Skip to Main Content

Referencing at Birmingham Newman

All you need to know about Referencing and where you can get more help

Why reference?

Referencing is a key aspect of good academic practice. By learning how to reference, you will:

  • avoid plagiarism
  • show your lecturers how well you understand your subject
  • find information easily to help your learning
  • be better organised
  • be likely to get better grades

This guide explains how to present references in your assignments.

The Academic Service Librarians run live referencing workshops throughout the academic year. You can see what is coming up and book a place on our Workshops page.

You can also watch our Introduction to Newman Harvard referencing video (note: you may need to log in to Panopto to view the video).

Referencing styles

Referencing styles are the rules for how you should present references in assignments and reference lists.

Birmingham Newman uses a number of different referencing styles, depending on your course and level of study:

  • Newman Harvard – for most courses
  • OSCOLA (Oxford Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities) – for Law programmes1
  • SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) – used by some Postgraduate researchers in Theology
  • APA 7th edition – used by MSc Clinical Applications in Psychology students only

Our referencing guide explains how to use the Newman Harvard style of referencing. Along with this guide, the Library can offer you support with the general principles of referencing, and we can help you with further questions you may have about the Birmingham Newman Harvard system.

If you don't know which style to use, or if you need help with another style of referencing, ask your Module Leader.


1 Law students at level 6 (3rd year undergraduates) in the academic year 2023-24 who have been instructed to use Newman Harvard should continue to do so. All other students should only use OSCOLA.

Work placements and ethical referencing

If the modules you are studying involve working with children, young people or families, or in schools, education or health and social care settings, this may have an impact on the way you reference some sources.

You will find details of how to cite people and sources anonymously, and the use of code names for ethical purposes, in the guide and examples for in-text citations and reference lists.

Please read these guidelines carefully to make sure you are complying with Birmingham Newman University's Code of Ethics.

Warning about online referencing 'tools'

If you do an online search for ‘Harvard referencing’, you’ll get a huge amount of hits for sites that say they will show you how to use the Harvard system, or even claim to format your references for you. Some may also offer advice about the validity or quality of sources.

We strongly recommend caution in using these tools! 'Harvard' referencing is not a unified system controlled by one organisation and the references produced may not be the same as 'Newman Harvard'. If you decide to use an online system to format your references, you should choose one that can format references in 'Cite them right' style, 10th edition or later.

Remember that any automated system does not 'think' in the same way as humans do: it simply processes data that it is given. If the data that goes in to the processor is messy, incorrect, in the wrong fields or has extra information that is not included in a reference, then the reference the processor will produce is likely to be incorrect.

Using quotations

Quotations are a way to directly use other people's work in your assignment. Make sure that your quotations are relevant and used to help support your arguments. Try to use quotations sparingly, paraphrasing or summarising sources where possible.

Shorter quotations

Shorter quotations (up to two or three lines) should be enclosed in single quotation marks in the main body of your text. Directly after the quote, include your in-text citation (Author, date, page number):

This supports the key role of Mary in Christian theology, considering that ‘Orthodox churches, along with Roman Catholicism, have long referred to Mary as the Theotokos, “God Bearer,” as a principal tenet in their systematic theological formulations’ (Renard, 2011, p. 10).

Longer quotations

We recommend using longer quotations only when necessary to ensure that your writing flows well. Consider if it is possible to use a shorter quotation or to paraphrase the author's ideas.

Longer quotations (over three lines) should be entered as a new paragraph and indented. Quotation marks are not needed. Include a citation directly after your quotation:

Knox and Cooper (2015, p. 45) discuss how different levels of empathy can be applied at varying stages of therapy:

This does not mean that all empathic interventions should be at level 3, and that levels 1 and 2 are examples of poor empathy. Sometimes it will be appropriate only to reflect as much as the client has said, or what is in their own awareness, even if you can sense something more. For instance, at the start of an episode of therapy, it may be important to concentrate on the content of a client’s story – going into the more felt aspects at a later date.

Using images in your work

If you include images (such as photographs, graphics, diagrams or clip art) created by other people in your work, you may not always need to reference them in the same way as your other sources. Consider how you are using each image you include, and use the following guidance to help you use it in the right way.

Referring to an image, or using an image as a "quotation"

In these circumstances, you will need a reference for the image. References for images take the same form as any other source you use. Provide an in-text citation next to the image:

(Wahidi, 2022)

and a full reference list entry in your reference list:

Wahidi, F. (2022) Nurses on the picket line. London: RCN.

The reference lists: guide and examples will tell you how you should set out your reference list entry for images, depending on where you got them from.

Sometimes you may wish to display an image separately to the place where you discuss it in your text. To do this, label the image as a 'figure' at a convenient point in your assignment, or put it in an appendix. You then refer to the figure or appendix when you reference in text:

(Wahidi, 2022, see figure 1)

(Wahidi, 2022, see appendix A)

Using an image only as decoration

Purely decorative images do not need a reference. However, images are 'creative works' and therefore are subject to Copyright Law. This generally means that you can only use the image with permission from the person who owns the Copyright to it. This may be the person who created it, but it can often be a different person or organisation.

If you get permission, the Copyright owner may tell you that you need to credit them, or the creator. Usually this is by placing a statement next to the image such as:

(c) 2022 F. Wahidi. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

However, the Copyright owner may insist on their own wording or formatting for this statement as a condition of them giving you permission.

Knowing whether or not you have permission to use an image can be very complicated. The following list can provide help in more clear cut cases.

You will have permission to use:

  • Images where the Copyright owner has given express permission. This can be individual, personal permission, or sometimes it might be made using a "Creative Commons" licence. Express permission may come with certain conditions attached. You must always abide by the conditions and credit the Copyright owner in the way that they tell you to;
  • Images that you find online that are clearly labelled as being in the "public domain" or shared with a "Creative Commons Zero" or "CC0" licence;
  • Clip art and stock photographs packaged inside MS Office 365 applications (such as on the Insert > Picture > Stock images... menu in MS PowerPoint).

You will not have permission to use:

  • Images labelled ©, (c), Copyright or "All rights reserved" (unless you have express permission);
  • Images that are found on organisational websites that contain a Copyright statement that covers all the content of the website. This is a huge category and will cover a large proportion of images you find online;
  • Images that other people have used with express permission but that permission is not clearly extended to others or for the use you wish to make of the image;
  • Images that other people have used without permission. Using an 'infringing' (i.e. pirated) image means that you will have infringed Copyright too!

It is important to understand that Copyright is automatic — creators do not need to add © or any other statement for Copyright to exist in an image. The absence of © or a Copyright statement does not mean that the Copyright owner is giving blanket permission for the reuse of their work, or does not care. In Copyright Law, "everyone does it" is not a defence to infringement!

A useful tip when searching for images on search engines to decorate your work is to use the search term "cc0" or "creative commons" alongside your main search terms. This will help you find images where the Copyright owner has given permission for their work to be used. However, you should always check to see whether permission has been given and what sort of credit or attribution the Copyright owner wants you to give.

Definitions of key words


The sources of information that you’ve used to help you research and write your assignment. Sources can include books and newspapers, online articles and webpages, pictures, videos and many other things. It also includes work that you have previously written and submitted for marking.

Cite, citing, cited

Referring to a source in your assignment.

In-text citation

The shortened details of a source that you give within the text of your assignment. A citation links to the full reference that you give at the end of your assignment.


The full details of a source that you’ve cited in your assignment. It tells you where and how you can access the sources. If you’ve given an in-text citation for a source, you must also give its full details in your reference list. A reference list should contain details of everything that you’ve cited in your assignment, in alphabetical order by author.


A bibliography contains the same details as a reference list, but in addition lists any other sources that you’ve read but not cited in your work. It can show your lecturers the range of reading that has helped you to make your argument.

At Birmingham Newman, you usually only need to include a reference list. However, lecturers sometimes use the terms ‘reference list’ and ‘bibliography’ interchangeably. If you’re not sure which one is expected of you, ask your Module Leader.

Quotation, quote, quoting

Using words or sentences from a source in your own work without changing them.

Paraphrase, paraphrasing

Putting words and ideas from a source you’re using into your own words. Paraphrasing is an important way that you can show your lecturers you have understood what you have read.

Summary, summarise, summarising

Giving a brief description of what a particular source or part of a source is about.

You can get help with these skills from the Learning Development Tutors in Student Support.

Further help

This guide and referencing examples show you how to reference most of the sources you’re likely to use in your work.

If there isn’t an example that fits what you’re trying to use, try 3 things:

1. Use the book

Our referencing style is based on the principles in Cite them right by Richard Pears and Graham Shields. This book is available from the Library, and we have both print copies that you can borrow as well as an e-book.

CIte them right also contains examples for APA 7th Edition and OSCOLA referencing.

You may find yourself using this book enough over your time with us that it is worth buying your own copy. If you wish to do this, the details are:

Pears, R. and Shields, G. (2022) Cite them right: the essential referencing guide. 12th edn. London: Bloomsbury Study Skills. ISBN: 9781350933446.

2. Ask an Academic Service Librarian

You can ask Academic Service Librarians for advice on referencing by:

3. Ask your Module Leader

If a particular reference is causing you trouble, your Module Leader should be able to tell you how they would like you to present it.

Last reviewed: 22 April 2024

Report a problem | View current service issues