1. Attribution of ideas. One purpose of referencing is to mark the origin of certain observations, ideas, theories, or data. Clearly, then, a rigorous approach to referencing should be seen as a strict necessity when discussing the emergence and development of ideas at any given time.
2. Aid further research. Another key purpose for referencing is to aid the reader to further investigate research issues that have emerged in your dissertation. Any properly referenced piece of work has the potential to become a step on another’s research trail, and should, therefore, follow strict conventions.
3. Avoid plagiarism. Perhaps the most salient use of referencing for your present concern is in absolving you of any charges of plagiarism. By taking the proper approach to referencing you provide a running commentary on the provenance of all material in your dissertation, demonstrating your concern with fair attribution of ideas.
4. Be systematic. Take a systematic approach by adopting one referencing system and being consistent with it. The proper choice of system will depend on the nature of your work, so it is best to consult the literature in your subject area and find a model to adopt.
5. Bibliography. This is the counterpart to your referencing system, providing an alphabetical list of all materials cited in the text or essential for the formulation of your ideas. Often this is distinct form the List of References which includes only those works directly cited in the dissertation. Understand conventional usage and stick to it.
6. Evidence of wide reading. The work that you decide to reference will indicate the scope, direction, depth and engagement of your wider reading. Bear this in mind when deciding which works to bring into sharper focus.
7. Evidence of accomplished research. As with the previous tip, those reading your dissertation will draw certain conclusions about the strength of your work from the choice of material to which you have referred. A few obscure, unusual or rare texts might indicate an impressive thoroughness of research.
8. Specifications. How far does your approach to referencing fit with departmental specifications concerning your dissertation? If guidelines are vague, contact teaching staff and find out what your best options are.
9. Beware complications. In the rush to deal with the conceptual or technical content of the literature you are consulting, one can ignore subtle details of a more prosaic nature. Don’t be tripped up by ambiguities concerning multiple publication dates, translated editions, edited volumes and collaborations.
10. Look at how others do it. The very best way to be confident in your use of referencing is to consult published material and pick up the proper approach to notation, in-text referencing and footnotes.
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