The Importance of Referencing

The Importance of Referencing


Referencing is the bane of many an undergraduates life. However usually by the final year we have all got the hang of it. So why is it so important and why bother to learn it?

To reference something is to refer to it. In this specific case it is to refer to an academic paper, written by scientists, which will explain in detail an experiment they did and what it’s results where. These results can then be used as evidence for what you are saying. The importance of doing this is to add credibility to a claim.

So let’s put this into context. As an example I could make the statement: ‘Ducks can swim’, to which most of us would probably agree. However if you had never seen a duck before then you would have to trust me. Now maybe you would trust me (I’m a nice guy right :-)), but if you were a scientist you would ask one thing before doing so: ‘Where is the evidence?’. If I don’t have any then that’s bad science on my part and the scientist walks off. So to keep the scientist interested I have two options. The first is to find a swimming duck, however it may take a very long time and cost lots of money to complete such a complicated experiment. Instead I could follow the second method and reference an academic paper that already studied this, in which case I would say: ‘Here is the evidence in this paper: Man. A and Woman. B (2012) ‘OMG Ducks can swim!’ Journal of Ducks and Stuff 58: p.1-199.’. The scientist looks at the paper, see’s lots of pictures of swimming ducks and then agrees that my observation is probably correct.

Overall science needs evidence for anything to be credible. So instead of doing each and every expensive and time-consuming experiment to give evidence, we just reference other people’s experiments which have already been documented. If anyone makes claims about anything and those claims do not reference any evidence, then those claims cannot be trusted. Essentially, if you do not reference your work, you may as well not write down anything.

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  1. Questions and Classifications « Science Defined

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