'How do I improve my referencing? My tutor said I might be able to improve my grades if I get it right this time…’
A common question for us librarians! How do we respond to that one?
The first thing we might do is pull out the reference guide, take a look at an extract of your writing, and see how it looks. Are the brackets in the right places in your writing? Have you added page numbers for any direct quotes? Then we might take a look at the reference list. Are your references in A-Z order by author? Are they consistently referenced in line with the type of source in the reference guide (book, article, webpage etc)? (And no, you don’t need to bullet-point the reference list.)
This is often very helpful in spotting common mistakes or inconsistencies in citing and referencing. But have you thought about the sources you’ve chosen to reference, and how you’ve represented them in your assignment? If you feel your referencing looks pretty good, you might want to ask yourself: am I using too many direct quotes and not enough paraphrasing? Am I using lots of websites and no journal articles? Am I referencing only the materials my tutor has provided or put on the reading list? Do I really need to include and reference that dictionary definition? (Maybe it’s relevant, or maybe it is simply gobbling up some of your word count.) Answering ‘yes’ to any of those could potentially affect the quality of your work, and ultimately, your grade.
Make sure you have a chat with your tutor if you are unsure about what your feedback means. Take up any opportunities to boost your assignment writing skills – librarians can help you with finding and referencing information, but there is also lots of other support available – take a look!