Use references correctly

Within the genre of “independent academic writing” you are participating in an academic research tradition, where you – as a co-creater of knowledge – are obligated to make your work available for reproduction. I.e. your reader needs to have access to the cited sources, through which they can verify the authenticity and validity of the information used in your research.

A reference is a referral to anothers text or information and can refer to written sources (books, reports, articles), computer programmes, videos, cd’s, internet sites, images, etc. It can also refer to personal communication in the form of letters, e-mails or interviews. A reference is synonymous with a literary citation or citing a source.

If you forget to use references, or your references are incomplete, your work can seem like an empty postulation or create suspicions of plagiarism. As described earlier, plagiarism is looked upon with gravity, and can in extreme cases lead to expulsion.

General knowledge does not require a reference
References are not required when the applied knowledge is part of a common professional base, and can be termed as “general knowledge”, e.g.:

“Eating fruits, vegetables, little fat and being physically active promote health”.

But if one wants to write more detailed concrete information on: how does fruit and vegetable consumption, decreased consumption of fat and increased physical activity influence health, numerical relations, or explain mechanisms then references need to be provided, e.g.:

A series of meta-analyses have reviewed the overall effects of the multiple –micronutrient supplements on maternal anemia and micronutrient status (Allen & Peerson, 2009), size of birth and length gestation (Fall, Fisher, Osmond, Margetts, 2009), and neonatal mortality (Ronsmans et al., 2009).

Source: Merson MH, Black RE, Mills AJ, 2012, Global health; diseases, programs, systems and policies, Third edition, Jones & Bartlett Learning, Burlington, USA.

What exactly does a reference contain? Learn how to write references in the following.

Different schools / types of referencing
At the Faculty of Health the most common schools are Vancouver and Harvard, but this can vary from institute to institute. Consult your course guidelines and contact your supervisor for information about the preferred standard for referencing.

Overall, a book reference should always include the following information:

  • Author
  • Year of Publication
  • Title: possibly subtitle (always in italics)
  • Publisher
  • Place of Publication

Done by the Harvard standard, e.g.:
Kjøller, M & Rasmussen, NK (red.) 2002, Sundhed og sygelighed i Danmark 2000 og udviklingen siden 1987, Statens Institut for Folkesundhed, København.

A reference to a journal article should always include the following:

  • Author,
  • Year of Publication
  • Title of the article
  • Title of the journal (always in italics)
  • Vol. / #, pagenumber.

Done by the Harvard standard, e.g.:

Waldorff, FB et al. 2002, ‘Strategier for demensdiagnostik: erfaringer fra samarbejdet mellem praktiserende læger og hjemmesygeplejersker’, Ugeskrift for læger, årg. 164, nr. 32, pp 3767-3770.

References to oral sources (e.g. interviews) should include the following:

  • The person or focus group
  • The place (or institution)
  • The date

E.g.: Conversation with Head Doctor NN, Rigshospitalet, 27.11.2012.

Where does one insert a reference?

References should be written in-text (as parantheses), at the bottom of the page (as footnotes) or as endnotes in a seperate notes section at the end of a chapter or at the end of the thesis.

References in parantheses need to be short, so they don’t disrupt the reading, and can for instance be used as page references (see also page 45), as references to an appendix (see appendix 2) or as a reference to literature (Moss, 2013, p 195). Used to reference literature, the reference must refer to the bibliography.

References in footnotes should include more details, but should not span more than three lines, e.g.:


Moss, Michael, 2013, Salt, Sugar, Fat – how the Foot Giants Hooked us, House Publishing Group, New York


If one has many references for each page, it can be a good idea to unify these after a chapter. Done by the Harvard standard it could look like:

  1. Nielsen, JP 2001, ‘Smerter hos børn’ I: U Fasting & L Lundorff (red.), Smerter og smertebehandling i klinisk praksis. Munksgaard, København, s. 181-193.
  2. Steinhaug S, Ahlsen B & Malterud K 2001, ‘From exercise and education to movement and interaction: treatment groups in primary care for women with chronic muscular pain’, Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care, årg.19, nr. 4, s. 249-254.
  3. Benner, P & Wrubel, J 2001, Omsorgens betydning i sygepleje. Munksgaard, København.
  4. Waldorff, FB et al. 2002, ‘Strategier for demensdiagnostik: erfaringer fra samarbejdet mellem praktiserende læger og hjemmesygeplejersker‘, Ugeskrift for læger, årg. 164, nr. 32, s. 3767-3770.

No matter which referencial standard you use, you should use this type consistently. I.e. format all of your references the same, throughout your assignment. A good method of ensuring this is to use bibliographic software.

Learn how use bibliographic software in the following.

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