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Referencing is the method of “acknowledging other people’s work when you have used it as evidence in your assignments, presentations or research” (Pears and Shields, 2022, p.1).

The reason for referencing is to enable anyone who reads your work to find your source material easily if they want to read it too.

“It is vital that you distinguish their work from your own contribution, and you do this by referencing” (Pears and Shields, 2022, p.1). This is needed so that someone evaluating and analysing/critiquing your research is able to do so effectively.

Referencing has two components:

  1. Citation. This is the acknowledgement you make within the text (body) of your work that shows precisely which part of your work is linked to a particular source that you have used. Citations are brief. Typically, they are made up of the authors’ surname and year (Harvard system) or may be a number that can be linked to your reference list (Vancouver system).

  2. Reference. This is the full information about the source you have used. This is what someone else would use to find the source that you have used, if they want to read it. Reference lists contain several pieces of information, such as author, year and title. The exact order/format varies depending on which referencing system you have used.

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Referencing systems

There are many referencing systems (sometime referred to as styles). The Harvard referencing system is one of the most common. It is used at St George’s, University of London by all students undertaking any course in the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education. It is also used by students undertaking courses in the Institute of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The other system used by St George’s is the Vancouver system. This is only used for specific modules on certain IMBE courses, and this should be specified by the lecturer.

There are slight variations on the way academic institutions use and interpret Harvard referencing. St George’s uses the publication Cite them Right (see reference below) for all guidance on how to use Harvard. It also contains information on the Vancouver system, and some other popular referencing systems.

Many journals have their own specific preferred referencing system. If you submit a piece of work for publication in an academic journal, the journal will specify which system you should use for your citations and references. Some subjects, such as music and law, have quite specific referencing styles because of the nature of their publications.

Pears, R. and Shields, G. (2022) Cite them right: the essential referencing guide. 12th edn. London: Bloomsbury Academic.  (This is an example of a Harvard reference. The citations in the first paragraph of this page are also Harvard style).

Also available as an e-book at Cite them right online – log in with your St George’s network login.

Student guidance is in the Study+ section of Canvas


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Reference management systems

Reference management is the method of collecting together information about all the sources that you are using for your work, and using it. There are a number of reference management tools (systems) available that can help you to collect, store, organise, manage, cite and reference your sources electronically.

They can be helpful to store and manage your resources:

  • if you are undertaking research where you have used many sources

  • if you are collaborating on research and wish to share sources

  • if your research is done over the long term.

They can also enable you to

  • import results (article references) from different databases, such as Medline, Cinahl, Hunter and Web of Science

  • organise and annotate your sources

  • electronically cite your sources

  • electronically create reference lists/bibliographies in different referencing styles.

Types of reference management system

There are several reference management systems, for example: Refworks, Endnote, Zotero and Mendeley. They all vary, and Oxford University provides a comparison guide to the main ones.


At St George’s, we provide support, training and free access to the tool RefWorks. More information can be found in our RefWorks LibGuides.

You are welcome to choose any reference management system to use, and we provide some information about other systems in our RefWorks and reference management guide, however we do not officially support them or subscribe to any system other than RefWorks.

New RefWorks and Legacy RefWorks

There are now two versions of RefWorks available:

  • RefWorks: the new RefWorks, launched in 2016

  • Legacy RefWorks: until October 2019, this was the only version available at St George’s.

The two versions are working alongside together, however it will not be possible to create new Legacy accounts from October 2019.

St George’s Library now runs training sessions on the new version of RefWorks but will continue to support those using Legacy RefWorks.

Accessing RefWorks or Legacy RefWorks

If you are entirely new to RefWorks, visit: RefWorks

If you would like to continue using Legacy RefWorks, and you already have an account, visit: Legacy RefWorks.

Moving from Legacy to New RefWorks?

If you are using Legacy RefWorks and are interested in moving to the new version of RefWorks, please be aware that it is currently not possible to edit documents in new RefWorks if they have previously been used in Legacy RefWorks.  We strongly recommend that those using Legacy RefWorks at St. George’s delay moving to the new version of RefWorks until any documents, such as dissertations or theses, you are working on are complete.

More information about migrating from Legacy RefWorks can be found on our RefWorks LibGuide.


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