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Compact Oxford English Dictionary for Students


It's important when studying and writing that you use books and other texts to support your arguments and that you record these accurately and in a way that follows an accepted system.

  • References record the fact that you've used another person's words or ideas. Make sure that you reference all points taken from other authors, whether you quote them directly or put them in your own words.
  • Bibliographies list the texts and other sources that you consulted for a piece of work.
  • As well as supporting your ideas, both references and bibliographies allow your reader to identify the exact sources of what you've written: if you don't do this it is bad academic practice and you could be accused of plagiarism.

    There are a number of accepted referencing systems, some of which are more suitable for particular subjects than others. Check with your tutor as to which one is preferred or required for your subject or course.

    This section gives you the main points of two different systems:

  • Footnote/endnote
  • Vancouver
  • You'll find information on the author-date system in the centre section of the dictionary, as well as guidelines on note-taking and on referencing websites and electronic sources. There's also more detailed information in New Hart's Rules (Oxford University Press, 2005).

    Footnote/endnote system

    There are several different versions of this system: here are the main features of the most traditional version.


    When you quote from a source or use an author's ideas in a piece of work, insert a small number in your text, written above the line (called a superior or superscript number):

    References in text

      For years, most textbooks referred to the five stages of economic integration as defined by Balassa.2

      As Rosenblatt notes, one of the biggest successes of the 1960s was transformed into an albatross hanging from the neck of an embattled Community.3

    This number acts as a cue to direct your reader to a numbered note giving your source. You can put this note either at the foot of the page to which it relates (a footnote) or in a single numbered sequence at the end of your coursework (endnotes). Whether you use footnotes or endnotes may depend on the established style of your subject or college.


      2. Bela Balassa, The Theory of Economic Integration (London, 1961): Allen and Unwin.

      3. Julius Rosenblatt et al, The Common Agricultural Policy of the European Community, International Monetary Fund, occasional paper 62 (1988).

    The footnote or endnote should contain details of your cited source. The amount of information you give can vary, but your first mention of a source should include full bibliographic details:

    • author's name
    • title of the text
    • place of publication
    • publication date

    You'll see from the Bibliographies section that this is the same information that will appear in your bibliography, but in a footnote or endnote the author's name or initial comes first, rather than their surname.

    Other points

    • If you refer to the same text again in a later part of your piece of work, you can cite the source in a shorter form, typically the author's surname and a shortened title of the work, with a page number reference if applicable:

      First reference
        5. R. J. Faith, The English Peasantry and the Growth of Lordship (Leicester, 1997).

      Subsequent reference
        30. Faith, English Peasantry, 49-50.
    • If you refer to the same text in consecutive numbered footnotes or endnotes there's no need to repeat the full bibliographic details. Instead, you can use the word ibid. (an abbreviation of Latin ibidem meaning 'in the same place'), with a page number reference if necessary:

        6. R. J. Faith, The English Peasantry and the Growth of Lordship (Leicester, 1997).

        7. Ibid. 103-5.

        8. Ibid. 75, 279.


    Always include a Bibliography section listing your sources as well as footnotes or endnotes: if you've used endnotes rather than footnotes, then the bibliography should follow these.

    The Bibliography section should consist of an alphabetical list of all the texts or other sources that you've used for a piece of coursework and mentioned in your footnotes or endnotes. When citing your sources, be consistent, accurate, and provide enough key material for readers to be able to identify the work and find it in a library or on the Internet.

    Styles of punctuation may vary, so it's best to check your college style guide or ask your tutor before you begin - the most important thing to remember is be consistent within the same bibliography.

    Citing from a book

    Each citation should usually include this information, ordered as follows:

    • author (surname first)
    • title (in italics or underlined)
    • place of publication
    • publisher (you don't always need to give this information, but if you include it for one reference, be consistent and include it for them all)
    • date of publication

    Citation from book

      Faith, R. J., The English Peasantry and the Growth of Lordship (Leicester, 1997).

    Citing from a journal or other article

    Each citation from a journal should include these details, ordered as follows:

    • author (surname first)
    • article title (in single quotes)
    • journal title (in italics or underlined)
    • journal volume number
    • date journal was published (in brackets)
    • page range of the article

    Citation from journal

      Schutte, Anne Jacobson, 'Irene di Spilimbergo: 'The Image of a Creative Woman in Late Renaissance Italy', Renaissance Quarterly, 44 (1991), 42-61.

    If you're citing an article in a magazine or newspaper, give the date instead of a volume number:

      Lee, Alan, 'England Haunted by Familiar Failings', The Times (23 June 1995).

    Other points

  • If you give a publisher's name, put it after the place of publication:
    • Faith, R. J., The English Peasantry and the Growth of Lordship (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1997).
  • If you're referring to an edition of a book other than the first one, the edition number comes before the place of publication:
    • Denniston, J. D., The Greek Particles (2nd edn, Oxford, 1954).
  • If a book or article has more than one author, give these in the order they appear on the title page or the top of the article:
    • King, Roy D., and Morgan, Rodney, A Taste of Prison (London, 1976).
  • If you're citing a chapter in a book that contains contributions from a number of authors:
    • Ashworth, A., 'Belief, Intent, and Criminal Liability', in J. Eekelaar and J. Bell, eds., Oxford Essays in Jurisprudence, 3rd ser. (1987), 6-25.
  • If you're referring to a work published by an organization, treat the organization as the author:
    • Amnesty International, Prisoners Without a Voice: Asylum Seekers in the United Kingdom (London, 1995).

    Vancouver system

    Some scientific subjects use the Vancouver or author-number system. Like the author-date system described in the dictionary, this uses brief references in the text as pointers to a full list of citations (called a Reference section rather than a Bibliography).

    There are different versions of the Vancouver system: always check with your tutor or college style guide as to which one you should follow and be consistent - don't mix different versions in the same piece of work.

    Here are some broad guidelines.

    Version 1

    In the Vancouver system, you give a number to each work that you cite, the first work cited being number 1, and so on. The reference in the text provides the author's name and then the number of the work, either as a numeral above the line (a superscript number) or in brackets:

    Reference in text

      It is also being used to relieve phantom limb pain, menstrual cramps, and other types of chronic pain, including migraine (Grinspoon and Bakalar 1).

    If referring to a work that you've cited before, use the same number each time (this means that the number 1, for example, might appear six times within your piece of work).

    The Reference section, like a bibliography, comes at the end of your piece of work. It should consist of a numbered list of the sources you've cited. Each reference should include full bibliographical details, as follows:

    • author's name (surname first)
    • title of text (in italics or underlined)
    • place of publication
    • publisher
    • date of publication

    Reference section

      1. Grinspoon L., Bakalar J. B. Marijuana: The Forbidden Medicine. London: Yale University Press; 1993.

      2. Pervin, L. A.: The Science of Personality, 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2002

    There are other ways of giving this information: check with your tutor or a college style guide as to which format to use for your course or subject.

    Version 2

    This is similar to version one, but in this version the reference in the text just consists of a number, either superscript or in brackets, without the author's name:

    Reference in text

      Issues of risk, choice, and chance are central to the controversy over the MMR vaccine that erupted in the UK in 1998 and has continued into the new millennium. 3

    Reference section

      3. Fitzpatrick M. MMR and Autism: What Parents Need to Know. London: Routledge, 2004.

    Reference in text

      The inter-individual variability in VO 2 measured at a given speed and rate can be as high as 15%. [18]

    Reference section

      18. Nieman, D. C. Exercise Testing and Prescription, 5th edn. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003; 90.

    Check with your tutor or a college style guide as to which style to use for your course or subject and be consistent: don't give references with superscript numbers as well as references with bracketed numbers in the same piece of work.

    The reference section is compiled as in version 1 above.

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