And I quote… academic reference styles

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Academic reference styles

One particular element of academic proofreading is checking the style, layout and consistency of references. There are many different styles of referencing, both in-text, footnotes and for reference lists and bibliographies. The main styles I work with are Harvard, APA and Oscola. Everyone has their favourite and I know of a few editors who hate the APA style because of the proliferation of full stops. I have to admit that I have grown to like the legal referencing style Oscola although I wasn’t very keen on it initially.

Why reference?

All academic research and writing should be supported by references, correctly cited, to credit the sources used in the study. This avoids issues of plagiarism and enables the original authors or researchers’ work to be identified. The use of a particular referencing style gives consistency to the document. The various styles fall into two camps: in-text referencing, and footnotes or endnotes. In theses, dissertations and longer works the references are also detailed at the end of the work in a reference list or bibliography.

How many reference styles?

The predominant style in UK universities seems to be Harvard, although some universities have their own modifications. If a client has no particular preference for style then I will generally use this as a default except for legal proofreading. My research threw up twelve different styles, listed below, but I’m sure there are more. Leave me a comment if you are using a different style, I’d be interested to know how many there are.

APA — American Psychological Association
OSCOLA — UK legal referencing style format; footnote style
Harvard — similar to APA and favoured in UK and Australia
MLA — Modern Language Association
Vancouver — Used mainly in the medical and scientific fields
Chicago — Chicago Manual of Style
Turabian — Developed by Kate Turabian for University of Chicago, first published in 1937
MHRA  — Modern Humanities Research Association
IEEE — Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers
Oxford — New Hart’s Rules; I use this as a general style guide for all writing
ASA — American Sociological Society
Bluebook — US legal referencing style

Here are some useful links to the three main referencing styles that I use:

This page contains a link to the free OSCOLA pdf
• The American Psychological Association otherwise known as APA
• This is a good guide to Harvard from Anglia Ruskin University downloadable under creative commons licence

Finally – can you identify the reference styles here?

Here are three examples of the same book title in each of these styles – can you identify the referencing style? Which one do you prefer?

Wilson S and Kenny P, The Law Student’s Handbook (2nd edn, OUP 2010)

Wilson, S. & Kenny, P. (2010). The law student’s handbook. (2nd ed.). Oxford: OUP.

Wilson, S. and Kenny, P., 2010. The Law Student’s Handbook. 2nd ed. Oxford: OUP.

Oscola reference guide
Academic referencing
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