reports typically include the author or organization responsible for the report, title of the report, publication date, and publisher.

Example: United Nations. (2020). The Sustainable Development Goals Report. United Nations.

Formats of References

Some common Formates of References with their examples are as follows:

APA (American Psychological Association) Style

The APA (American Psychological Association) Style has specific guidelines for formatting references used in academic papers, articles, and books. Here are the different reference formats in APA style with examples:

Author, A. A. (Year of publication). Title of book. Publisher.

Example : Smith, J. K. (2005). The psychology of social interaction. Wiley-Blackwell.

Journal Article

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year of publication). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume number(issue number), page numbers.

Example : Brown, L. M., Keating, J. G., & Jones, S. M. (2012). The role of social support in coping with stress among African American adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 22(1), 218-233.

Author, A. A. (Year of publication or last update). Title of page. Website name. URL.

Example : Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, December 11). COVID-19: How to protect yourself and others. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html

Magazine article

Author, A. A. (Year, Month Day of publication). Title of article. Title of Magazine, volume number(issue number), page numbers.

Example : Smith, M. (2019, March 11). The power of positive thinking. Psychology Today, 52(3), 60-65.

Newspaper article:

Author, A. A. (Year, Month Day of publication). Title of article. Title of Newspaper, page numbers.

Example: Johnson, B. (2021, February 15). New study shows benefits of exercise on mental health. The New York Times, A8.

Edited book

Editor, E. E. (Ed.). (Year of publication). Title of book. Publisher.

Example : Thompson, J. P. (Ed.). (2014). Social work in the 21st century. Sage Publications.

Chapter in an edited book:

Author, A. A. (Year of publication). Title of chapter. In E. E. Editor (Ed.), Title of book (pp. page numbers). Publisher.

Example : Johnson, K. S. (2018). The future of social work: Challenges and opportunities. In J. P. Thompson (Ed.), Social work in the 21st century (pp. 105-118). Sage Publications.

MLA (Modern Language Association) Style

The MLA (Modern Language Association) Style is a widely used style for writing academic papers and essays in the humanities. Here are the different reference formats in MLA style:

Author’s Last name, First name. Title of Book. Publisher, Publication year.

Example : Smith, John. The Psychology of Social Interaction. Wiley-Blackwell, 2005.

Journal article

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Article.” Title of Journal, volume number, issue number, Publication year, page numbers.

Example : Brown, Laura M., et al. “The Role of Social Support in Coping with Stress among African American Adolescents.” Journal of Research on Adolescence, vol. 22, no. 1, 2012, pp. 218-233.

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Webpage.” Website Name, Publication date, URL.

Example : Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “COVID-19: How to Protect Yourself and Others.” CDC, 11 Dec. 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html.

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Article.” Title of Magazine, Publication date, page numbers.

Example : Smith, Mary. “The Power of Positive Thinking.” Psychology Today, Mar. 2019, pp. 60-65.

Newspaper article

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Article.” Title of Newspaper, Publication date, page numbers.

Example : Johnson, Bob. “New Study Shows Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health.” The New York Times, 15 Feb. 2021, p. A8.

Editor’s Last name, First name, editor. Title of Book. Publisher, Publication year.

Example : Thompson, John P., editor. Social Work in the 21st Century. Sage Publications, 2014.

Chapter in an edited book

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Chapter.” Title of Book, edited by Editor’s First Name Last name, Publisher, Publication year, page numbers.

Example : Johnson, Karen S. “The Future of Social Work: Challenges and Opportunities.” Social Work in the 21st Century, edited by John P. Thompson, Sage Publications, 2014, pp. 105-118.

Chicago Manual of Style

The Chicago Manual of Style is a widely used style for writing academic papers, dissertations, and books in the humanities and social sciences. Here are the different reference formats in Chicago style:

Example : Smith, John K. The Psychology of Social Interaction. Wiley-Blackwell, 2005.

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Article.” Title of Journal volume number, no. issue number (Publication year): page numbers.

Example : Brown, Laura M., John G. Keating, and Sarah M. Jones. “The Role of Social Support in Coping with Stress among African American Adolescents.” Journal of Research on Adolescence 22, no. 1 (2012): 218-233.

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Webpage.” Website Name. Publication date. URL.

Example : Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “COVID-19: How to Protect Yourself and Others.” CDC. December 11, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html.

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Article.” Title of Magazine, Publication date.

Example : Smith, Mary. “The Power of Positive Thinking.” Psychology Today, March 2019.

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Article.” Title of Newspaper, Publication date.

Example : Johnson, Bob. “New Study Shows Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health.” The New York Times, February 15, 2021.

Example : Thompson, John P., ed. Social Work in the 21st Century. Sage Publications, 2014.

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Chapter.” In Title of Book, edited by Editor’s First Name Last Name, page numbers. Publisher, Publication year.

Example : Johnson, Karen S. “The Future of Social Work: Challenges and Opportunities.” In Social Work in the 21st Century, edited by John P. Thompson, 105-118. Sage Publications, 2014.

Harvard Style

The Harvard Style, also known as the Author-Date System, is a widely used style for writing academic papers and essays in the social sciences. Here are the different reference formats in Harvard Style:

Author’s Last name, First name. Year of publication. Title of Book. Place of publication: Publisher.

Example : Smith, John. 2005. The Psychology of Social Interaction. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Author’s Last name, First name. Year of publication. “Title of Article.” Title of Journal volume number (issue number): page numbers.

Example: Brown, Laura M., John G. Keating, and Sarah M. Jones. 2012. “The Role of Social Support in Coping with Stress among African American Adolescents.” Journal of Research on Adolescence 22 (1): 218-233.

Author’s Last name, First name. Year of publication. “Title of Webpage.” Website Name. URL. Accessed date.

Example : Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. “COVID-19: How to Protect Yourself and Others.” CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html. Accessed April 1, 2023.

Author’s Last name, First name. Year of publication. “Title of Article.” Title of Magazine, month and date of publication.

Example : Smith, Mary. 2019. “The Power of Positive Thinking.” Psychology Today, March 2019.

Author’s Last name, First name. Year of publication. “Title of Article.” Title of Newspaper, month and date of publication.

Example : Johnson, Bob. 2021. “New Study Shows Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health.” The New York Times, February 15, 2021.

Editor’s Last name, First name, ed. Year of publication. Title of Book. Place of publication: Publisher.

Example : Thompson, John P., ed. 2014. Social Work in the 21st Century. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Author’s Last name, First name. Year of publication. “Title of Chapter.” In Title of Book, edited by Editor’s First Name Last Name, page numbers. Place of publication: Publisher.

Example : Johnson, Karen S. 2014. “The Future of Social Work: Challenges and Opportunities.” In Social Work in the 21st Century, edited by John P. Thompson, 105-118. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Vancouver Style

The Vancouver Style, also known as the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals, is a widely used style for writing academic papers in the biomedical sciences. Here are the different reference formats in Vancouver Style:

Author’s Last name, First name. Title of Book. Edition number. Place of publication: Publisher; Year of publication.

Example : Smith, John K. The Psychology of Social Interaction. 2nd ed. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell; 2005.

Author’s Last name, First name. Title of Article. Abbreviated Journal Title. Year of publication; volume number(issue number):page numbers.

Example : Brown LM, Keating JG, Jones SM. The Role of Social Support in Coping with Stress among African American Adolescents. J Res Adolesc. 2012;22(1):218-233.

Author’s Last name, First name. Title of Webpage. Website Name [Internet]. Publication date. [cited date]. Available from: URL.

Example : Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19: How to Protect Yourself and Others [Internet]. 2020 Dec 11. [cited 2023 Apr 1]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html.

Author’s Last name, First name. Title of Article. Title of Magazine. Year of publication; month and day of publication:page numbers.

Example : Smith M. The Power of Positive Thinking. Psychology Today. 2019 Mar 1:32-35.

Author’s Last name, First name. Title of Article. Title of Newspaper. Year of publication; month and day of publication:page numbers.

Example : Johnson B. New Study Shows Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health. The New York Times. 2021 Feb 15:A4.

Editor’s Last name, First name, editor. Title of Book. Edition number. Place of publication: Publisher; Year of publication.

Example: Thompson JP, editor. Social Work in the 21st Century. 1st ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications; 2014.

Author’s Last name, First name. Title of Chapter. In: Editor’s Last name, First name, editor. Title of Book. Edition number. Place of publication: Publisher; Year of publication. page numbers.

Example : Johnson KS. The Future of Social Work: Challenges and Opportunities. In: Thompson JP, editor. Social Work in the 21st Century. 1st ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications; 2014. p. 105-118.

Turabian Style

Turabian style is a variation of the Chicago style used in academic writing, particularly in the fields of history and humanities. Here are the different reference formats in Turabian style:

Author’s Last name, First name. Title of Book. Place of publication: Publisher, Year of publication.

Example : Smith, John K. The Psychology of Social Interaction. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2005.

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Article.” Title of Journal volume number, no. issue number (Year of publication): page numbers.

Example : Brown, LM, Keating, JG, Jones, SM. “The Role of Social Support in Coping with Stress among African American Adolescents.” J Res Adolesc 22, no. 1 (2012): 218-233.

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Webpage.” Name of Website. Publication date. Accessed date. URL.

Example : Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “COVID-19: How to Protect Yourself and Others.” CDC. December 11, 2020. Accessed April 1, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html.

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Article.” Title of Magazine, Month Day, Year of publication, page numbers.

Example : Smith, M. “The Power of Positive Thinking.” Psychology Today, March 1, 2019, 32-35.

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Article.” Title of Newspaper, Month Day, Year of publication.

Example : Johnson, B. “New Study Shows Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health.” The New York Times, February 15, 2021.

Editor’s Last name, First name, ed. Title of Book. Place of publication: Publisher, Year of publication.

Example : Thompson, JP, ed. Social Work in the 21st Century. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2014.

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Chapter.” In Title of Book, edited by Editor’s Last name, First name, page numbers. Place of publication: Publisher, Year of publication.

Example : Johnson, KS. “The Future of Social Work: Challenges and Opportunities.” In Social Work in the 21st Century, edited by Thompson, JP, 105-118. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2014.

IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Style

IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) style is commonly used in engineering, computer science, and other technical fields. Here are the different reference formats in IEEE style:

Author’s Last name, First name. Book Title. Place of Publication: Publisher, Year of publication.

Example : Oppenheim, A. V., & Schafer, R. W. Discrete-Time Signal Processing. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2010.

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Article.” Abbreviated Journal Title, vol. number, no. issue number, pp. page numbers, Month year of publication.

Example: Shannon, C. E. “A Mathematical Theory of Communication.” Bell System Technical Journal, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 379-423, July 1948.

Conference paper

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Paper.” In Title of Conference Proceedings, Place of Conference, Date of Conference, pp. page numbers, Year of publication.

Example: Gupta, S., & Kumar, P. “An Improved System of Linear Discriminant Analysis for Face Recognition.” In Proceedings of the 2011 International Conference on Computer Science and Network Technology, Harbin, China, Dec. 2011, pp. 144-147.

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Webpage.” Name of Website. Date of publication or last update. Accessed date. URL.

Example : National Aeronautics and Space Administration. “Apollo 11.” NASA. July 20, 1969. Accessed April 1, 2023. https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/apollo11.html.

Technical report

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Report.” Name of Institution or Organization, Report number, Year of publication.

Example : Smith, J. R. “Development of a New Solar Panel Technology.” National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-6A20-51645, 2011.

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Patent.” Patent number, Issue date.

Example : Suzuki, H. “Method of Producing Carbon Nanotubes.” US Patent 7,151,019, December 19, 2006.

Standard Title. Standard number, Publication date.

Example : IEEE Standard for Floating-Point Arithmetic. IEEE Std 754-2008, August 29, 2008

ACS (American Chemical Society) Style

ACS (American Chemical Society) style is commonly used in chemistry and related fields. Here are the different reference formats in ACS style:

Author’s Last name, First name; Author’s Last name, First name. Title of Article. Abbreviated Journal Title Year, Volume, Page Numbers.

Example : Wang, Y.; Zhao, X.; Cui, Y.; Ma, Y. Facile Preparation of Fe3O4/graphene Composites Using a Hydrothermal Method for High-Performance Lithium Ion Batteries. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2012, 4, 2715-2721.

Author’s Last name, First name. Book Title; Publisher: Place of Publication, Year of Publication.

Example : Carey, F. A. Organic Chemistry; McGraw-Hill: New York, 2008.

Author’s Last name, First name. Chapter Title. In Book Title; Editor’s Last name, First name, Ed.; Publisher: Place of Publication, Year of Publication; Volume number, Chapter number, Page Numbers.

Example : Grossman, R. B. Analytical Chemistry of Aerosols. In Aerosol Measurement: Principles, Techniques, and Applications; Baron, P. A.; Willeke, K., Eds.; Wiley-Interscience: New York, 2001; Chapter 10, pp 395-424.

Author’s Last name, First name. Title of Webpage. Website Name, URL (accessed date).

Example : National Institute of Standards and Technology. Atomic Spectra Database. https://www.nist.gov/pml/atomic-spectra-database (accessed April 1, 2023).

Author’s Last name, First name. Patent Number. Patent Date.

Example : Liu, Y.; Huang, H.; Chen, H.; Zhang, W. US Patent 9,999,999, December 31, 2022.

Author’s Last name, First name; Author’s Last name, First name. Title of Article. In Title of Conference Proceedings, Publisher: Place of Publication, Year of Publication; Volume Number, Page Numbers.

Example : Jia, H.; Xu, S.; Wu, Y.; Wu, Z.; Tang, Y.; Huang, X. Fast Adsorption of Organic Pollutants by Graphene Oxide. In Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Environmental Science and Technology, American Chemical Society: Washington, DC, 2017; Volume 1, pp 223-228.

AMA (American Medical Association) Style

AMA (American Medical Association) style is commonly used in medical and scientific fields. Here are the different reference formats in AMA style:

Author’s Last name, First name. Article Title. Journal Abbreviation. Year; Volume(Issue):Page Numbers.

Example : Jones, R. A.; Smith, B. C. The Role of Vitamin D in Maintaining Bone Health. JAMA. 2019;321(17):1765-1773.

Author’s Last name, First name. Book Title. Edition number. Place of Publication: Publisher; Year.

Example : Guyton, A. C.; Hall, J. E. Textbook of Medical Physiology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders; 2015.

Author’s Last name, First name. Chapter Title. In: Editor’s Last name, First name, ed. Book Title. Edition number. Place of Publication: Publisher; Year: Page Numbers.

Example: Rajakumar, K. Vitamin D and Bone Health. In: Holick, M. F., ed. Vitamin D: Physiology, Molecular Biology, and Clinical Applications. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Springer; 2010:211-222.

Author’s Last name, First name. Webpage Title. Website Name. URL. Published date. Updated date. Accessed date.

Example : National Cancer Institute. Breast Cancer Prevention (PDQ®)–Patient Version. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/patient/breast-prevention-pdq. Published October 11, 2022. Accessed April 1, 2023.

Author’s Last name, First name. Conference presentation title. In: Conference Title; Conference Date; Place of Conference.

Example : Smith, J. R. Vitamin D and Bone Health: A Meta-Analysis. In: Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research; September 20-23, 2022; San Diego, CA.

Thesis or dissertation

Author’s Last name, First name. Title of Thesis or Dissertation. Degree level [Doctoral dissertation or Master’s thesis]. University Name; Year.

Example : Wilson, S. A. The Effects of Vitamin D Supplementation on Bone Health in Postmenopausal Women [Doctoral dissertation]. University of California, Los Angeles; 2018.

ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) Style

The ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) style is commonly used in civil engineering fields. Here are the different reference formats in ASCE style:

Author’s Last name, First name. “Article Title.” Journal Title, volume number, issue number (year): page numbers. DOI or URL (if available).

Example : Smith, J. R. “Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Sustainable Drainage Systems in Urban Areas.” Journal of Environmental Engineering, vol. 146, no. 3 (2020): 04020010. https://doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)EE.1943-7870.0001668.

Example : McCuen, R. H. Hydrologic Analysis and Design. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education; 2013.

Author’s Last name, First name. “Chapter Title.” In: Editor’s Last name, First name, ed. Book Title. Edition number. Place of Publication: Publisher; Year: page numbers.

Example : Maidment, D. R. “Floodplain Management in the United States.” In: Shroder, J. F., ed. Treatise on Geomorphology. San Diego, CA: Academic Press; 2013: 447-460.

Author’s Last name, First name. “Paper Title.” In: Conference Title; Conference Date; Location. Place of Publication: Publisher; Year: page numbers.

Example: Smith, J. R. “Sustainable Drainage Systems for Urban Areas.” In: Proceedings of the ASCE International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure; November 6-9, 2019; Los Angeles, CA. Reston, VA: American Society of Civil Engineers; 2019: 156-163.

Author’s Last name, First name. “Report Title.” Report number. Place of Publication: Publisher; Year.

Example : U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “Hurricane Sandy Coastal Risk Reduction Program, New York and New Jersey.” Report No. P-15-001. Washington, DC: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; 2015.

CSE (Council of Science Editors) Style

The CSE (Council of Science Editors) style is commonly used in the scientific and medical fields. Here are the different reference formats in CSE style:

Author’s Last name, First Initial. Middle Initial. “Article Title.” Journal Title. Year;Volume(Issue):Page numbers.

Example : Smith, J.R. “Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Sustainable Drainage Systems in Urban Areas.” Journal of Environmental Engineering. 2020;146(3):04020010.

Author’s Last name, First Initial. Middle Initial. Book Title. Edition number. Place of Publication: Publisher; Year.

Author’s Last name, First Initial. Middle Initial. “Chapter Title.” In: Editor’s Last name, First Initial. Middle Initial., ed. Book Title. Edition number. Place of Publication: Publisher; Year:Page numbers.

Author’s Last name, First Initial. Middle Initial. “Paper Title.” In: Conference Title; Conference Date; Location. Place of Publication: Publisher; Year.

Example : Smith, J.R. “Sustainable Drainage Systems for Urban Areas.” In: Proceedings of the ASCE International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure; November 6-9, 2019; Los Angeles, CA. Reston, VA: American Society of Civil Engineers; 2019.

Author’s Last name, First Initial. Middle Initial. “Report Title.” Report number. Place of Publication: Publisher; Year.

Bluebook Style

The Bluebook style is commonly used in the legal field for citing legal documents and sources. Here are the different reference formats in Bluebook style:

Case citation

Case name, volume source page (Court year).

Example : Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).

Statute citation

Name of Act, volume source § section number (year).

Example : Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. § 7401 (1963).

Regulation citation

Name of regulation, volume source § section number (year).

Example: Clean Air Act, 40 C.F.R. § 52.01 (2019).

Book citation

Author’s Last name, First Initial. Middle Initial. Book Title. Edition number (if applicable). Place of Publication: Publisher; Year.

Example: Smith, J.R. Legal Writing and Analysis. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Aspen Publishers; 2015.

Journal article citation

Author’s Last name, First Initial. Middle Initial. “Article Title.” Journal Title. Volume number (year): first page-last page.

Example: Garcia, C. “The Right to Counsel: An International Comparison.” International Journal of Legal Information. 43 (2015): 63-94.

Website citation

Author’s Last name, First Initial. Middle Initial. “Page Title.” Website Title. URL (accessed month day, year).

Example : United Nations. “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/ (accessed January 3, 2023).

Oxford Style

The Oxford style, also known as the Oxford referencing system or the documentary-note citation system, is commonly used in the humanities, including literature, history, and philosophy. Here are the different reference formats in Oxford style:

Author’s Last name, First name. Book Title. Place of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication.

Example : Smith, John. The Art of Writing. New York: Penguin, 2020.

Author’s Last name, First name. “Article Title.” Journal Title volume, no. issue (year): page range.

Example: Garcia, Carlos. “The Role of Ethics in Philosophy.” Philosophy Today 67, no. 3 (2019): 53-68.

Chapter in an edited book citation

Author’s Last name, First name. “Chapter Title.” In Book Title, edited by Editor’s Name, page range. Place of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication.

Example : Lee, Mary. “Feminism in the 21st Century.” In The Oxford Handbook of Feminism, edited by Jane Smith, 51-69. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

Author’s Last name, First name. “Page Title.” Website Title. URL (accessed day month year).

Example : Jones, David. “The Importance of Learning Languages.” Oxford Language Center. https://www.oxfordlanguagecenter.com/importance-of-learning-languages/ (accessed 3 January 2023).

Dissertation or thesis citation

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Dissertation/Thesis.” PhD diss., University Name, Year of Publication.

Example : Brown, Susan. “The Art of Storytelling in American Literature.” PhD diss., University of Oxford, 2020.

Newspaper article citation

Author’s Last name, First name. “Article Title.” Newspaper Title, Month Day, Year.

Example : Robinson, Andrew. “New Developments in Climate Change Research.” The Guardian, September 15, 2022.

AAA (American Anthropological Association) Style

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) style is commonly used in anthropology research papers and journals. Here are the different reference formats in AAA style:

Author’s Last name, First name. Year of Publication. Book Title. Place of Publication: Publisher.

Example : Smith, John. 2019. The Anthropology of Food. New York: Routledge.

Author’s Last name, First name. Year of Publication. “Article Title.” Journal Title volume, no. issue: page range.

Example : Garcia, Carlos. 2021. “The Role of Ethics in Anthropology.” American Anthropologist 123, no. 2: 237-251.

Author’s Last name, First name. Year of Publication. “Chapter Title.” In Book Title, edited by Editor’s Name, page range. Place of Publication: Publisher.

Example: Lee, Mary. 2018. “Feminism in Anthropology.” In The Oxford Handbook of Feminism, edited by Jane Smith, 51-69. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Author’s Last name, First name. Year of Publication. “Page Title.” Website Title. URL (accessed day month year).

Example : Jones, David. 2020. “The Importance of Learning Languages.” Oxford Language Center. https://www.oxfordlanguagecenter.com/importance-of-learning-languages/ (accessed January 3, 2023).

Author’s Last name, First name. Year of Publication. “Title of Dissertation/Thesis.” PhD diss., University Name.

Example : Brown, Susan. 2022. “The Art of Storytelling in Anthropology.” PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley.

Author’s Last name, First name. Year of Publication. “Article Title.” Newspaper Title, Month Day.

Example : Robinson, Andrew. 2021. “New Developments in Anthropology Research.” The Guardian, September 15.

AIP (American Institute of Physics) Style

The American Institute of Physics (AIP) style is commonly used in physics research papers and journals. Here are the different reference formats in AIP style:

Example : Johnson, S. D. 2021. “Quantum Computing and Information.” Journal of Applied Physics 129, no. 4: 043102.

Example : Feynman, Richard. 2018. The Feynman Lectures on Physics. New York: Basic Books.

Example : Jones, David. 2020. “The Future of Quantum Computing.” In The Handbook of Physics, edited by John Smith, 125-136. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Conference proceedings citation

Author’s Last name, First name. Year of Publication. “Title of Paper.” Proceedings of Conference Name, date and location: page range. Place of Publication: Publisher.

Example : Chen, Wei. 2019. “The Applications of Nanotechnology in Solar Cells.” Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Nanotechnology, July 15-17, Tokyo, Japan: 224-229. New York: AIP Publishing.

Example : American Institute of Physics. 2022. “About AIP Publishing.” AIP Publishing. https://publishing.aip.org/about-aip-publishing/ (accessed January 3, 2023).

Patent citation

Author’s Last name, First name. Year of Publication. Patent Number.

Example : Smith, John. 2018. US Patent 9,873,644.

References Writing Guide

Here are some general guidelines for writing references:

  • Follow the citation style guidelines: Different disciplines and journals may require different citation styles (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago). It is important to follow the specific guidelines for the citation style required.
  • Include all necessary information : Each citation should include enough information for readers to locate the source. For example, a journal article citation should include the author(s), title of the article, journal title, volume number, issue number, page numbers, and publication year.
  • Use proper formatting: Citation styles typically have specific formatting requirements for different types of sources. Make sure to follow the proper formatting for each citation.
  • Order citations alphabetically: If listing multiple sources, they should be listed alphabetically by the author’s last name.
  • Be consistent: Use the same citation style throughout the entire paper or project.
  • Check for accuracy: Double-check all citations to ensure accuracy, including correct spelling of author names and publication information.
  • Use reputable sources: When selecting sources to cite, choose reputable and authoritative sources. Avoid sources that are biased or unreliable.
  • Include all sources: Make sure to include all sources used in the research, including those that were not directly quoted but still informed the work.
  • Use online tools : There are online tools available (e.g., citation generators) that can help with formatting and organizing references.

Purpose of References in Research

References in research serve several purposes:

  • To give credit to the original authors or sources of information used in the research. It is important to acknowledge the work of others and avoid plagiarism.
  • To provide evidence for the claims made in the research. References can support the arguments, hypotheses, or conclusions presented in the research by citing relevant studies, data, or theories.
  • To allow readers to find and verify the sources used in the research. References provide the necessary information for readers to locate and access the sources cited in the research, which allows them to evaluate the quality and reliability of the information presented.
  • To situate the research within the broader context of the field. References can show how the research builds on or contributes to the existing body of knowledge, and can help readers to identify gaps in the literature that the research seeks to address.

Importance of References in Research

References play an important role in research for several reasons:

  • Credibility : By citing authoritative sources, references lend credibility to the research and its claims. They provide evidence that the research is based on a sound foundation of knowledge and has been carefully researched.
  • Avoidance of Plagiarism : References help researchers avoid plagiarism by giving credit to the original authors or sources of information. This is important for ethical reasons and also to avoid legal repercussions.
  • Reproducibility : References allow others to reproduce the research by providing detailed information on the sources used. This is important for verification of the research and for others to build on the work.
  • Context : References provide context for the research by situating it within the broader body of knowledge in the field. They help researchers to understand where their work fits in and how it builds on or contributes to existing knowledge.
  • Evaluation : References provide a means for others to evaluate the research by allowing them to assess the quality and reliability of the sources used.

Advantages of References in Research

There are several advantages of including references in research:

  • Acknowledgment of Sources: Including references gives credit to the authors or sources of information used in the research. This is important to acknowledge the original work and avoid plagiarism.
  • Evidence and Support : References can provide evidence to support the arguments, hypotheses, or conclusions presented in the research. This can add credibility and strength to the research.
  • Reproducibility : References provide the necessary information for others to reproduce the research. This is important for the verification of the research and for others to build on the work.
  • Context : References can help to situate the research within the broader body of knowledge in the field. This helps researchers to understand where their work fits in and how it builds on or contributes to existing knowledge.
  • Evaluation : Including references allows others to evaluate the research by providing a means to assess the quality and reliability of the sources used.
  • Ongoing Conversation: References allow researchers to engage in ongoing conversations and debates within their fields. They can show how the research builds on or contributes to the existing body of knowledge.

About the author

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General Reference

The general reference collection comprises materials that serve one or more of the following purposes:

  • factual information (e.g., dictionaries, atlases, statistical yearbooks, biographical dictionaries)
  • overview of a topic (e.g., handbooks, encyclopedias)
  • guides to in-depth research on a topic (e.g., bibliographies, indices)       

Subject-focused reference materials are collected across subject areas and are addressed in subject-specific collection development statements. The general reference collection includes those materials that are not subject-specific, are of general interest, or are broadly multidisciplinary. 

Formats collected

The preferred format is electronic. Online resources that are optimized for use within the library’s discovery system are preferred.

Reference materials are not collected for which there are reliable, free, online alternatives. 

Languages collected

Materials are primarily collected in English. Other languages are collected as needed for subject-specific reference collections. 

Chronological and geographical focus

Current materials are emphasized.

No geographic areas are excluded.

Subject Librarian

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define general references in research

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Reference List: Common Reference List Examples

Article (with doi).

Alvarez, E., & Tippins, S. (2019). Socialization agents that Puerto Rican college students use to make financial decisions. Journal of Social Change , 11 (1), 75–85. https://doi.org/10.5590/JOSC.2019.11.1.07

Laplante, J. P., & Nolin, C. (2014). Consultas and socially responsible investing in Guatemala: A case study examining Maya perspectives on the Indigenous right to free, prior, and informed consent. Society & Natural Resources , 27 , 231–248. https://doi.org/10.1080/08941920.2013.861554

Use the DOI number for the source whenever one is available. DOI stands for "digital object identifier," a number specific to the article that can help others locate the source. In APA 7, format the DOI as a web address. Active hyperlinks for DOIs and URLs should be used for documents meant for screen reading. Present these hyperlinks in blue and underlined text (the default formatting in Microsoft Word), although plain black text is also acceptable. Be consistent in your formatting choice for DOIs and URLs throughout your reference list. Also see our Quick Answer FAQ, "Can I use the DOI format provided by library databases?"

Jerrentrup, A., Mueller, T., Glowalla, U., Herder, M., Henrichs, N., Neubauer, A., & Schaefer, J. R. (2018). Teaching medicine with the help of “Dr. House.” PLoS ONE , 13 (3), Article e0193972. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0193972

For journal articles that are assigned article numbers rather than page ranges, include the article number in place of the page range.
For more on citing electronic resources, see  Electronic Sources References .

YouTube

Article (Without DOI)

Found in a common academic research database or in print.

Casler , T. (2020). Improving the graduate nursing experience through support on a social media platform. MEDSURG Nursing , 29 (2), 83–87.

If an article does not have a DOI and you retrieved it from a common academic research database through the university library, there is no need to include any additional electronic retrieval information. The reference list entry looks like the entry for a print copy of the article. (This format differs from APA 6 guidelines that recommended including the URL of a journal's homepage when the DOI was not available.) Note that APA 7 has additional guidance on reference list entries for articles found only in specific databases or archives such as Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, UpToDate, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global, and university archives. See APA 7, Section 9.30 for more information.

Found on an Open Access Website

Eaton, T. V., & Akers, M. D. (2007). Whistleblowing and good governance. CPA Journal , 77 (6), 66–71. http://archives.cpajournal.com/2007/607/essentials/p58.htm

Provide the direct web address/URL to a journal article found on the open web, often on an open access journal's website. In APA 7, active hyperlinks for DOIs and URLs should be used for documents meant for screen reading. Present these hyperlinks in blue and underlined text (the default formatting in Microsoft Word), although plain black text is also acceptable. Be consistent in your formatting choice for DOIs and URLs throughout your reference list.

Weinstein, J. A. (2010).  Social change  (3rd ed.). Rowman & Littlefield.

If the book has an edition number, include it in parentheses after the title of the book. If the book does not list any edition information, do not include an edition number. The edition number is not italicized.

American Nurses Association. (2015). Nursing: Scope and standards of practice (3rd ed.).

If the author and publisher are the same, only include the author in its regular place and omit the publisher.

Lencioni, P. (2012). The advantage: Why organizational health trumps everything else in business . Jossey-Bass. https://amzn.to/343XPSJ

As a change from APA 6 to APA 7, it is no longer necessary to include the ebook format in the title. However, if you listened to an audiobook and the content differs from the text version (e.g., abridged content) or your discussion highlights elements of the audiobook (e.g., narrator's performance), then note that it is an audiobook in the title element in brackets. For ebooks and online audiobooks, also include the DOI number (if available) or nondatabase URL but leave out the electronic retrieval element if the ebook was found in a common academic research database, as with journal articles. APA 7 allows for the shortening of long DOIs and URLs, as shown in this example. See APA 7, Section 9.36 for more information.

Chapter in an Edited Book

Poe, M. (2017). Reframing race in teaching writing across the curriculum. In F. Condon & V. A. Young (Eds.), Performing antiracist pedagogy in rhetoric, writing, and communication (pp. 87–105). University Press of Colorado.

Include the page numbers of the chapter in parentheses after the book title.

Christensen, L. (2001). For my people: Celebrating community through poetry. In B. Bigelow, B. Harvey, S. Karp, & L. Miller (Eds.), Rethinking our classrooms: Teaching for equity and justice (Vol. 2, pp. 16–17). Rethinking Schools.

Also include the volume number or edition number in the parenthetical information after the book title when relevant.

Freud, S. (1961). The ego and the id. In J. Strachey (Ed.),  The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud  (Vol. 19, pp. 3-66). Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1923)

When a text has been republished as part of an anthology collection, after the author’s name include the date of the version that was read. At the end of the entry, place the date of the original publication inside parenthesis along with the note “original work published.” For in-text citations of republished work, use both dates in the parenthetical citation, original date first with a slash separating the years, as in this example: Freud (1923/1961). For more information on reprinted or republished works, see APA 7, Sections 9.40-9.41.

Classroom Resources

Citing classroom resources.

If you need to cite content found in your online classroom, use the author (if there is one listed), the year of publication (if available), the title of the document, and the main URL of Walden classrooms. For example, you are citing study notes titled "Health Effects of Exposure to Forest Fires," but you do not know the author's name, your reference entry will look like this:

Health effects of exposure to forest fires [Lecture notes]. (2005). Walden University Canvas. https://waldenu.instructure.com

If you do know the author of the document, your reference will look like this:

Smith, A. (2005). Health effects of exposure to forest fires [PowerPoint slides]. Walden University Canvas. https://waldenu.instructure.com  

A few notes on citing course materials:

  • [Lecture notes]
  • [Course handout]
  • [Study notes]
  • It can be difficult to determine authorship of classroom documents. If an author is listed on the document, use that. If the resource is clearly a product of Walden (such as the course-based videos), use Walden University as the author. If you are unsure or if no author is indicated, place the title in the author spot, as above.
  • If you cannot determine a date of publication, you can use n.d. (for "no date") in place of the year.

Note:  The web location for Walden course materials is not directly retrievable without a password, and therefore, following APA guidelines, use the main URL for the class sites: https://class.waldenu.edu.

Citing Tempo Classroom Resources

Clear author: 

Smith, A. (2005). Health effects of exposure to forest fires [PowerPoint slides]. Walden University Brightspace. https://mytempo.waldenu.edu

Unclear author:

Health effects of exposure to forest fires [Lecture notes]. (2005). Walden University Brightspace. https://mytempo.waldenu.edu

Conference Sessions and Presentations

Feinman, Y. (2018, July 27). Alternative to proctoring in introductory statistics community college courses [Poster presentation]. Walden University Research Symposium, Minneapolis, MN, United States. https://scholarworks.waldenu.edu/symposium2018/23/

Torgerson, K., Parrill, J., & Haas, A. (2019, April 5-9). Tutoring strategies for online students [Conference session]. The Higher Learning Commission Annual Conference, Chicago, IL, United States. http://onlinewritingcenters.org/scholarship/torgerson-parrill-haas-2019/

Dictionary Entry

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Leadership. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary . Retrieved May 28, 2020, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/leadership

When constructing a reference for an entry in a dictionary or other reference work that has no byline (i.e., no named individual authors), use the name of the group—the institution, company, or organization—as author (e.g., Merriam Webster, American Psychological Association, etc.). The name of the entry goes in the title position, followed by "In" and the italicized name of the reference work (e.g., Merriam-Webster.com dictionary , APA dictionary of psychology ). In this instance, APA 7 recommends including a retrieval date as well for this online source since the contents of the page change over time. End the reference entry with the specific URL for the defined word.

Discussion Board Post

Osborne, C. S. (2010, June 29). Re: Environmental responsibility [Discussion post]. Walden University Canvas.  https://waldenu.instructure.com  

Dissertations or Theses

Retrieved From a Database

Nalumango, K. (2019). Perceptions about the asylum-seeking process in the United States after 9/11 (Publication No. 13879844) [Doctoral dissertation, Walden University]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.

Retrieved From an Institutional or Personal Website

Evener. J. (2018). Organizational learning in libraries at for-profit colleges and universities [Doctoral dissertation, Walden University]. ScholarWorks. https://scholarworks.waldenu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=6606&context=dissertations

Unpublished Dissertation or Thesis

Kirwan, J. G. (2005). An experimental study of the effects of small-group, face-to-face facilitated dialogues on the development of self-actualization levels: A movement towards fully functional persons [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center.

For further examples and information, see APA 7, Section 10.6.

Legal Material

For legal references, APA follows the recommendations of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation , so if you have any questions beyond the examples provided in APA, seek out that resource as well.

Court Decisions

Reference format:

Name v. Name, Volume Reporter Page (Court Date). URL

Sample reference entry:

Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). https://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/347us483

Sample citation:

In Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court ruled racial segregation in schools unconstitutional.

Note: Italicize the case name when it appears in the text of your paper.

Name of Act, Title Source § Section Number (Year). URL

Sample reference entry for a federal statute:

Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. (2004). https://www.congress.gov/108/plaws/publ446/PLAW-108publ446.pdf

Sample reference entry for a state statute:

Minnesota Nurse Practice Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 148.171 et seq. (2019). https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/148.171

Sample citation: Minnesota nurses must maintain current registration in order to practice (Minnesota Nurse Practice Act, 2010).

Note: The § symbol stands for "section." Use §§ for sections (plural). To find this symbol in Microsoft Word, go to "Insert" and click on Symbol." Look in the Latin 1-Supplement subset. Note: U.S.C. stands for "United States Code." Note: The Latin abbreviation " et seq. " means "and what follows" and is used when the act includes the cited section and ones that follow. Note: List the chapter first followed by the section or range of sections.

Unenacted Bills and Resolutions

(Those that did not pass and become law)

Title [if there is one], bill or resolution number, xxx Cong. (year). URL

Sample reference entry for Senate bill:

Anti-Phishing Act, S. 472, 109th Cong. (2005). https://www.congress.gov/bill/109th-congress/senate-bill/472

Sample reference entry for House of Representatives resolution:

Anti-Phishing Act, H.R. 1099, 109th Cong. (2005). https://www.congress.gov/bill/109th-congress/house-bill/1099

The Anti-Phishing Act (2005) proposed up to 5 years prison time for people running Internet scams.

These are the three legal areas you may be most apt to cite in your scholarly work. For more examples and explanation, see APA 7, Chapter 11.

Magazine Article

Clay, R. (2008, June). Science vs. ideology: Psychologists fight back about the misuse of research. Monitor on Psychology , 39 (6). https://www.apa.org/monitor/2008/06/ideology

Note that for citations, include only the year: Clay (2008). For magazine articles retrieved from a common academic research database, leave out the URL. For magazine articles from an online news website that is not an online version of a print magazine, follow the format for a webpage reference list entry.

Newspaper Article (Retrieved Online)

Baker, A. (2014, May 7). Connecticut students show gains in national tests. New York Times . http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/08/nyregion/national-assessment-of-educational-progress-results-in-Connecticut-and-New-Jersey.html

Include the full date in the format Year, Month Day. Do not include a retrieval date for periodical sources found on websites. Note that for citations, include only the year: Baker (2014). For newspaper articles retrieved from a common academic research database, leave out the URL. For newspaper articles from an online news website that is not an online version of a print newspaper, follow the format for a webpage reference list entry.

OASIS Resources

Oasis webpage.

OASIS. (n.d.). Common reference list examples . Walden University. https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/apa/references/examples

For all OASIS content, list OASIS as the author. Because OASIS webpages do not include publication dates, use “n.d.” for the year.

Interactive Guide

OASIS. (n.d.). Embrace iterative research and writing [Interactive guide]. Walden University. https://academics.waldenu.edu/oasis/iterative-research-writing-web

For OASIS multimedia resources, such as interactive guides, include a description of the resource in brackets after the title.

Online Video/Webcast

Walden University. (2013).  An overview of learning  [Video]. Walden University Canvas.  https://waldenu.instructure.com  

Use this format for online videos such as Walden videos in classrooms. Most of our classroom videos are produced by Walden University, which will be listed as the author in your reference and citation. Note: Some examples of audiovisual materials in the APA manual show the word “Producer” in parentheses after the producer/author area. In consultation with the editors of the APA manual, we have determined that parenthetical is not necessary for the videos in our courses. The manual itself is unclear on the matter, however, so either approach should be accepted. Note that the speaker in the video does not appear in the reference list entry, but you may want to mention that person in your text. For instance, if you are viewing a video where Tobias Ball is the speaker, you might write the following: Tobias Ball stated that APA guidelines ensure a consistent presentation of information in student papers (Walden University, 2013). For more information on citing the speaker in a video, see our page on Common Citation Errors .

Taylor, R. [taylorphd07]. (2014, February 27). Scales of measurement [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDsMUlexaMY

OASIS. (2020, April 15). One-way ANCOVA: Introduction [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/_XnNDQ5CNW8

For videos from streaming sites, use the person or organization who uploaded the video in the author space to ensure retrievability, whether or not that person is the speaker in the video. A username can be provided in square brackets. As a change from APA 6 to APA 7, include the publisher after the title, and do not use "Retrieved from" before the URL. See APA 7, Section 10.12 for more information and examples.

See also reference list entry formats for TED Talks .

Technical and Research Reports

Edwards, C. (2015). Lighting levels for isolated intersections: Leading to safety improvements (Report No. MnDOT 2015-05). Center for Transportation Studies. http://www.cts.umn.edu/Publications/ResearchReports/reportdetail.html?id=2402

Technical and research reports by governmental agencies and other research institutions usually follow a different publication process than scholarly, peer-reviewed journals. However, they present original research and are often useful for research papers. Sometimes, researchers refer to these types of reports as gray literature , and white papers are a type of this literature. See APA 7, Section 10.4 for more information.

Reference list entires for TED Talks follow the usual guidelines for multimedia content found online. There are two common places to find TED talks online, with slightly different reference list entry formats for each.

TED Talk on the TED website

If you find the TED Talk on the TED website, follow the format for an online video on an organizational website:

Owusu-Kesse, K. (2020, June). 5 needs that any COVID-19 response should meet [Video]. TED Conferences. https://www.ted.com/talks/kwame_owusu_kesse_5_needs_that_any_covid_19_response_should_meet

The speaker is the author in the reference list entry if the video is posted on the TED website. For citations, use the speaker's surname.

TED Talk on YouTube

If you find the TED Talk on YouTube or another streaming video website, follow the usual format for streaming video sites:

TED. (2021, February 5). The shadow pandemic of domestic violence during COVID-19 | Kemi DaSilvalbru [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGdID_ICFII

TED is the author in the reference list entry if the video is posted on YouTube since it is the channel on which the video is posted. For citations, use TED as the author.

Walden University Course Catalog

To include the Walden course catalog in your reference list, use this format:

Walden University. (2020). 2019-2020 Walden University catalog . https://catalog.waldenu.edu/index.php

If you cite from a specific portion of the catalog in your paper, indicate the appropriate section and paragraph number in your text:

...which reflects the commitment to social change expressed in Walden University's mission statement (Walden University, 2020, Vision, Mission, and Goals section, para. 2).

And in the reference list:

Walden University. (2020). Vision, mission, and goals. In 2019-2020 Walden University catalog. https://catalog.waldenu.edu/content.php?catoid=172&navoid=59420&hl=vision&returnto=search

Vartan, S. (2018, January 30). Why vacations matter for your health . CNN. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/why-vacations-matter/index.html

For webpages on the open web, include the author, date, webpage title, organization/site name, and URL. (There is a slight variation for online versions of print newspapers or magazines. For those sources, follow the models in the previous sections of this page.)

American Federation of Teachers. (n.d.). Community schools . http://www.aft.org/issues/schoolreform/commschools/index.cfm

If there is no specified author, then use the organization’s name as the author. In such a case, there is no need to repeat the organization's name after the title.

In APA 7, active hyperlinks for DOIs and URLs should be used for documents meant for screen reading. Present these hyperlinks in blue and underlined text (the default formatting in Microsoft Word), although plain black text is also acceptable. Be consistent in your formatting choice for DOIs and URLs throughout your reference list.

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Resources in this libguide.

This guide covers general reference sources at Princeton University Library with a focus on general online reference resources and general print reference resources located in the Trustee Reading Room of Firestone Library. It also has information about types of reference works and how you might use each in your research. 

In addition to the general reference sources covered here there are many subject-specific reference resources. The best way to learn about what is available in your subject area is to visit the research guide for your discipline or get in touch with your subject librarian . 

General Reference Databases

These are large, multidisciplinary online reference resources and can be a good starting point for getting background information if you are new to a topic. Each database contains hundreds of subject-specific works and will search across those works when you enter your search terms. 

  • Gale Virtual Reference Library This link opens in a new window Contains many reference works on a large variety of topics.
  • Oxford Reference This link opens in a new window Full-text of hundreds of dictionaries and other reference works in the humanities and social sciences, published by Oxford University Press.
  • SAGE Reference Online This link opens in a new window Handbooks and encyclopedias in history, the sciences, and the social sciences.

Attribution Note

Many thanks to staff at the Auraria Library in Denver, Colo. for permission to use their descriptions of reference resources found in their reference research guide . 

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  • Last Updated: Apr 16, 2024 11:32 AM
  • URL: https://libguides.princeton.edu/reference

Introduction to Reference, Bibliography, and Citation

  • First Online: 19 December 2019

Cite this chapter

define general references in research

  • Abha Agrawal 3 &
  • Majid Rasouli 4  

1721 Accesses

Research and writing are integral parts of the professional work for researchers, academics, and biomedical professionals. Scientific manuscripts commonly include references to related information in literature. The inclusion of references in manuscripts substantiates arguments with evidence, as well as acknowledges the source of information being referred to. References may be cited from such a variety of sources as journals, books, conference proceedings, magazines, and newspapers, and the Internet. This chapter discusses the basic concepts related to the process of referencing as a foundation to the effective use of reference management software programs, such as EndNote.

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Agrawal, A., Rasouli, M. (2019). Introduction to Reference, Bibliography, and Citation. In: EndNote 1-2-3 Easy!. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-24889-5_1

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Reference Sources: Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, Handbooks, and More!: Types of Reference Materials

  • Types of Reference Materials
  • Subject Specific Reference Sources

Explanation

This page contains definitions of and examples of different types of reference sources including almanacs, atlases, bibliographies, biographies, chronologies, dictionaries, directories, encyclopedias, handbooks, and indexes.

Almanacs are not usually used for extensive research , but are good for looking up specific facts, statistics, tables and lists about people, places, events, countries, organizations, zip codes, and popular culture such as sports and entertainment. Generally, almanacs cover a broad period of time, while Yearbooks, which contain similar information, only cover a given year.

define general references in research

Atlases contain an organized group of pictorial or illustrated political, cultural, physical, road, and/or thematic maps. Atlases may be organized around a specific subject, theme, or geographic area. 

define general references in research

Bibliographies

Bibliographies compile comprehensive lists of resources that share one or more common attributes about a particular subject, person, geographical area, etc. Some bibliographies also briefly describe the resources that are listed. One should consult a bibliography when they want citations that will guide them to specific resources.

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Biographies

Biographies contain information about people, both living and deceased - they can contain brief summaries of data about individuals, contain lists of citations of resources about a person, or be full length books detailing the life of one particular person. Biographies may cover general important figures, or may be organized thematically/geographically, etc. One would use a biography to look up facts or detailed information about a person or group of people.

define general references in research

Chronologies / Timelines

Chronologies and timelines summarize the advancement of an event or happening by supplying brief milestones in the progression of the event. The summaries will be presented day-by-day, year-by-year, or by another chronological breakdown.

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Dictionaries

Standard dictionaries give an alphabetical list of words and their definitions, but there are several useful variations also classified as dictionaries. Thesauri contain synonyms and antonyms (opposites) but usually don't define the words.  There are also dialect and slang dictionaries, dictionaries of abbreviations and acronyms, dictionaries of quotations, and picture dictionaries. Dictionaries can be unabridged (general) or can be thematically organized in some way.

define general references in research

Directories

Directories contain an organized list of people and/or organizations, and help one to find information such as addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses, etc. for the organizations or people included within the scope of that directory.

  • Writers Directory by Gale Cengage Learning Staff (Editor) Publication Date: 2017-06-02 eBook

Encyclopedias

Encyclopedias contain full coverage of information about an area of knowledge. They can be general or can cover a specific subject, and contain alphabetically organized entries with varying detail. These are great starting points for fact-finding, getting background topic information, learning of key events and individuals, or starting a research project. Below is a major general encyclopedia.  See Best Practices on this guides Home page to pinpoint valuable subject-specific encyclopedias.

  • Britannica ACADEMIC This link opens in a new window Encyclopedia Britannica online includes topic overviews, biographies, word and concept definitions, a world atlas, historical timelines, quotations, illustrations, photos, videos, links to relevant articles and websites, primary sources, and the World Data Analyst.

Handbooks / Manuals

A handbook contains facts about a specific subject or instructions that can be used to accomplish something. A handbook can come in several forms, such as a manual for completing tasks, or a guidebook providing information about a subject, region, etc. (such as a travel guidebook). Handbooks are often designed for quick consultation and easy portability.

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Indexes are compilations on information, generally arranged either alphabetically or numerically, that indicate the location of related information either within or outside of the same resource.

define general references in research

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Citing Sources: What are citations and why should I use them?

What is a citation.

Citations are a way of giving credit when certain material in your work came from another source. It also gives your readers the information necessary to find that source again-- it provides an important roadmap to your research process. Whenever you use sources such as books, journals or websites in your research, you must give credit to the original author by citing the source. 

Why do researchers cite?

Scholarship is a conversation  and scholars use citations not only to  give credit  to original creators and thinkers, but also to  add strength and authority  to their own work.  By citing their sources, scholars are  placing their work in a specific context  to show where they “fit” within the larger conversation.  Citations are also a great way to  leave a trail  intended to help others who may want to explore the conversation or use the sources in their own work.

In short, citations

(1) give credit

(2) add strength and authority to your work

(3) place your work in a specific context

(4) leave a trail for other scholars

"Good citations should reveal your sources, not conceal them. They should honeslty reflect the research you conducted." (Lipson 4)

Lipson, Charles. "Why Cite?"  Cite Right: A Quick Guide to Citation Styles--MLA, APA, Chicago, the Sciences, Professions, and More . Chicago: U of Chicago, 2006. Print.

What does a citation look like?

Different subject disciplines call for citation information to be written in very specific order, capitalization, and punctuation. There are therefore many different style formats. Three popular citation formats are MLA Style (for humanities articles) and APA or Chicago (for social sciences articles).

MLA style (print journal article):  

Whisenant, Warren A. "How Women Have Fared as Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Since the Passage of Title IX." Sex Roles Vol. 49.3 (2003): 179-182.

APA style (print journal article):

Whisenant, W. A. (2003) How Women Have Fared as Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Since the Passage of Title IX. Sex Roles , 49 (3), 179-182.

Chicago style (print journal article):

Whisenant, Warren A. "How Women Have Fared as Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Since the Passage of Title IX." Sex Roles 49, no. 3 (2003): 179-182.

No matter which style you use, all citations require the same basic information:

  • Author or Creator
  • Container (e.g., Journal or magazine, website, edited book)
  • Date of creation or publication
  • Publisher 

You are most likely to have easy access to all of your citation information when you find it in the first place. Take note of this information up front, and it will be much easier to cite it effectively later.

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Reference Sources in the Social Sciences and Humanities

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Reference materials provide well-researched information—for example, facts, definitions, histories, overviews of a topic, statistics—on a large subject area (e.g., sociology or dance) or for a type of data (e.g., biographies or directories). They pack lots of information into one easy-to-find place, and support student research in a number of ways:

  • Quick access to simple, reliable, factual information in sources such as dictionaries, polls, and biographies.
  • General overviews and introductions to fields and terms you may not be familiar with in sources such as encyclopedias and topical guidebooks.
  • Referral to additional information sources that offer more detail or lead to journal articles and other kinds of materials, such as subject-specific indexes and encyclopedias.

Many reference works are available online and are accessible through links from the Library Catalog and from subject or course guides, but many valuable reference resources are still available only in print. Because print-only reference books are in high demand, they are kept in the separate, non-circulating Reference collection in most UCLA libraries.

To unlock the content of the Library's extensive reference collections, try searching the source below.

UCLA students, faculty, and staff can access these sites from off-campus using either the  UCLA VPN Client   or  Bruin Online Proxy Server . If you need help setting up your computer, contact the UCLA IT Support Center at  (310) 267-4357  or  [email protected]  . They answer the phone 24/7 and are very helpful.

NOTE:  All  campus wireless networks   ( eduroam, UCLA_WIFI  or  UCLA_WEB ) provide access to online subscription content. If you are using a Mac, you may need to use  Chrome  or  Firefox , not  Safari , to read some of the pdf material.

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Dictionaries and encyclopedias, e-reference collections, macquarie dictionary online, english dictionaries - open access, general reference titles.

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The Library subscribes to several e-reference collections, which contain numerous dictionaries, encyclopedias and other reference works in a wide range of subject areas.

Browse these collections for titles on your topic:

  • Credo Reference
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library Gale Virtual Reference Library is a database of encyclopedias, almanacs, and specialized reference sources for multidisciplinary research.
  • Oxford Reference Online Core Collection Oxford Reference Online consists of a wealth of facts, figures, definitions, and translations found in dictionary, language reference, and subject reference works published by Oxford University Press. Note only selected titles are included in the RMIT subscription.
  • SAGE Knowledge SAGE Knowledge is the premier social science eBook platform, where you will find an expansive range of SAGE eBook and eReference content.
  • Macquarie Dictionary Online The online version includes an up-to-date database of Australian English with annual updates of new words.

These are free online resources that don't require RMIT logins.  

  • Cambridge dictionary online This includes a general English dictionary, Grammar, bilingual dictionaries (Spanish, German, French, Indonesian) and semi-bilingual dictionaries (Chinese, Japanese, Italian and more)
  • Dictionary.com Free online dictionary. Thesaurus also available as well as a free mobile app. The Random House unabridged dictionary is the foundation of this resource.
  • Miriam-Webster dictionary online General English dictionary. Subsidiary of Encyclopedia Britannica
  • Australian dictionary of biography
  • Dictionary of world history
  • CIA world factbook
  • Encyclopedia of world biography
  • Grzimek's animal life encyclopedia
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  • The Encyclopedia of vampires and werewolves
  • The Oxford encyclopedia of women in world history
  • Who's who in the twentieth century

Use LibrarySearch to find more online dictionaries and encyclopedias.

Tip: Add the word ' dictionary'  or ' encyclopedia'  to your topic, for example: ' French dictionary'. You can then use 'Refine my Results' options to list titles by subject.

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Literature: Reference Works

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Table of Contents

Handbooks, dictionaries, and essay collections - general, handbooks, dictionaries, and guides - specific topics, other general reference works on the web.

The sources below either cover many different subjects, literature being one, or are not limited to a particular genre or time period.

  • Britannica Online Encyclopedia covering a wide variety of subjects.
  • Gale Literature Resource Center Encyclopedia and journal articles about writers from a variety of fields and time periods.
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library Specialized online encyclopedias covering a variety of topics
  • LION (LIterature ONline) Provides biographical essays and criticism on authors from all genres and time periods.
  • MLA Handbook Plus Online version of the citation style handbook published by the Modern Language Association.
  • Oxford English Dictionary Web version of the Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.) and the Additions Series. New entries and revisions are added quarterly.
  • Oxford Reference Online Reference sources in a single cross-searchable interface plus key titles from the acclaimed Oxford Companion series.
  • Scribner Writer Series Literary criticism and overviews of writers from around the world. Antiquity to the present.
  • Twayne’s Authors Literary criticism and in-depth introductions to writers from around the world, from antiquity to the present. Also includes essays on specific works.
  • American Women Writers, 1900-1945: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook Offers biographical information and critical reception of major works for women authors who published their most significant works in the first half of the twentieth century.
  • Bioethics and Medical Issues in Literature Essays that use literature to explore several scientific and medical issues.
  • A Companion to World Literature Covers major authors, texts, and topics from around the globe, from ancient times to the present.
  • Contemporary Novelists Essays on contemporary novelists from around the world.
  • Contemporary Poets Essays on contemporary poets from around the world.
  • Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism Provides overviews of particular kinds of literary theory.
  • Modern South Asian Literature in English Literature Covers Indian, Pakistani, and Sri Lankan writers.
  • Oxford Companion to the Book Edited by Michael F. Suarez and H. R. Woudhuysen. Covers the history of the book from antiquity to the present.
  • Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics 2012 Covers all aspects of poetry, including terminology and history. 2012 edition. Also contains link to the 1993 edition, The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics .
  • Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism Covers eight key subject areas including Literature, Architecture, Visual Arts, Music, Dance, Theatre, Film, and Intellectual Currents. Over one thousand articles, global in scope, with interdisciplinary content on the Modernist period.
  • Third World Women's Literatures: A Dictionary and Guide to Materials in English Essays on authors, works, and themes.
  • UXL Graphic Novelists Essays on major writers and artists.
  • Bibliography of Literary Theory, Criticism and Philology Lists over 130,000 items with a focus on English-speaking authors.
  • Biography.com Includes an online version of the Cambridge Biographical Encyclopedia (1994) containing about 20,000 short biographies.
  • Cambridge History of English and American Literature Includes all eighteen volumes of the classic literary encyclopedia.
  • Literary Dictionary (edited by Robert Clark, Emory Elliot and Janet Todd)
  • Pulitzer Prizes "Documenting 80 years of American intellectual and artistic excellence in journalism, letters, drama, and music."
  • Style/Usage Manuals Guide to citation styles from the MIT Libraries.

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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

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The purpose of the discussion section is to interpret and describe the significance of your findings in relation to what was already known about the research problem being investigated and to explain any new understanding or insights that emerged as a result of your research. The discussion will always connect to the introduction by way of the research questions or hypotheses you posed and the literature you reviewed, but the discussion does not simply repeat or rearrange the first parts of your paper; the discussion clearly explains how your study advanced the reader's understanding of the research problem from where you left them at the end of your review of prior research.

Annesley, Thomas M. “The Discussion Section: Your Closing Argument.” Clinical Chemistry 56 (November 2010): 1671-1674; Peacock, Matthew. “Communicative Moves in the Discussion Section of Research Articles.” System 30 (December 2002): 479-497.

Importance of a Good Discussion

The discussion section is often considered the most important part of your research paper because it:

  • Most effectively demonstrates your ability as a researcher to think critically about an issue, to develop creative solutions to problems based upon a logical synthesis of the findings, and to formulate a deeper, more profound understanding of the research problem under investigation;
  • Presents the underlying meaning of your research, notes possible implications in other areas of study, and explores possible improvements that can be made in order to further develop the concerns of your research;
  • Highlights the importance of your study and how it can contribute to understanding the research problem within the field of study;
  • Presents how the findings from your study revealed and helped fill gaps in the literature that had not been previously exposed or adequately described; and,
  • Engages the reader in thinking critically about issues based on an evidence-based interpretation of findings; it is not governed strictly by objective reporting of information.

Annesley Thomas M. “The Discussion Section: Your Closing Argument.” Clinical Chemistry 56 (November 2010): 1671-1674; Bitchener, John and Helen Basturkmen. “Perceptions of the Difficulties of Postgraduate L2 Thesis Students Writing the Discussion Section.” Journal of English for Academic Purposes 5 (January 2006): 4-18; Kretchmer, Paul. Fourteen Steps to Writing an Effective Discussion Section. San Francisco Edit, 2003-2008.

Structure and Writing Style

I.  General Rules

These are the general rules you should adopt when composing your discussion of the results :

  • Do not be verbose or repetitive; be concise and make your points clearly
  • Avoid the use of jargon or undefined technical language
  • Follow a logical stream of thought; in general, interpret and discuss the significance of your findings in the same sequence you described them in your results section [a notable exception is to begin by highlighting an unexpected result or a finding that can grab the reader's attention]
  • Use the present verb tense, especially for established facts; however, refer to specific works or prior studies in the past tense
  • If needed, use subheadings to help organize your discussion or to categorize your interpretations into themes

II.  The Content

The content of the discussion section of your paper most often includes :

  • Explanation of results : Comment on whether or not the results were expected for each set of findings; go into greater depth to explain findings that were unexpected or especially profound. If appropriate, note any unusual or unanticipated patterns or trends that emerged from your results and explain their meaning in relation to the research problem.
  • References to previous research : Either compare your results with the findings from other studies or use the studies to support a claim. This can include re-visiting key sources already cited in your literature review section, or, save them to cite later in the discussion section if they are more important to compare with your results instead of being a part of the general literature review of prior research used to provide context and background information. Note that you can make this decision to highlight specific studies after you have begun writing the discussion section.
  • Deduction : A claim for how the results can be applied more generally. For example, describing lessons learned, proposing recommendations that can help improve a situation, or highlighting best practices.
  • Hypothesis : A more general claim or possible conclusion arising from the results [which may be proved or disproved in subsequent research]. This can be framed as new research questions that emerged as a consequence of your analysis.

III.  Organization and Structure

Keep the following sequential points in mind as you organize and write the discussion section of your paper:

  • Think of your discussion as an inverted pyramid. Organize the discussion from the general to the specific, linking your findings to the literature, then to theory, then to practice [if appropriate].
  • Use the same key terms, narrative style, and verb tense [present] that you used when describing the research problem in your introduction.
  • Begin by briefly re-stating the research problem you were investigating and answer all of the research questions underpinning the problem that you posed in the introduction.
  • Describe the patterns, principles, and relationships shown by each major findings and place them in proper perspective. The sequence of this information is important; first state the answer, then the relevant results, then cite the work of others. If appropriate, refer the reader to a figure or table to help enhance the interpretation of the data [either within the text or as an appendix].
  • Regardless of where it's mentioned, a good discussion section includes analysis of any unexpected findings. This part of the discussion should begin with a description of the unanticipated finding, followed by a brief interpretation as to why you believe it appeared and, if necessary, its possible significance in relation to the overall study. If more than one unexpected finding emerged during the study, describe each of them in the order they appeared as you gathered or analyzed the data. As noted, the exception to discussing findings in the same order you described them in the results section would be to begin by highlighting the implications of a particularly unexpected or significant finding that emerged from the study, followed by a discussion of the remaining findings.
  • Before concluding the discussion, identify potential limitations and weaknesses if you do not plan to do so in the conclusion of the paper. Comment on their relative importance in relation to your overall interpretation of the results and, if necessary, note how they may affect the validity of your findings. Avoid using an apologetic tone; however, be honest and self-critical [e.g., in retrospect, had you included a particular question in a survey instrument, additional data could have been revealed].
  • The discussion section should end with a concise summary of the principal implications of the findings regardless of their significance. Give a brief explanation about why you believe the findings and conclusions of your study are important and how they support broader knowledge or understanding of the research problem. This can be followed by any recommendations for further research. However, do not offer recommendations which could have been easily addressed within the study. This would demonstrate to the reader that you have inadequately examined and interpreted the data.

IV.  Overall Objectives

The objectives of your discussion section should include the following: I.  Reiterate the Research Problem/State the Major Findings

Briefly reiterate the research problem or problems you are investigating and the methods you used to investigate them, then move quickly to describe the major findings of the study. You should write a direct, declarative, and succinct proclamation of the study results, usually in one paragraph.

II.  Explain the Meaning of the Findings and Why They are Important

No one has thought as long and hard about your study as you have. Systematically explain the underlying meaning of your findings and state why you believe they are significant. After reading the discussion section, you want the reader to think critically about the results and why they are important. You don’t want to force the reader to go through the paper multiple times to figure out what it all means. If applicable, begin this part of the section by repeating what you consider to be your most significant or unanticipated finding first, then systematically review each finding. Otherwise, follow the general order you reported the findings presented in the results section.

III.  Relate the Findings to Similar Studies

No study in the social sciences is so novel or possesses such a restricted focus that it has absolutely no relation to previously published research. The discussion section should relate your results to those found in other studies, particularly if questions raised from prior studies served as the motivation for your research. This is important because comparing and contrasting the findings of other studies helps to support the overall importance of your results and it highlights how and in what ways your study differs from other research about the topic. Note that any significant or unanticipated finding is often because there was no prior research to indicate the finding could occur. If there is prior research to indicate this, you need to explain why it was significant or unanticipated. IV.  Consider Alternative Explanations of the Findings

It is important to remember that the purpose of research in the social sciences is to discover and not to prove . When writing the discussion section, you should carefully consider all possible explanations for the study results, rather than just those that fit your hypothesis or prior assumptions and biases. This is especially important when describing the discovery of significant or unanticipated findings.

V.  Acknowledge the Study’s Limitations

It is far better for you to identify and acknowledge your study’s limitations than to have them pointed out by your professor! Note any unanswered questions or issues your study could not address and describe the generalizability of your results to other situations. If a limitation is applicable to the method chosen to gather information, then describe in detail the problems you encountered and why. VI.  Make Suggestions for Further Research

You may choose to conclude the discussion section by making suggestions for further research [as opposed to offering suggestions in the conclusion of your paper]. Although your study can offer important insights about the research problem, this is where you can address other questions related to the problem that remain unanswered or highlight hidden issues that were revealed as a result of conducting your research. You should frame your suggestions by linking the need for further research to the limitations of your study [e.g., in future studies, the survey instrument should include more questions that ask..."] or linking to critical issues revealed from the data that were not considered initially in your research.

NOTE: Besides the literature review section, the preponderance of references to sources is usually found in the discussion section . A few historical references may be helpful for perspective, but most of the references should be relatively recent and included to aid in the interpretation of your results, to support the significance of a finding, and/or to place a finding within a particular context. If a study that you cited does not support your findings, don't ignore it--clearly explain why your research findings differ from theirs.

V.  Problems to Avoid

  • Do not waste time restating your results . Should you need to remind the reader of a finding to be discussed, use "bridge sentences" that relate the result to the interpretation. An example would be: “In the case of determining available housing to single women with children in rural areas of Texas, the findings suggest that access to good schools is important...," then move on to further explaining this finding and its implications.
  • As noted, recommendations for further research can be included in either the discussion or conclusion of your paper, but do not repeat your recommendations in the both sections. Think about the overall narrative flow of your paper to determine where best to locate this information. However, if your findings raise a lot of new questions or issues, consider including suggestions for further research in the discussion section.
  • Do not introduce new results in the discussion section. Be wary of mistaking the reiteration of a specific finding for an interpretation because it may confuse the reader. The description of findings [results section] and the interpretation of their significance [discussion section] should be distinct parts of your paper. If you choose to combine the results section and the discussion section into a single narrative, you must be clear in how you report the information discovered and your own interpretation of each finding. This approach is not recommended if you lack experience writing college-level research papers.
  • Use of the first person pronoun is generally acceptable. Using first person singular pronouns can help emphasize a point or illustrate a contrasting finding. However, keep in mind that too much use of the first person can actually distract the reader from the main points [i.e., I know you're telling me this--just tell me!].

Analyzing vs. Summarizing. Department of English Writing Guide. George Mason University; Discussion. The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper. Department of Biology. Bates College; Hess, Dean R. "How to Write an Effective Discussion." Respiratory Care 49 (October 2004); Kretchmer, Paul. Fourteen Steps to Writing to Writing an Effective Discussion Section. San Francisco Edit, 2003-2008; The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Sauaia, A. et al. "The Anatomy of an Article: The Discussion Section: "How Does the Article I Read Today Change What I Will Recommend to my Patients Tomorrow?” The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery 74 (June 2013): 1599-1602; Research Limitations & Future Research . Lund Research Ltd., 2012; Summary: Using it Wisely. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Schafer, Mickey S. Writing the Discussion. Writing in Psychology course syllabus. University of Florida; Yellin, Linda L. A Sociology Writer's Guide . Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 2009.

Writing Tip

Don’t Over-Interpret the Results!

Interpretation is a subjective exercise. As such, you should always approach the selection and interpretation of your findings introspectively and to think critically about the possibility of judgmental biases unintentionally entering into discussions about the significance of your work. With this in mind, be careful that you do not read more into the findings than can be supported by the evidence you have gathered. Remember that the data are the data: nothing more, nothing less.

MacCoun, Robert J. "Biases in the Interpretation and Use of Research Results." Annual Review of Psychology 49 (February 1998): 259-287; Ward, Paulet al, editors. The Oxford Handbook of Expertise . Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2018.

Another Writing Tip

Don't Write Two Results Sections!

One of the most common mistakes that you can make when discussing the results of your study is to present a superficial interpretation of the findings that more or less re-states the results section of your paper. Obviously, you must refer to your results when discussing them, but focus on the interpretation of those results and their significance in relation to the research problem, not the data itself.

Azar, Beth. "Discussing Your Findings."  American Psychological Association gradPSYCH Magazine (January 2006).

Yet Another Writing Tip

Avoid Unwarranted Speculation!

The discussion section should remain focused on the findings of your study. For example, if the purpose of your research was to measure the impact of foreign aid on increasing access to education among disadvantaged children in Bangladesh, it would not be appropriate to speculate about how your findings might apply to populations in other countries without drawing from existing studies to support your claim or if analysis of other countries was not a part of your original research design. If you feel compelled to speculate, do so in the form of describing possible implications or explaining possible impacts. Be certain that you clearly identify your comments as speculation or as a suggestion for where further research is needed. Sometimes your professor will encourage you to expand your discussion of the results in this way, while others don’t care what your opinion is beyond your effort to interpret the data in relation to the research problem.

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Reference Sources

What is a reference source?

A reference source summarizes and synthesizes secondary sources. Typically, a reference source does not contain original research. These sources provide important background and contextual information on your subject.

Why should I use reference sources?

You should use this type of source to help narrow your research topic, find data to support your thesis, and identify keywords and main ideas to use as search terms.

What are some examples of reference sources?

Reference sources generally include bibliographies, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks.

  • Oxford Research Encyclopedias. American History. Substantive, peer-reviewed, and regularly updated, the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History combines the speed & flexibility of digital with the rigorous standards of academic publishing.
  • Oxford Research Encyclopedias. Latin American History. Substantive, peer-reviewed, and regularly updated, the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History combines the speed & flexibility of digital with the rigorous standards of academic publishing.
  • Gale in Context: World History Gale in Context: World History is an online experience for those seeking contextual information on hundreds of the most significant people, events and topics in World History.
  • Oxford Handbooks Online Oxford Handbooks Online is a collection of the best Handbooks across many different subject areas.
  • Cambridge Companions Online Provides introductions to major writers, artists, philosophers, topics and periods in the subject areas of literature, philosophy, classics, religion and cultural studies in a functional, cross searchable online environment.
  • American Bibliography of Slavic and East European Studies Provides information on East-Central Europe and the former Soviet Union. Sources indexed include journals, books, dissertations, online resources and selected government publications published in the U.S. and Canada.
  • Bibliographie de civilisation médiévale The Bibliographie de civilisation médiévale aims to provide a comprehensive, current bibliography of monographs worldwide and listings of miscellany volumes (conference proceedings, essay collections or Festschriften). It currently comprises 50,000 titles from 1958 to 2009, i.e. the whole of the relevant elements from the famous bibliography in the Cahiers de civilisation médiévale. Every reference has been fully classified by date, subject and location, and provides full bibliographical records. The disciplines to which the Bibliographie de civilisation médiévale is relevant include all aspects of history, language and literature, philosophy and theology, art history, archaeology, and so forth in the Western, Byzantine and Islamic world. The Bibliographie de civilisation médiévale is fully integrated with the International medieval bibliography: users can either search the bibliographical records of articles (IMB) and monographs (BCM) simultaneously, or select only one of the two bibliographies.
  • Bibliography of Asian Studies Bibliography of Asian Studies (BAS) is the most comprehensive Western-language database for research on East, Southeast and South Asia. It covers all subjects with special focus on the humanities and social sciences. All entries are searchable by author, title, year of publication, subject, country, keyword and ISSN.
  • International Medieval Bibliography An international index to medieval topics (400-1500) in literature, language, history, archaeology, art, music, theater, Arabic and Islamic studies, and religion and philosophy. IMB covers 4,500 journals and over 5,000 miscellany volumes in 30 languages. Coverage 1967-
  • Oxford Bibliographies High-level overviews of scholarship written by top names in the field get researchers and faculty up to speed quickly on topics beyond an area of expertise.
  • International Bibliography of the Social Sciences "IBSS is an essential online resource for social science and interdisciplinary research. IBSS includes over two million bibliographic references to journal articles and to books, reviews and selected chapters dating back to 1951. It is unique in its broad coverage of international material and incorporates over 100 languages and countries. Over 2,800 journals are regularly indexed and some 7,000 books are included each year. Abstracts are provided for half of all current journal articles and full text availability is continually increasing."
  • International African Bibliography Online The International African Bibliography Online (IABO) is a specialist bibliography of African Studies and contains 140,000 entries of the International African Bibliography published in the years 1971 to 2015 and about 4,000 new publications will be added per year. The IABO can be browsed by categories and offers detailed search options.

Reference sources--like dictionaries and subject encyclopedias, provide overviews of topics and descriptions of concepts and ideas. They can also provide definitions, statistics, and other details. You can use this type of source to help narrow your research topic, find data to support your thesis, and identify keywords and main ideas to use as search terms.

  • Credo Reference Online reference resources from numerous publishers. This reference resource can be searched by individual title, broad subject headings, cross-references, audio and images. Use its research mapper to search for terms and topics that are interconnected and displayed in (a) visual form. Examples of titles are: Bloomsbury Guide to Art, Bridgeman Art Library Archive, Columbia Encyclopedia, Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, Harvard Dictionary of Music, and the Concise Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral Science. The complete list of titles is available on the CREDO Reference site.
  • Oxford Reference Provides web access to more than 100 major Oxford University Press dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference works in the humanities, social sciences, foreign languages, science, technology and medicine, the performing arts, and religion. Works can be searched separately or across the entire databases. Includes over 1.5 million entries.
  • Gale eBooks Gale eBooks is a database of encyclopedias, almanacs, and specialized reference sources for multidisciplinary research.
  • Oxford English Dictionary (OED) A complete text of the Oxford English dictionary with quarterly updates, including revisions not available in any other form.
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Information

Inf 6120 - access to information.

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A reference book is often defined as "a book designed by the arrangement and treatment of its subject matter to be consulted for definite items of information rather than to be read consecutively," and a reference collection as a "collection of reference books and other materials in a library, useful for supplying authoritative information or identifying sources, kept together for convenience in providing information service, and generally not allowed to circulate." ( ALA Glossary… 1998 ) 

This page contains definitions of and examples of different types of reference sources including:.

Examples of reference books

Almanacs and Yearbooks

Bibliographies, biographies, chronologies and timelines, dictionaries and thesauri, directories, encyclopedias, handbooks and manuals.

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Almanacs are usually published annually.  Though they are not usually used for extensive research, they contain specific facts, statistics, tables and lists about people, places, events, countries, organizations, zip codes, and popular culture such as sports and entertainment. Generally, almanacs cover a broad period of time.   Yearbooks contain similar information, but cover just a given year.

Examples include:.

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Atlases contain an organized group of pictorial or illustrated political, cultural, physical, road, and/or thematic maps. Atlases may be organized around a specific subject, theme, or geographic area.

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Specialty Map Resource:

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Directories contain an organized list of people and/or organizations, and help one to find information such as addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses, etc. for the organizations or people included within the scope of that directory. 

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Indexes are compilations on information, generally arranged either alphabetically or numerically, that indicate the location of related information either within or outside of the same resource.

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Learn more about Indexes and Abstracts.

Chronologies and timelines summarize the advancement of an event or happening by supplying brief milestones in the progression of the event. the summaries will be presented day-by-day, year-by-year, or by another chronological breakdown. .

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 A gazetteer is a geographical dictionary that includes brief descriptive, geographical, historical, and/or statistical information on specific places. Occasionally, a gazetteer may focus on a specific subject area.

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Standard dictionaries give an alphabetical list of words and their definitions, but there are several useful variations also classified as dictionaries. Thesauri contain synonyms and antonyms (opposites) but usually don't define the words.  There are also dialect and slang dictionaries, dictionaries of abbreviations and acronyms, dictionaries of quotations, and picture dictionaries. Dictionaries can be unabridged (general) or can be thematically organized in some way.

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Encyclopedias contain full coverage of information about an area of knowledge. They can be general or can cover a specific subject, and contain alphabetically organized entries with varying detail. These are great starting points for fact-finding, getting background topic information, learning of key events and individuals, or starting a research project.

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Bibliographies compile comprehensive lists of resources that share one or more common attributes about a particular subject, person, geographical area, etc. Some bibliographies also briefly describe the resources that are listed. One should consult a bibliography when they want citations that will guide them to specific resources.

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Biographies contain information about people, both living and deceased - they can contain brief summaries of data about individuals, contain lists of citations of resources about a person, or be full length books detailing the life of one particular person. Biographies may cover general important figures, or may be organized thematically/geographically, etc. One would use a biography to look up facts or detailed information about a person or group of people. 

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A handbook contains facts about a specific subject or instructions that can be used to accomplish something. A handbook can come in several forms, such as a manual for completing tasks, or a guidebook providing information about a subject, region, etc. (such as a travel guidebook). Handbooks are often designed for quick consultation and easy portability. 

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Linguistics

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About this page

General reference material resources can help you:

  • get an overview of a topic;
  • define terms, theories, and persons in the field;
  • and provide you with further readings on each subject.

Using a reference resource in your research is especially useful at the beginning of a project, when it can help you focus your activities. Within the "Specialized Reference" tab, you'll find resources divided into subsections like applied, computational, historical, morphology, neurolinguistics, philosophy, phonetics, pragmatics, semantics, semiotics, sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology, and syntax.

General Works

Disclaimer: many print reference materials may be unavailable during the pandemic-related limitations on the library services.

  • The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics. Oxford: Pergamon, 2007- (Note: Also in print, Ref1 P29 .E48 1994)
  • International Encyclopedia of Linguistics. New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003-
  • The handbook of linguistics . Vol. 43. Wiley-Blackwell, 2003.
  • The handbook of English linguistics . Blackwell Pub., 2006.
  • Oxford University Press Linguistics , Oxford, ebook collection with titles in many areas of linguistics
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics , Oxford, 2008-
  • The World Atlas of Language Structures Online . Munich: Max Planck Digital Library, 2011.
  • International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences , Elsevier, 2006- 
  • Handbook of Psycholinguistics , Elsevier, 2006. 
  • Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics . London & New York: Routledge, 1996. Ref1 P29 .B982 1996
  • An Encyclopaedia of Language. London & New York: Routledge, 1990. Ref1 P106 .A46 1990 
  • The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. 3rd ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Ref1 P29 .C64 2010 
  • A Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics . London & New York: Routledge, 1993. Ref1 P152 .T7 1993
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Communication Resources: General Reference Sources

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Using Reference Books

Although you don't usually cite reference materials such as dictionaries and encyclopedias they can 

  • help you narrow and focus your topic
  • define terms you are unsure about
  • provide background information
  • offer important facts and figures
  • lead you to other books and articles on your topic

Dictionary   - This resource defines selected words and terms, confirms spelling, definition and pronunciation, explains how words are used, and helps to locate synonyms and antonyms.

Subject Dictionary  - These sources focus on the vocabulary of a subject or discipline. ( The Penguin dictionary of science ) 

Directory  - This source gives contact information such as names, addresses, and telephone numbers.

Encyclopedia (General)  - These sets provide summaries of information and ideas in a comprehensive manner. They are useful for providing facts and obtaining a broad survey of a topic. ( The encyclopedia Americana )

Subject Encyclopedia   - These sources contain articles on topics within a specific subject. ( The encyclopedia of twentieth-century fiction )

Some Popular Online Reference Collections

  • Gale in Context: Biography This link opens in a new window Articles on hundreds of thousands of individuals.
  • Credo Reference This link opens in a new window Reference works, tools, and tutorials.
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library This link opens in a new window Ebook reference content in a database format.
  • Oxford Reference This link opens in a new window Reliable and authoritative answers to research questions.

Dictionaries

define general references in research

Other Reference Books

define general references in research

Encyclopedias

define general references in research

Other Reference Materials

define general references in research

Background & History

define general references in research

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Online Reference Collection

General reference sources, reference collections.

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  • Merriam-Webster Unabridged This link opens in a new window An excellent dictionary of American English. Also includes the M-W collegiate dictionary & thesaurus as well as a medical dictionary.
  • Acronyms, Initialisms, and Abbreviations Dictionary Features definitions of a wide variety of acronyms, initialisms, abbreviations, and similar contractions, allowing users to quickly and easily translate terms into their full names or meanings.
  • American Heritage Abbreviations Dictionary Definitions of popular American abbreviations, including more recent technological abbreviations. Includes acronyms, blends, clippings, foreign words, initialisms, numericals, and truncations.
  • American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus Provides a wide range of synonyms organized in alphabetical order with clear definitions that orient the user to the relevant meaning of related words.
  • Oxford English Dictionary Complete text of the 2nd. ed. of the Oxford English dictionary with quarterly updates, including revisions not available in any other form.
  • Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia This link opens in a new window General encyclopedia containing over 25,000 entries. Included are images and brief biographies. more... less... Alternate Access Link

Use reference collections to search multiple reference sources at once.

  • ABC-CLIO E-Book Collection Access to e-books for the study of history and the social sciences.
  • Credo Reference This link opens in a new window Provides access to a collection of aggregated and integrated reference books from high-quality publishers.
  • Britannica Academic This link opens in a new window Access to: over 75,000 articles from the Encyclopædia Britannica; headlines from the New York Times, the BBC, the SBS Australian News Service, and full-text articles from more than 700 magazines and periodicals provided by EBSCO and Proquest; World data; Gateway to the classics; 166,000 Web sites selected by Britannica editors; over 27,000 images and maps, plus 3,300 animations, videos, and audio files; and world atlas.
  • Gale eBooks This link opens in a new window Gale eBooks, formerly Gale Virtual Reference Library, offers a collection of premier reference and handbooks that you can view and search online, covering a variety of subject areas.
  • Oxford Reference This link opens in a new window Oxford Reference Online Premium Collection brings together nearly 200 language and subject reference works in a single cross-searchable resource. Works in the collection include an expanding range of key titles in the acclaimed Oxford Companions series, the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, many English-language and bilingual dictionaries, as well as subject encyclopedias and dictionaries in a wide range of subject areas including: Art & Architecture, Biological Sciences, Classics, Computing, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Economics & Business, Food & Drink, History, Law, Literature, Maps, Medicine, Military History, Mythology & Folklore, Names & Places, Performing Arts, Physical Sciences & Mathematics, Politics & Social Sciences, Quotations, Religion & Philosophy, Science.
  • SAGE Knowledge This link opens in a new window A collection of books, encyclopedias and handbooks in the environmental and social sciences.
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IMAGES

  1. How to Properly Cite Sources in a Written Assignment

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  2. Roles of references in research papers

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  3. References in Research

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  4. Bibliography or List of References

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  6. ⭐ Research references examples. Types of References in Research Papers

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  1. What is Citation?

  2. Referencing Basics (Part 1b)

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COMMENTS

  1. References in Research

    References in Research. Definition: References in research are a list of sources that a researcher has consulted or cited while conducting their study. They are an essential component of any academic work, including research papers, theses, dissertations, and other scholarly publications. ... Here are some general guidelines for writing references:

  2. Citations, References and Bibliography in Research Papers [Beginner's

    The essential difference between citations and references is that citations lead a reader to the source of information, while references provide the reader with detailed information regarding that particular source. Bibliography in research papers: A bibliography in research paper is a list of sources that appears at the end of a research paper ...

  3. Citation Styles Guide

    Citation styles also differ in terms of how you format the reference list or bibliography entries themselves (e.g., capitalization, order of information, use of italics). And many style guides also provide guidance on more general issues like text formatting, punctuation, and numbers.

  4. General Reference

    The general reference collection comprises materials that serve one or more of the following purposes: factual information (e.g., dictionaries, atlases, statistical yearbooks, biographical dictionaries) overview of a topic (e.g., handbooks, encyclopedias) guides to in-depth research on a topic (e.g., bibliographies, indices) ...

  5. Overview

    Citing a source means that you show, within the body of your text, that you took words, ideas, figures, images, etc. from another place. Citations are a short way to uniquely identify a published work (e.g. book, article, chapter, web site). They are found in bibliographies and reference lists and are also collected in article and book databases.

  6. Academic Guides: Reference List: Common Reference List Examples

    The name of the entry goes in the title position, followed by "In" and the italicized name of the reference work (e.g., Merriam-Webster.com dictionary, APA dictionary of psychology). In this instance, APA 7 recommends including a retrieval date as well for this online source since the contents of the page change over time.

  7. Research Guides: General Reference at Princeton University Library

    This guide covers general reference sources at Princeton University Library with a focus on general online reference resources and general print reference resources located in the Trustee Reading Room of Firestone Library. It also has information about types of reference works and how you might use each in your research. In addition to the ...

  8. Reference Sources

    Reference sources are generally the place to begin your research, especially when you're starting out with an unfamiliar field. But they're also where you return when you need to look up formulas, facts, definitions, and other standard details; they tend to pack a lot of information into simple, easy-to-use packages. Physical Media

  9. Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

    A citation is a formal reference to a published or unpublished source that you consulted and obtained information from while writing your research paper. It refers to a source of information that supports a factual statement, proposition, argument, or assertion or any quoted text obtained from a book, article, web site, or any other type of ...

  10. References: How to Cite and List Correctly

    If a single reference points to more than one source, list the source numbers in a series, for example, as 1,3,6. Use a dash to separate more than two numbers as 1−3, if these form a sequence. However, use a comma to separate two numbers as 1,3 (without space in between), if these do not form a sequence.

  11. Introduction to Reference, Bibliography, and Citation

    Reference list / bibliography: A numbered or alphabetical list of references and other resources at the end of the manuscript (endnotes) or at the bottom of each page (footnotes). In-text citation: Link to the reference in the body of manuscript. Referencing styles: The author-date style (such as the Harvard style) and the footnote/endnote ...

  12. Research Guides: Reference Sources: Encyclopedias, Dictionaries

    They can be general or can cover a specific subject, and contain alphabetically organized entries with varying detail. These are great starting points for fact-finding, getting background topic information, learning of key events and individuals, or starting a research project. Below is a major general encyclopedia.

  13. Citing Sources: What are citations and why should I use them?

    Scholarship is a conversation and scholars use citations not only to give credit to original creators and thinkers, but also to add strength and authority to their own work.By citing their sources, scholars are placing their work in a specific context to show where they "fit" within the larger conversation.Citations are also a great way to leave a trail intended to help others who may want ...

  14. Research Guides: Reference Sources in the Social Sciences and

    What Is a Reference Source? Reference materials provide well-researched information—for example, facts, definitions, histories, overviews of a topic, statistics—on a large subject area (e.g., sociology or dance) or for a type of data (e.g., biographies or directories). They pack lots of information into one easy-to-find place, and support ...

  15. General Reference & Research Help

    Jan 19, 2023 8470. Organizing Research for Arts and Humanities Papers and Theses. May 7, 2024 116454. Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Assignments. May 20, 2024 685050. Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper. Jul 25, 2023 346. Patents and Trademarks. Jan 11, 2024 4633.

  16. All guides: Dictionaries and Encyclopedias: General reference

    Gale Virtual Reference Library is a database of encyclopedias, almanacs, and specialized reference sources for multidisciplinary research. Oxford Reference Online consists of a wealth of facts, figures, definitions, and translations found in dictionary, language reference, and subject reference works published by Oxford University Press.

  17. Reference Works

    Covers eight key subject areas including Literature, Architecture, Visual Arts, Music, Dance, Theatre, Film, and Intellectual Currents. Over one thousand articles, global in scope, with interdisciplinary content on the Modernist period. Third World Women's Literatures: A Dictionary and Guide to Materials in English.

  18. Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

    References to previous research: Either compare your results with the findings from other studies or use the studies to support a claim. This can include re-visiting key sources already cited in your literature review section, or, save them to cite later in the discussion section if they are more important to compare with your results instead ...

  19. Reference Sources

    Provides web access to more than 100 major Oxford University Press dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference works in the humanities, social sciences, foreign languages, science, technology and medicine, the performing arts, and religion. Works can be searched separately or across the entire databases. Includes over 1.5 million entries.

  20. Types of Sources Explained

    Revised on May 31, 2023. Throughout the research process, you'll likely use various types of sources. The source types commonly used in academic writing include: Academic journals. Books. Websites. Newspapers. Encyclopedias. The type of source you look for will depend on the stage you are at in the writing process.

  21. Types of Reference Materials

    Dictionary of English Rhyming Slangs by Antonio Lillo; Terry Victor This reference work addresses a long-standing need in the study of a class of lexis which attracts attention from scholars and the general public alike. Based on years of extensive research, the dictionary presents a satisfying collection of the varieties of rhyming slang found ...

  22. Research Guides: Linguistics: General Reference Materials

    General reference material resources can help you: get an overview of a topic; define terms, theories, and persons in the field; and provide you with further readings on each subject. Using a reference resource in your research is especially useful at the beginning of a project, when it can help you focus your activities.

  23. General Reference Sources

    Dictionary - This resource defines selected words and terms, confirms spelling, definition and pronunciation, explains how words are used, and helps to locate synonyms and antonyms.. Subject Dictionary - These sources focus on the vocabulary of a subject or discipline.(The Penguin dictionary of science) Directory - This source gives contact information such as names, addresses, and telephone ...

  24. General Reference Resources

    Also includes the M-W collegiate dictionary & thesaurus as well as a medical dictionary. Acronyms, Initialisms, and Abbreviations Dictionary Features definitions of a wide variety of acronyms, initialisms, abbreviations, and similar contractions, allowing users to quickly and easily translate terms into their full names or meanings.