Aarhus University Seal

Reference Management

How to set up academic references and bibliographies in your assignments? Learn how to structure your sources so they meet basic academic requirements. 

You will use many different sources such as theories, research results, citations, concepts, etc., when writing an academic text. And you have to reference all your sources to document the correlation of your arguments and so the reader can retrieve the original information. Click here to read more about argumentation. 

References appear in two ways in your paper: in the text itself and in the bibliography. Reference tools (e.g. Endnote) can help you create both types of references. 

How you reference your sources must be in accordance with the norms/standards within your field of study. There can be big differences between the different subjects, and it’s up to you to check the rules for citing sources for your subject. 

Remember that it counts as self-plagiarism if you fail to cite yourself as a source when you re-use texts or similar material you have previously produced and been graded on in another course.  Click here to read more about self-plagiarism. 

In-text references

Sources used in academic texts must always be clearly stated. The following shows how to include references in your academic text. 

You will usually reference your sources within the text and present those sources fully in the bibliography at the end of the text. There are many different ways of writing references, citations and bibliographies. Regardless of the method you use, it’s important that you are consistent throughout your assignment. One way of ensuring consistency is to use a standard (e.g. APA or Chicago) that lays down rules for writing references, citations and bibliographies. Check with your teacher or supervisor before choosing a standard, as there can be special rules within your subject. 

In-text references will look different depending on which standard you choose, for example:  

  • You can refer to the source in parenthesis like this: (Andersen, 2014: 32). The reader can then find more information about the reference in the bibliography. 

  • You can also reference the source in a footnote so the reader only sees a number in the text, for example: (1) Referring to a note at the bottom of the page. You can include some information on the source in the note, and then include all relevant information in the bibliography. 

  • You can also combine these two methods so that you use a footnote to provide the name and year of the source, possibly the page numbers, and then include the rest of the information in the bibliography. 

  • Some institutions require that you include a note in the text that refers directly to a bibliography. 

Direct citations

There are different ways of citing a source in connection with a direct citation. A short citation can be inserted in the text like this: "It is important to avoid being accused of plagiarism" (Andersen, 2014: 32). Some standards require that longer citations be given a separate section. This can be done with an indent, so the reader can see that the following text is not written by the author. Cite the source of the citation under the text. Check the standard you are using to see the recommendations on how to mark longer citations. 

Always remember to check your department’s requirements for citing sources, and to do so well ahead of your deadline. 

Click here to read about formal requirements 


Learn more about the content of a bibliography and the order in which the content should appear. 

The literature list, bibliography or reference list is usually an alphabetical list of the sources sorted by: 

  • the name(s) of the author(s) 

  • the year the text was published  

  • title of the text 

If you used numbered references in your text, the sources in your bibliography will not be alphabetical, but will appear in the order in which they are used in your text.  

How different types of sources should be described in a bibliography depends on the standard(format) you have decided to use. The standards indicate how to write the authors’ names, whether the title should be in italics, when the publication year should be stated, and how to distinguish between different information. 

It’s a good idea to follow the guidelines of a particular standard when preparing a bibliography. Ask your supervisor or teacher if you are in doubt. These formats are often called standards, reference styles, styles or output styles. 

There are different styles, and it can be difficult to know which one to choose. If you are in doubt, it’s always a good idea to ask the people you are writing a text for or who will be reading/editing your text. They will often have a preference. You student handbook or study portal may have some guidelines that you need to follow. Find your programme’s study portal

Two examples: MLA and Chicago 

Below you will find two examples of how to referencing the same source in different ways: MLA and Chicago. As you can see, the elements are the same, but the two standards use italics differently and the elements are not in the same order. 



Donovan, Stephen K. "Ten Rules of Academic Writing." Journal of Scholarly Publishing 42.2 (2010): 262-7: Web. 

Donovan, Stephen K. 2010. "Ten Rules of Academic Writing." Journal of Scholarly Publishing 42 (2): 262-267. 
Kragh, Helge, et al. Science in Denmark : A Thousand-Year History. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2008. Print Kragh, Helge, Peter C. Kjærgaard, Henry Nielsen, and Kristian Hvidtfeldt Nielsen. 2008. Science in Denmark : A Thousand-Year History. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press.
Løfgreen, Lars Bo. "Designing for Critique, Designing for Reflection." Designing New Media. Ed. Bo Kampmann Walther. Aarhus: Academica, 2010. 73-84. Print.  Løfgreen, Lars Bo. "Designing for Critique, Designing for Reflection." In Designing New Media, edited by Bo Kampmann Walther, 73-84. Aarhus: Academica, 2010 

Tools for source management

Are you about to start a big paper/assignment, and would you like to get to grips with your sources from the outset? Then try one of the tools that can help you keep track of your references. 

A reference tool can help you keep track of your references and make sure that everything you reference is automatically listed in your bibliography. The tools can also handle your source references according to the standard you have chosen e.g. MLA or Chicago. This will save you time at the end of the day and you won’t have to keep track of when to use commas, parentheses, italics, etc. 

AU gives students and employees free access to EndNote, a license-based reference management tool.  

There are, however, many other free tools that can be downloaded from the internet, for example Mendeley and Zotero. They can both import references from the AU Library and other online sources, and you can add sources manually. You can then use the tools to create in-text references and to format your bibliography in accordance with different standards. 

Note regarding Mendeley: If you have an Office license from AU (Office 365), you cannot install the add-in to Word that would make it possible for you to insert references from Mendeley into your text. This is because the programme does not comply with AU's requirements. 

The Bodleian Libraries at Oxford University have compared the functions available in the different tools. The overview can help you find a tool that suits your needs. However, please note that the AU Library does not provide support for the free alternatives.

The content of this page is written by Centre for Teaching Development and Digital Media, Arts, Aarhus Universitet in collaboration with Søren Elle, AU Library Arts, Jette Bohn, AU Library Arts, Anders Nyegaard Mikkelsen, former employee at AU Library Campus Emdrup and Jesper Boserup Thestrup, Royal Danish Library.