How to Format and Reference Properly

[See also: How to write a research project. How to write the background, theory, methods, analysis and discussion sections. How to write the introduction and conclusion. How to review the literature, how to structure a research paper, and how to finish on time. Part of the Craft of Research series. Full program here.]

Many people see formatting and referencing as a chore and approach it as an afterthought. Surely, they think, the important thing is the content, not the citation style, or the font size, or the line spacing. But all of these things should be approached in the spirit of being kind to your reader. A neat, orderly text, with conventional, informative references is much easier to read and interpret than a text that insists on some “deeper” meaning. It is well worth it to spend some time making your text presentable.

Consider the issue of choosing a font that is easy on the eyes. Some examiners insist on a particular font and they may have good reasons for this. But if it’s a decision that has been left to you, remember that there’s a difference between a font that looks good and one that reads well. Put yourself in your reader’s shoes. Sit down with your text and read it through, slowly and carefully. How does the visual impression make you feel? Could a change in the font or spacing make it a more pleasurable experience? It’s worth thinking about.

The same goes for your references. Some of these practices aren’t merely recommendations, of course; they are formal academic requirements and you can get into trouble if you don’t observe them. But try not to think of them only as legalistic requirements. Try them out. Imagine yourself as a reader who would like to find your source. Have you made it as easy as possible? Are your claims sourced, not just to avoid charges of plagiarism, but to give your reader access to more information if they desire it? Are you giving your reader a fair opportunity to check your claims against their basis?

Most of the referencing guidelines you are asked to use simply force you to be helpful in this way. It’s a good idea to think of them in this way. Giving your reader a reference they understand how to use, is a way of indicating that you are part of the same research community, part of the same conversation. So think of it as a serious component of your style. After all, it is called a “style guide”!

At the beginning of the series, we showed you sample paragraph. It includes a wide variety of references as examples of correct APA citation style.

See also: “The Two-Dimensional Page”, “The Finishing Touches”, “What thou lovest well remains, the rest is dross…”

Reference Management Support for CBS students

There are a number of guides on the Library’s website that you may find useful.

Also, please consult the CBS Library calendar for the next opportunity for online help with your specific referencing problems.

Illustrations and Copyright

If you are planning to use images or vectors in your paper, please make sure that the images are cleared for use and that you do not inadvertently infringe on somebody else’s copyrights.

The best way to stay clear of any intellectual property right violations is to use one of the dedicated online databases of free and cleared images, such as PixabayFreepik, Stockio, and Vecteezy. You might also want to try Pexels and Unsplash.

Most of the databases operate on a Creative Commons license that dictates exactly how the authors want you to use their contents. This means that in some cases you can just grab an image and lift it into your paper without further ado, whereas in in other cases you need to include a citation.

If in doubt, please do not hesitate to reach out.