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Postgraduate Research Information Skills Modules for coursework

Develop research skills during your postgraduate studies that will continue to benefit you throughout your academic and professional career.

Module 5: Referencing & Referencing tools

Managing the references for your thesis is very important and this module will help you do this.

In this module, you will learn:

  • The importance of managing bibliographic references.
  • Software tools available to help you manage bibliographic references and automate in-text citations and bibliographies.

5.1 Referencing

To avoid issues of plagiarism, appropriate academic referencing is required to acknowledge all sources that you use in your work. Correct referencing enhances scholarship and ensures other researchers who read your work are able to follow-up topics relevant to their interests.

Things to do about referencing

When analysing your search results, make sure you record the full details of each reference so that you avoid having to search for them again.

When you locate a significant idea from the literature that you want to quote in your thesis remember to record its details and why it was significant to your research.

Check with your supervisory team as to which referencing system you should use for your thesis e.g., APA 6th, Chicago, MLA.

Discover more about the common referencing styles used at Griffith:

Consider which bibliographic management tool or technique you will use to keep track of your references.

A dissertation commonly has hundreds of references, so some time spent at the beginning organising references can save you many hours towards the end of your degree.

5.2 The importance of managing bibliographic references

A thesis demands that you locate, read and analyse large amounts of literature to help you position your research within the context of what has already been studied.

Early in your candidature it is critically important to find a method that will help you manage potentially hundreds or even thousands, of bibliographic references to books, book chapters, conference papers, journal articles, web sites, streaming video and more, that you will need to cite in your writing and reference list.

The method you establish for managing references must allow you to easily record, annotate and retrieve the references to make the writing process more efficient.

What bibliographic information needs to be recorded?

It depends on the item that you want to reference but it is always best practice to record the following type of information about each reference (Treadwell, 2015, p. 69): 

  • author/creator/editor
  • book title/chapter title; journal title/article title; conference title/conference paper title
  • publisher
  • date published/made available online
  • page numbers for book chapters/journal articles
  • quotes from the reference and their page numbers
  • URL to full text and/or digital object identifier (DOI)
  • keywords used to find the reference
  • location of where you found the reference

Other details relevant or meaningful to you about the reference such as:

  • method of how the research was conducted
  • results and conclusion of the research
  • focus and/or participants of the research
  • unique aspects of the research
  • your thoughts on the research.

5.3 Approaches to managing bibliographic references

There is much debate on the issue of analogue (pen and paper) vs digital (computer/smart phone) note taking to improve learning and knowledge acquisition, see Mueller & Oppenheimer (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Consequently, there are two main approaches to controlling bibliographic references:

  • index cards (analogue)
  • bibliographic management software (digital).

Index cards

Index cards method requires you to manually write the details about a reference on an index card and sort these cards alphabetically or in subject groupings and other contexts. You can read more about the advantages and pitfalls of this approach here:

Bibliographic management software

The majority of HDR candidates use bibliographic management software to manage their references. Typically the bibliographic management software allows you to save, share and access your references across multiple platforms and devices. The software will allow you to easily capture bibliographic details of references from library catalogues, journal article databases, Google Scholar and other information resources and store it in a central, easily managed location.

An added benefit is that typically bibliographic management software also integrates with word processing software like Microsoft Word to automate the insertion of in-text citations and the formatting of reference lists in the required bibliographic style.


Mueller, P. & Oppenheimer, D. (2014) The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science 25(6), 1159–1168. Retrieved from

Treadwell, D. (2015). Introducing communication research: Paths of inquiry (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Referencing Tools

5.4 Bibliographic management software

There are many bibliographic management software applications to choose from including EndNote, Zotero and Mendeley. Some bibliographic management software is free, some you have to purchase, some are better suited to specific disciplines and some allow you to collaborate with people around the world.

You are encouraged to review the software to see what is going to work best for you, however, Griffith University has an institutional licence for EndNote which permits current staff and students to download the software (Mac and Windows) to personal computers and devices. Library & Learning Services fully supports EndNote through offering online and face to face training.

5.5 Discover EndNote at Griffith

Connect with the Library's EndNote page to download EndNote to your device and discover training material to get you started.

Need face to face EndNote training?

The Library regularly runs face to face EndNote training. Find EndNote training and other relevant HDR workshops near you: