Referencing HowTo

First basic rule of referencing: the purpose of referencing is to give credit to your sources of information and ideas. Everyone builds on other people’s ideas. In fact, this is how you support your own credibility as a writer. So don’t be shy about citations. In fact, you will notice that TurnItIn software complains that you are copying text from other sources. Yes! I want you to copy references from other sources. I expect about 7%-18% overlap of your paper with other online sources. DO NOT avoid referencing just to avoid an alert from TurnItIn. On the other hand, don’t just copy and paste text, especially without citing your sources. That is plagiarism, and it will get you in very serious trouble.

Second basic rule of referencing: make it as easy as possible for your reader to chase down your sources. I actually do chase down sources if I think you have found something intriguing. So I appreciate accurate bibliographic references.

I put these two rules at the top because there are many styles of referencing, and I am not dogmatic about any specific format. That said, I do have some strong stylistic recommendations for in-text referencing and for bibliographies.

In-text referencing: for short papers, I like in-line referencing such as (Bernstein, 1983). This is sometimes called ‘Harvard in-line format’ and includes the author’s last name, the year of publication, and if relevant, the page number such as (Polayni 1944:153).
How often should you place inline references? The governing rule here is: if I am reading something, and I wonder where you got it from, I will start looking for references. That is particularly apparent with data: if you cite a number, such as: “92% of Americans live in cities”, I will want to know where you got that number. As for ideas, you should cite them both because it is ethical to give credit where it is deserved, and because you may want to present an idea that is very speculative or that you may disagree with.
Footnotes rather than inline: For long papers/chapters, I prefer footnotes. Footnotes don’t break up the text as much, and you can put a full bibliographic reference into a footnote. That way if you are referencing an unusual source, the reader can glance at the bottom of that page; they don’t have to flip to the bibliography to figure out who Pierce is. HOWEVER: footnotes have also been used for commentary by many writers. DON’T DO THIS! If you have something to say, put it in the text! Don’t split the narrative!

Bibliography: There are many bibliographic formats. I like the ones where you spell out the person’s first name, so I can distinguish Ananya Roy from Arundati Roy. In MLA format, both would be abbreviated as Roy, A. I like to see quotes around article titles. So, for example,

Roy, Ananya. 2009. “Why India cannot plan its cities: Informality, insurgence, and the idiom of urbanization.” Planning theory 8(1), 7-11.

As for new media, Rule #2 above is your guide. If you cite a web-age, include the date you accessed the page. For example: Accessed, 12 November 2012.
If you cite a recording, give the timestamp of the moment you are referring to.

Sample bibliographic formats:
At the end of the text, please include an alphabetized list of full references. Again, there are many different formats, including MLA and American Psychological Association (APA). I prefer the American Sociological Association (ASA) format, because it specifies that you provide the full first name, not just an abbreviation. Sample ASA format:

Roy, Arundhati. 2004. Public power in the age of empire. New York: Seven Stories Press.

So: I recommend (but do not require) the ASA format, not APA nor MLA. Below, I give examples of how to reference other media in the ASA format.


Bibliographic referencing has become more complicated with the rising use of other media. Here are some examples:


Murphy, Stacey. 2009. “‘Compassionate’ strategies of managing homelessness: Post-revanchist geographies in San Francisco.” Antipode 41:305–325.
[Notice that I only capitalize the lead word, the word that begins a subtitle, and proper nouns. Another accepted format is to capitalize all nouns, such as “Judging Eminent Domain.”]


Cronon, William. 2011. “Abusing open records to attack academic freedom.” Scholar as citizen: William Cronon. (Accessed April 4, 2011).


Prevost, Lisa. 2007. “Judging Eminent Domain.” The New York Times, December 2, New York, C1.


Prevost, Lisa. 2007. “Judging Eminent Domain.” The New York Times, December 2 (Accessed March 31, 2009).


Putnam, Robert D. 1995. “Bowling alone: Americaʼs declining social capital.” Pp. 105-113 in The city reader (2000), edited by Richard T LeGates and Frederic Stout. New York: Routledge.


Nemat, Abdul Khaliq. 2007. “Oral presentation of SDP work to Kabul University students.”


Garcia, Jerrold. 2008. Los Angeles: personal interview.


Chandler, Raymond. 1943. “Double Indemnity: Screenplay.”


EndNote is the gold standard of referencing software, and it runs on Mac and Windows. However if you run Linux, or if you don’t want to shell out cash for the most dee-luxe brands of referencing software, I recommend Zotero.
The main version of Zotero is a plugin to Mozilla Firefox. This is handy because if you look up a book via the Leonard or at the Library of Congress or other major library catalogs (including Amazon), you can automatically capture and save the full reference information about that book. Once you have located the book, a little blue book icon will appear on the right end of the URL address field. Click on that, and Zotero will pull the data from that webpage and create a bibliographic record of that book, from the title all the way down to the ISBN.
If you access a newspaper article, a little newspaper icon will appear on the right end of the address bar; Zotero will capture that as a article record, which is a different format than a book.

Once you want to cite the source, there are two ways you can do it. The fancy way is to install another plugin to either MS Word or Open Office, and then link in the citation automatically. I use a simpler method. I open the Zotero window, find the record I want to cite, right click it, and choose the option to export the record to the clipboard. Zotero asks which format I want to use for export, and I specify American Sociological Association. Then I go to my document and paste in the reference.

January 7, 2012
The following Onion article was posted on my birthday, and it is a hilarious spoof on the debates about referencing formats! I am re-posting the text here in case the Onion removes the original:

NEW YORK—Law enforcement officials confirmed Friday that four more copy editors were killed this week amid ongoing violence between two rival gangs divided by their loyalties to the The Associated Press Stylebook and The Chicago Manual Of Style. “At this time we have reason to believe the killings were gang-related and carried out by adherents of both the AP and Chicago styles, part of a vicious, bloody feud to establish control over the grammar and usage guidelines governing American English,” said FBI spokesman Paul Holstein, showing reporters graffiti tags in which the word “anti-social” had been corrected to read “antisocial.” “The deadly territory dispute between these two organizations, as well as the notorious MLA Handbook gang, has claimed the lives of more than 63 publishing professionals this year alone.” Officials also stated that an innocent 35-year-old passerby who found himself caught up in a long-winded dispute over use of the serial, or Oxford, comma had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.