This module describes the formatting requirements for the reference section.
Your manuscript must include a single, unified reference section which includes all works cited in the text. The format for this section should follow your department approved style guide, which is noted in the Thesis Manual. However, for any style issues that conflict with the Thesis Manual, please follow the Thesis Manual format requirements instead of your style guide. Thesis and Dissertation Services will review the references for face-consistency; it will be your and your committee’s responsibility to ensure you appropriately follow your style guide.
First, make sure that you have used the same terminology for the major headings as is used in your style guide. For example – the word – References or Literature Cited is common.
Also, regardless of your style guide, Thesis and Dissertation Services requires a minimum of one double space between each reference entry. You may elect to double space or single space within each entry.
For ease of reading, we suggest you left align this section, regardless of the justification style used in the text.
Reference List Styles
Generally, there are two styles of reference lists – either alphabetical or numerical. We will discuss each in more detail in just a moment. Then we will look specifically at the format within each referenced item.
In alphabetically listed reference sections, be sure all entries are in alphabetical order by author’s last name. Also, be consistent with the ordering of publications by the same author. For ordering of multiple publication entries by the same author (single or with others), follow your style guide and be sure you are consistent throughout the reference section. For example, some style guides indicate that multiple publication entries be placed in chronological order by publication date – either earliest to latest or latest to earliest
Numerical references may be numbered by placement in the text or alphabetically, depending on your style guide.
- First, we will look at an example where numerical references are ordered dependent on placement in text. In this style, the first citation in the text is numbered “1” in the reference section the second is numbered “2” and so on. For references ordered numerically in text, Thesis and Dissertation Services will check to ensure that all first mentions occur in order.
- Next is an example where numerical references are ordered alphabetically. In the reference section; the list is ordered alphabetically and then numbered in order of appearance. In this style, text citations may appear in any order. The number merely simplifies citing references in the text.
Text Citation Styles
Every reference in the list of references must have a matching text citation and vice versa. There are three basic text citation styles. You should follow the style used by your style guide.
- Author/year style
- Reference number
- Superscripted reference number
Let’s look at an example for each one.
- Author/year. In the first example, you can see that the author and year are included in the text. Parentheses may be placed around the author/year or sometimes just the year.
- Reference number. In the second style, a reference number only is placed in the text, usually in brackets.
- Superscripted reference number. In the third style, a superscripted reference number is placed in the text following the cited material, generally with no punctuation around it, though commas may be placed between reference numbers.
Format Guidelines for Reference List
The type of information provided, the style used, and the ordering of information within the reference is determined by your style guide. Style guides vary widely in practice, so pay close attention. Using a reference citation manager such as Endnote or RefWorks can also enhance consistency.
For each reference, be consistent with the use of punctuation (commas, quotations, periods) and typeface. Provide complete retrieval information for reference material. Check each type of reference (for example, journal entries, book entries, web entries, etc.) to ensure that these match the style of your style guide.
Check closely the ordering of information within the reference to ensure it matches your style guide and to ensure consistency throughout the reference list for each type of reference item (book, journal article, etc).
There are numerous ways to format references. Here we have provided a couple of examples:
In the first example – the author listing is provided first followed by the year, then the article title, the journal name, the volume and/or issue number and the page range.
In the second example – the year of publication is provided toward the end of the reference. In addition, a full page range is not provided but only the first page in the page range.
Also notice the differences between the use of bold, italics, quotations marks, and capitalization.
Check closely for matching between the style guide and your reference list in the use of bolding, italics, quotations, and parentheses.
Inconsistent capitalization is a commonly encountered error in the list of references. You may wish to take a single reference type (for example journal citations) and go through the complete list of references for that item to check for consistency in article titles, then book titles, etc.
In the first example, article titles are placed in sentence case, while the journal name and volume number are in italics.
In the second example, the article title is also in sentence case, but enclosed within quotation marks. The journal name is abbreviated and not italicized, while the volume number is in bold.
Finally, initials are often used for author first and middle names. Be consistent with their use and placement within the author section. In example 1 – All first and subsequent author listings have last name first followed by first initial. In example 2 – First authors have last name first followed by first initial, but all subsequent authors have first and middle initial followed by last name.
Provide complete retrieval information for each reference so the type of publication is clear and so the reader can research and access the publication, if needed.
- For books, the references should generally provide both publisher and location of publisher.
- For journals, you generally must include the article title, journal publication, volume and pagination.
- For web references, you generally include a publication year or access date along with the url.
- For conferences, you may need to include the date and location of the conference.