English: skills for learning
English: skills for learning

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

English: skills for learning

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)
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


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.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371