Write & Cite

Starting University and understanding how to write academically can be a challenge and is a skill you will continually develop and learn. There are a number of key things to remember to ensure your writing and academic assessments are your own. Most importantly, properly referencing your sources can not only help you to avoid breaking the University's strict plagiarism rules, but can also help you to strengthen the arguments you make in your work. For more information, check the University’s page on avoiding plagiarism.

Your President: Education, Georgios Chnarakis, has developed the below resources and guides to help you write and cite better as part of his campaign to improve academic writing, and ensure you get the best grades. The guides have been designed to be used in university coursework, e.g. essays, reports, presentations.

Style Notes


Journal Articles

Newspaper Articles

Legal Material

These guides are based on:

For work that is required to be published or communicated to an audience wider than the University, please consult the appropriate publication manual, your publisher, the University Copyright Officer and / or your research supervisor for guidance. If you come across any inconsistencies with the referencing examples or want to comment on the usefulness of the guides, send your feedback to

When writing assessments, it is important that you give credit to the authors of the ideas and interpretations you cite. Citation does not only give recognition to their labours, but also provides a solid theoretical basis for your own argument. Your ideas will gain credibility if they are supported by the work of respected writers. Transparent source use allows you to situate your work within the debates in your field and to demonstrate the ways in which your work is original. It also gives your reader the opportunity to pursue a topic further or to check the validity of your interpretations.

When writing you should consider the ways in which your work depends upon or develops from other research and then signal this with the appropriate citation. Make clear your reasons for citing a source. When paraphrasing an idea or interpretation you must ensure that your writing is not too closely derived from the original and you must also acknowledge the original author. 

There are many different referencing systems in use across academic institutions, but there should be clear instructions about referencing practice in your subject handbook. Your tutor can direct you to an appropriate style guide, while there is also a range of software that you can use to keep track of your sources and automatically format your footnotes and bibliography (e.g. EndNote, Reference Manager, ProCite). Be meticulous when taking notes; include full citation details for all the sources you consult and remember to record relevant page numbers. Citation practice varies but, depending on the type of text cited (book, conference paper, chapter in an edited volume, journal article, e-print, etc.) the elements of a reference include:

  • author
  • title of the book or article
  • title of the journal or other work
  • name of the conference
  • place of publication
  • date of publication
  • page numbers
  • URL
  • date accessed

When using e-print archives you should bear in mind that many contain articles which have not yet been submitted for peer review. It is good practice to review the later, published versions for important changes before submitting your own extended essay or dissertation. It is sensible to get into the habit of referencing all your work so that you learn the techniques from the start. Leaving all the footnotes until the week your dissertation is due is a recipe for disaster. One of the best ways to learn referencing practice is to imitate examples in your subject and to seek advice from your tutor in cases of difficulty.


The “Harvard System” is something of a misnomer, as there is no official Harvard University connection. It's another name for the author/date citation system, the custom of using author and date in parentheses, e.g. (Robbins, 1987) to refer readers to the full bibliographic citations in appended bibliographies. Some Harvard faculty were among the first practitioners in the late 19th century and the name stuck, particularly in England and the Commonwealth countries. For a full explanation, please see the Wikipedia article for Parenthetical References; History. The definitive scholarly article on the subject is Chernin, C. (1988) ‘The "Harvard System": a mystery dispelled’, British Medical Journal, 297, pp. 1062-1063. Available at: (accessed date: 6 November 2020). 

The best assignments always cite strong and varied sources. But when you’re feeling the pressure of a looming deadline, it can sometimes be easier to just reach for your course textbook. However, finding fresh and unique material to support your textbook research doesn’t have to be difficult! To inspire you to go that extra mile on your next assignment, here are seven additional sources recommended by our tutors…

1. Academic Publications

Peer-reviewed academic publications and journals are an excellent way to support your argument within an assignment. Work created by, and evaluated by, academics using a transparent method and accessible data set is often of a very high quality and is a powerful tool to use to support an opinion. And it doesn’t have to be hard to find these articles either; the library of the University of Sunderland and Google Scholar allow you to search for articles, abstracts, publications, theses, dissertations and much more!

2. Conference Speeches

Attending conferences is a great way to further your own knowledge about a subject, but this information can also be put to use in your written work. As with any source, accurate citation is key; take notes to make sure you quote the speaker accurately and include as much information as possible in your bibliography or reference list. Many conferences also publish slides and transcripts after the event, making referencing even easier!

3. Industry Experts

Interviewing an industry expert is definitely not something you should do when you have a deadline in a day or two, but if you’re ahead with your workload then this can be an unusual and insightful way of learning about a topic or business. Arranging an interview, writing questions and then transcribing the dialogue isn’t a quick or easy task, but it will give you unique insider knowledge (while also providing you with an opportunity to network within your industry!).

4. Reputable Online News Sources

The key word here is ‘reputable’. With millions of articles published daily on news sites around the world, it’s easy to be fooled by press pieces disguised as real reports or simply factually weak tabloid journalism. When researching an assignment topic, always use news sources that have a history of producing quality editorials; a good test is to check that their scientific and business stories also include citations and/or links to the original raw data or research.

5. TV, Radio, Podcasts and Online Media

TV documentaries, radio shows, factual podcasts and online lectures (e.g. TED Talks) are an interesting alternative to more traditional forms of research. While it might seem unusual to quote a speaker instead of a writer, as long as you always cite the source it will be considered as equally valid as a paper resource. However, this isn’t an excuse for you to sit watching hospital soap operas hoping they’ll suddenly provide a crucial piece of information for your next Master of Public Health assignment!

6. Personal and Company Blogs

Corporate or individual blogs can provide a wealth of up-to-date information about a business sector or industry. With just a bit of online searching you can find opinion pieces, interviews, research reports and more. However, be aware that many blogs are written by company marketing departments (or those with an agenda to advertise their own skills or successes) and may choose to present facts in a biased way. Read each piece with a critical eye before deciding to use it in your assignment.

7. Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

It might seem like the internet has removed the need for publishers to create huge paper dictionaries and multiple volumes of leather-backed encyclopaedias, but the information they provided is still extremely important. Online versions of these texts can provide you with an unbiased and concise definition of an idea or concept; these are perfect for arguing against, or using as support, when you’re tasked with discussing a divisive issue. 

The Library Services at the University of Sunderland is an academic library that provides equitable access to information for students to use in their daily lives, whether their purpose is for academic success, to solve problems, or to create new knowledge. These services are highly personalised and accessible; the collections blend both digital and print, providing customised resources supporting teaching learning and research - on and off campus. 

Google Scholar enables you to search for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research. The service can be used to find articles from a wide variety of academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web. Google Scholar orders your search results by how relevant they are to your query. This relevance ranking takes into account the full text of each article as well as the article's author, the publication in which the article appeared and how often it has been cited in scholarly literature.

Google Scholar also automatically analyses and extracts citations and presents them as separate results, even if the documents they refer to are not online. This means your search results may include citations of older works and seminal articles that appear only in books or other offline publications. 

The Library Services team and the Students’ Union want to ensure students use the library’s online guides and are made aware of their excellent support services for study skills. They are a very experienced team and have been helping and advising students on these issues successfully for many years. For more information, visit the Library Services skills webpages.

Georgios would like to thank Christine Stevenson, the Academic Liaison Manager, and Harriet Davidson, the Academic Liaison Librarian (Skills), for their useful contributions in helping to develop this guide.