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English: skills for learning
English: skills for learning

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7.1 Referencing in everyday life

Referencing is not simply an academic convention: people often acknowledge their sources when they report information. For example, when I reminded my son to take the umbrella this morning, I also said that I had listened to the BBC weather report, which forecast heavy showers.

If you read newspapers, listen to the radio or watch the news on TV, you will know that journalists regularly report information they have gathered from their sources and normally acknowledge these sources. They do this to justify and add authority to the points they make and to allow readers to locate their sources should they wish to find out more.

Activity 13

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

Read the extract below in which Guardian journalist Andrew Sparrow uses information from his sources to discuss child poverty in the UK. Identify the ways in which he acknowledges his sources and note them in the box before comparing your answer with mine.

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission said the absolute child poverty goal was ‘simply unattainable’ and that this was on course to be the first decade since records began in 1961 not to see a fall in absolute child poverty.[…]

Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, argues that addressing poverty by just increasing benefits is flawed and the root causes must be addressed by getting more parents into jobs. But the commission says ‘ending poverty mainly through the labour market does not look remotely realistic by 2020’. In too many cases it simply moves children from low income workless households to low income working households.

(Sparrow, 2014)
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Andrew Sparrow acknowledges both the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission and Iain Duncan Smith. He explains the current situation by reporting the Commission’s findings through a quotation and a paraphrase. He goes on to discuss a possible strategy by summarising the view expressed by the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith. He then reports the exact words used by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission. Sparrow finishes by paraphrasing a point made by the Commission.


As you can see, journalists use their sources of information all the time. They sometimes simply report this information, but they often compare and contrast it or use it to make a specific point. They normally acknowledge their sources or inform readers of serious reasons why this cannot be done. The acknowledgement in this case would allow interested readers to look for the Commission’s report and read it in full. Referencing in newspapers, however, is not as precise as the referencing required in university assignments. For example, in this extract there is no date of publication.