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General referencing guidance for University of Exeter students
Referencing Guidance
Explore each tab on this page before selecting your College to find out which style(s) are in use in your department.

Explore each tab to learn the basics of referencing

This guide brings together all the key information on referencing and has links to information about all the referencing styles used at the University.  

You’ll need to know what referencing style your department is using. Your lecturer may have already told you this or it may be in your course handbook. If you’re not sure you can check your Faculty and Programme information from the menu to the left of this page. 

If you are already familiar with how to reference and how to incorporate references into your writing through paraphrasing and quoting, you might want to go straight to the Referencing Styles page. Here you can find your specific referencing style. 

*The University has produced its own guidance for styles not covered by Cite them right. Visit the Referencing styles page for more information. 

You will need to log in to Cite them right using your university email and password. 


Watch the video below for an introduction to making the most of university referencing guidance

Complete the Cite Them Right Tutorial to learn the principles of referencing.

  • Once you launch the tutorial you can choose your referencing style in order to tailor the tutorial guidance and questions.

  • After you have finished exploring the various topics, you can choose to take an assessment to test and document your knowledge.


When writing at university you will use information from a range of different sources. Your tutors will direct you to some but others you will have to find for yourself. You need to select these sources carefully and acknowledge them in your work by providing in-text citations and a reference list, or in some disciplines, footnotes and a bibliography.

You need to evaluate your sources to assess their reliability, authority and validity before you decide to use them. As a general rule, you should not refer to sources such as book reviews, Wikipedia or lecture notes in your work. Do not use or refer to essays that you have found online as these may come from ‘essay mills’ and are therefore not reliable sources. For further guidance on evaluating sources, take a look at the Evaluating Sources LibGuide Tutorial.

It is good practice to avoid secondary referencing 

Watch a video on secondary referencing

Imagine you are reading a blog post from 2021 called ‘Creating a Forest Food Garden: Higher Education that is disruptive by Design’, written by Perpetua Kirby, John Parry and Daphne Lambert.  

It is located on the British Educational Research Association (BERA) website. You want to include the following information from the blog in your assignment. How would you reference this? 

Paradoxically, this requires a slowing down to attend to feelings and perspectives as a means to identify what to transform together in response to the urgency of the environmental crisis (Kirby & Webb, 2021).  

  • It is good practice in this situation to find the article written by Kirby and Webb (the primary source).  

  • You can then read it directly and paraphrase the point they are making. This means you can also include their article as an in-text citation and in your reference list in the normal way. 

  • It is not accurate to paraphrase or quote the highlighted sentence and cite it as being the words of Kirby and Webb when you haven’t read their article.  

  • The highlighted sentence is actually an interpretation of their words by the authors of the blog (which we would refer to as the secondary source). 

How to include a secondary reference if you need to 

If you are unable to find a primary source to check the information yourself, you can include what is called a secondary reference, which is fully transparent about where the information came from.  

Secondary references should be kept to a minimum in your assignment. 


Check your specific referencing style for how to format a secondary reference, the example below uses APA referencing style: 


In-text citation for the above example 

Kirby and Webb (2021, as cited in Kirby et al., 2021) suggest that …  



… (Kirby & Webb, 2021, as cited in Kirby et al., 2021) 


Your reference list would just include the Kirby et al. blog, as this is the source you have actually read. 

You can learn more about plagarism and how to avoid it here.

It is important that you are aware of how to use generative AI tools such as ChatGPT during your studies in an appropriate and transparent way. Please follow our current guidance on referencing and acknowledging use of AI.

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