When writing any quality essay or report, it is essential to give credit to sources you have used in their production. Failure to do so could lead to accusations of plagiarism or cause downgrading from your university professors.

Obviously, we want to avoid this, so it is essential to be aware of how to reference properly and the main styles of referencing in use today. This guide aims to inform you of the three most popular methods. It is important to note that every university uses their own preferred style, so make sure you are familiar with the exact requirements demanded of you.

However, knowing about the Oxford, Vancouver, and Harvard systems will definitely give you a good grounding for the future.

What is a Reference Style?

A reference style or system is simply a way of giving credit to an original author. In practice, it should include the following

  • a citation system.
  • a bibliography of books or reference list.

Throughout the World, there are numerous referencing methods in use, but the three main ones are the Oxford, Vancouver, and Harvard systems. Read on to become familiar with the rules that apply to each method:

Oxford Reference Style

This citation system originated at Oxford University and is also sometimes known as a documentary- note style referencing.

Its main feature is the use of a numbered citation in the body of a paragraph. This number is then further explained in a footnote at the bottom of the same page.

Example :

In-text numbered citation: Sally has brown hair.1

Expanded footnote: 1 Peter Smith, Female Hair Colour Factors (Leeds: Penguin, 2012).

In addition, a referencing list is required at the end of the document. Like the footnote, it should include author name, title, place of publication, publisher, and date. However, the number is no longer required and the authors’ surname is written first:

Referencing list: Smith, Peter, Female Hair Colour Factors (Leeds: Penguin, 2012).

The Oxford system is a very popular choice when writing novels or e-books, as it manages to avoid breaking up the reader-flow. For documents with many references, numbered citations can be an inoffensive way to give authors credit.

Vancouver Reference Style

The Vancouver method of attribution is heavily used in the science, medicine, and technology fields, so if you are studying in these topics you may be asked to follow a version of this referencing system. It was originally developed in 1978, and has grown in popularity since.

In-text numbered citations should always follow the relevant part of a sentence, and if the citation source is referred to again, the same number should be used. The reference list at the end of the essay must contain author name, book/paper title, place of publication, publisher, and date.

In-text citation: It has been shown that consumption of vegetables lowers insulin resistance (1) increases anti-oxidant levels (2) and stabilises blood sugar (1)

Referencing list:
1. Jones S. Effect of vegetables on blood sugar markers. 2nd ed. London. Pubmed; C2011. 2. Ahmed M. Diet and free radical production. 3rd ed. Paris. Medpress; C2006.

The main difference with the Oxford style, is that no footnotes are used – just a numbered text citation that is then expanded on in the reference list section. It is ideal for when immediate reference clarification is not needed.

Harvard Reference Style

Probably the most well-known style, especially among students, the Harvard method is widely used in the UK, with many universities using it as an inspiration for their own reference style.

It is sometimes referred to as the Author and Date reference system and, in contrast to the other two methods, uses both the authors name and the date in the text itself. Quotations are also commonly placed within the text.

In-text citation example 1: Ellis (2002) considers exercise a main feature… In-text citation example 2: ”exercise is medicine” (Ellis, 2002, p.54)

Like the other two styles, a bibliography or reference list should always give credit to the original authors at the end of the document.

Referencing list:
Ellis, D. (2002) How exercise and food promote longevity. 2nd Ed. Liverpool: Open University Press.

As you can see, all the three systems mentioned are slightly different, and suited for use within different study areas/topics. Remember to always follow your tutors referencing style requests. As stated before, each university may want you to follow their preferred method. Be sure to take note of your tutors instructions to help achieve the best grades possible.

Which do you think is the best reference style to use – or are you still confused? Why not take advantage of our citation services. We can save you stress and improve your grades!