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Report writing guidance




Keeping track of sources of information in reports and lab books as you use them has several advantages, not least that you're less likely to lose that all important document and won't spend two hours the morning before a deadline fabricating your references. Your reports may include a bibliography, but they should always include a list of numbered references.


Anything that you had to look up, or that isn't your original work should be referenced. Anything that your reader might not know should also be referenced.


For more details on referencing, see section 4 of the level 1 guide.


How to reference

Referencing consists of two parts: a list of numbered references at the end of your report, and a pointer in the text.


For example, Young and Freedman might have the number [1] in your list, in which case you would place a [1] at the end of any sentence that uses information from Young and Freedman. Remember that equations are part of a sentence too, so place the reference at the end of the relevant sentence rather than by the equation.


Key Points

  • The departement has a strong preferences for using square brackets for references and round brackets for equations, e.g. "The density of water is 1000 kg/m3 [1]." and "Using Equation (1)..."
  • Generally you do not need to cite individual pages of a book, instead cite the book as a whole. If you cite a page you will need a new reference number and entry in the list for each page.
  • Group references e.g. [1-5, 8, 11] rather than [1][2][3][4][5][8][11]
  • References for figures should be in their caption. You must reference any figures you use that are not yours.
  • You can directly quote from a source, but this is rarely done and it is usually better to talk about it in your own words. If you are quoting, you need to make this clear.
  • Use reputable material. Any textbooks and scientific journals are fine. Websites from scientific organisations are generally ok, although primary sources are always better. Generally speaking, you should avoid other kinds of websites, even if they are news related.

Writing your References

The aim is to be able to uniquely identify any article regardless of source - reliable website, journal article, textbook page. Questions you should be able to answer just by looking at the references are: "Who said what? Published? By whom? Where? When? " Below is a list of information you should include to uniquely identify some types of sources.


Journal Article

  • Author Name(s) (only use "et al. if there are a large number of authors)
  • Paper Title
  • Journal Name
  • Date
  • Journal Details - Volume (often in bold), Number, Page etc.

Example: (1) Chen, L. et al., "Migration and Redistribution of Oxygen Vacancy in Barium Titanate Ceramics.", Applied Physics Letters, Aug. 14, 2006, Vol. 89, No. 7, Letter 071916.



  • Author Name(s)
  • Full Title
  • Edition
  • Publisher Name and City
  • Date Published (year)
  • Specific pages of interest

Example: (2) Katz, J.,Race Car Aerodynamics: Designing for Speed, 2nd ed Cambridge, MA: Bentley, 2006, 4


Web Pages

  • Page Title
  • Date Produced
  • Website Name
  • Full Path to the Page
  • Date Accessed

Example: (3) History of PCB Manufacturing in Anniston, 2000. Solutia As of Sept 2006.


Conference Proceedings

  • For proceedings published as a book, reference as a book.

Example: (4) G. J. Ashwell, A. P. Kuczynski and M. Szablewski,Proceedings of the NATO-ASI Conference on Low-Dimensional Materials and Device Material ed. R. M. Metzger (Plenum Press, New York, 1990).


  • For proceedings published regularly, reference as a journal article.

Example: (5) Dirac P. A. M.The Quantum Theory of the Electron, Proc. Roy. Soc. (1928), A117 (610)


Example references (1) - (3) copied from Tipler, P.A., Mosca, G, Physics for Scientists and Engineers with Modern Physics, 6th ed. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company (2008) pp. 448, 828.


A plethora of solutions making referencing easy are available, and there are an even more ways of presenting references in a report. You may be using Microsoft Word whilst writing your report; it includes a referencing tool you can use to store references which can be re-used several time throughout your course without having to type them out more than once. It will also put in numbered (2) or named references (Katz, 2006) in your text, and update these numbers and names as you update your list of references.


If you use Latex, a package called Bibtex (available on ITS Vega and as part of the Miktex package on ITS Windows) can be used.


More Info

For more details on referencing, see section 4 of the level 1 guide.