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Referencing Quick Guides: FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Referencing can seem confusing and there are lots of different rules and methods to formatting different citations. 

Below we have answered some of the frequent questions that students have around referencing and formatting. 


When using Harvard referencing you can use the term 'et al.' which is an abbreviation form a Latin term meaning 'and others'.

You would use this in you in-text citations when you have 4 or more authors that you are referencing. 

For example (Harvard):

In-text citation: Smith et al. (2012, p. 88) or (Smith et al., 2012, p. 88) 
In end reference list: Smith, M. et al. (2012) or you can write all 4 of the authors names Smith, M. Ahmed, G. Jones, T. Dewey, K. (2012)

When using et al., make sure that it’s in italics and that you have a full-stop after al. to indicate that it’s an abbreviation.


When using et al. for APA 7th edition the rule is a little different. APA 7th Edition allows you to use et al. for 3 or more authors in-text but you must NOT use et al. in your end reference list. 

For example (APA 7th):

In-text citation: Smith et al. (2012, p. 88) or (Smith et al., 2012, p. 88) 

Do not use ‘et al.’ in the end reference list - instead provide surnames and initials for up to and including 20 authors. When there are more than 20 authors, include the first 19 authors’ names, insert an ellipses (...), and then add the final author’s name. 

When using et al., make sure that you have a full-stop after al. to indicate that it’s an abbreviation. 

In some cases you will want to use information that is given or quoted by an author but is written in another author's writing. 

This is known as secondary referencing and it is important that you make it clear that this is the case in your academic writing. 

You might indicate this by writing 'quoted in' or 'cited in' with your assignment.

Different referencing styles have different rules on how to cite secondary references. 

Check the guides below to find out more information.

Secondary Referencing (Harvard)

Secondary Referencing (APA 7th)

Secondary Referencing (MLA 9th)

Secondary Referencing (IEEE)

You might find that you are using two or more sources that have been written by the same Author and in the same year. 

It is important that you indicate that they are different sources within your writing. You can do this by adding lowercase letters to you in-text and end reference list.

For example (Harvard):

In-text citation: Many reports on this topic have been produced (Department of Health, 2014a, Department of Health, 2014b).

End reference List:

Department of Health (2014a) 'The state of this issue'. Available at: Accessed: 24 Oct 2023

Department of Health (2014b) 'The solution to this issue'. Available at: Accessed: 24 Oct 2023

Sometimes you might need to anonymise the sources that you are using. For example, Local Hospital Trusts, Patient/ Client information. 

When using a patient or clients information in your assignments you must follow guidelines around confidentiality and information sharing. Please discuss this with your course tutor if you are unsure. 

You can also use a pseudonym in your writing for example replacing the patient/ clients name with 'Patient A' 'Client B'.

When using confidential documents such as Local Hospital Trusts you will need to anonymise this in your referencing. 

Follow these links to cite them right to learn how to format confidential information:

Confidential Information (Harvard)

Unpublished and Confidential Information (APA 7th)

Unpublished and Confidential Information (MLA 9th)


You must be careful when using your own own that you are not plagiarising.

If you are using previous work that has been marked, you run the risk of self-plagiarism. 

To find out more about plagiarism, take a look at our guide here: LLS Hub: Plagiarism

Or the guide on Cite Them Right: What is Plagiarism?

Once you are confident that it is acceptable to use your own work, follow the links below to find out how to reference your own work.

Students' own work (Harvard)

Students' own work (APA 7th)

Students' own work (MLA 9th)

When adding page numbers to you references you can simply write p or pp.

A singular p. indicates one page whereas a double pp. indicates the page range.

For example:

Richard (2023, p.23) described how informative the library was on his visited.


In their research on productive study environments, Halstead (2023, pp. 12-20) discusses the various functions of library study support. 

Numeric citations are used with the Vancouver referencing system, which uses a superscript number to explain to the reader which reference applies to which statement. The citation is not a part of your sentence in the same way as in-text citations.  

It uses either numbers in brackets (1) or superscript 1  and is then linked to your references in your footnotes.

For a comprehensive guide follow this link: The Vancouver Referencing System


(Main body of writing)

As Dorling1 makes clear... 


(Footnotes at bottom of page)

1 This is where you would place your short reference. If it’s a footnote it will appear at the end of the page. If it’s an endnote it will appear at the end of the essay. 

Some of the books you use might be different editions. 

It is important that you state this in your end reference list as different editions may contain different information and important updates. 

If it is a 1st Edition, you do not need to state this.

However if it is a 2nd or more then you will need to make this clear in your end reference list. 

You can do this by writing: 2nd edn. including revised editions e.g. 3rd rev. edn.


For example (Harvard):

Shields, G. Pears, R. (2022) Cite Them Right, The Essentials referencing guide. 12th edn. London: Bloomsbury

To find out more about different editions of sources: Cite Them Right: Different editions or versions of a source