The purpose of referencing is to show where the information you use comes from. Given this purpose, the first principle is to provide enough information in your citations so that your reader can find that same piece of information themselves. The second principle is consistency in format and style.

    The following sections provide information on specific referencing styles. Regardless of which style you use, keep in mind the two main principles.

    Know your style

    There are a number of different referencing systems or styles in use at ANU. Usually, your College, discipline, or school will indicate which they prefer in the course outline or on the College website. You may be required to use more than one style, particularly if you are enrolled in different Colleges. Students doing both Law and Psychology, for example, would have to use AGLC and APA in the respective disciplines.

    In other cases, the lecturer may say that it’s up to you to choose. To help you decide, below is an outline of the referencing styles that different disciplines commonly use.


    Typical referencing styles

    Humanities, Social Sciences, Business


    Visual Art, Art History, History, Music, International Relations, Politics


    Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science

    Harvard or APA

    Psychology, Linguistics, Social Sciences


    Law, Business Law


    Engineering and Computer Science

    Harvard or IEEE



    How to reference

    Be sure to use a good referencing style guide. Referencing style guides are like dictionaries—they give examples and rules. For some styles, such as AGLC, there is only one way to reference sources, so all AGLC style guides should have the same rules. For other styles, such as Harvard, the rules are not so well defined and may differ between guides. What is important is that you are consistent and always apply the same rules from a single guide in one piece of work.

    The following pages give guidance on styles and refer you to detailed style guides.

    Referencing software

    Referencing takes a while to get used to, and it is easy to make small mistakes. There are many software tools that can make it easier. However, you have to be careful, as they do not always give accurate results, and are only as accurate as the information that you put into them.




    Microsoft Word referencing tool

    Easy to use, available

    Inflexible, have to install extra styles


    Free for ANU students, the library offers training and support

    Takes time to set up, can be complicated for new users, does not have as many features as other free tools


    Free, easy to use, integrates into MS Word, helps organise PDF documents

    Takes time to set up, no training or support


    Free, easy to use, integrates into MS Word, Firefox and Chrome

    Takes time to set up, no training or support, can be complicated for new users

    Google citation tool


    Styles are often inconsistent, with missing information and incorrect formatting

    Online citation generators (Cite For Me, etc.)


    Styles are often inconsistent, with missing information and incorrect formatting

    Even if you choose to use a tool, you need to be familiar with your referencing style in order to spot mistakes. Being able to check a reference list manually is an important skill for all students and academics.