Learning to change
Learning to change

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2.6.1 Referencing

Referencing is a good way to illustrate this similarity. You will have noticed that when the course refers to someone, the name and some other details (often a year and a page number) are given. An example in this section would be: Allen (2001, p. 24). Here, the year (2001) and a page number are provided because reference was being made to a particular aspect of this book. If the discussion had been about the book in general it would have been fine just to give the year. If you look at the list of references at the end of this section you will find Allen given in a list in alphabetical order. This time the name appears with some more details (his initial, the title of his book, where it was published and the publisher).

This is a formal academic reference (it is actually using the Harvard system of referencing) – so it is another academic skill. It is quite an important academic skill. It shows that you acknowledge where information and ideas have come from and that you are not trying to pass them off as your own.

The connection with what is done on an everyday basis becomes clear when you think about why referencing is used. If we are using evidence, we want to show people that it is from a trustworthy or respected source. From a very early age we judge how much weight to put on evidence depending on the source it has come from. For example, if a child comes home and tells a parent that their school is shortly to be merged with another, the parent would probably want to know where the information came from. If the child says that another child told them in the playground, their information would be taken less seriously than if they had been told by the head teacher and had a letter from the school too. In the same way you might be inclined to believe information from certain sources. Suppose your neighbour told you that they knew it was going to rain because a joint in their little toe ached. However, the BBC weather forecast is for glorious sunshine. Which source would you believe?

All academic referencing does is to use a slightly formalised way of showing that the evidence presented can be relied on. However, when you use it in your written work it not only shows that you know how to present academic references, it also suggests that your written work demonstrates the quality of honesty.

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