Communicating through references

Referencing in scientific publications plays an important role in communicating with a scientific community.


Your credibility as a scientist is a key factor in effectively communicating your message to an audience. For example, an audience may be less likely to be persuaded by your arguments if they don’t consider you to be credible. Using references in your work contributes to your credibility by demonstrating that you have thoroughly researched your topic.

It is important to consider the quality of your references.

  • Are you referencing Wikipedia or dubious sources of information?
  • Are you referencing the most current research?
  • Are your references relevant to your own research or analysis? (I.e. Is there a strong link between your explanations/arguments and your references?)
  • Don’t try to increase your reference list with references that are only vaguely relevant to your research.

Constructing your argument

Your references play a crucial role in how you develop your argument or your message. By using references, you can construct a story that integrates your own research into the existing body of evidence. Your references can be considered as another form of data that you use to help persuade your readers that your data and analysis are valid.

You can also use references to highlight differences between your results and existing research. You are able to question a particular body of work, expressing doubts over the results or methods, or simply indicate that your study produced conflicting results and suggest that further research may be required.

Researching your topic

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UQ Library guides

The UQ Library website has a range of subject guides to help you find resources for specific fields. The guides identify relevant databases, journals, books, and web resources.

View the UQ Library research guides

Useful links

Referencing styles
Some lecturers may ask you to use a particular style for your assignments. Referencing styles indicate how you should format your in-text references and reference list. Whichever referencing style you use, it is important that you stay consistent – don’t use multiple styles in a single document.

How to reference
Paraphrasing, summarising, and quoting are the three main ways that you can include references in your work.

Referencing software
Software programs, such as Endnote, allow you to create a database of references that can be quickly added to your assignments. These prograan take some time to learn but they are particularly useful when you have a lengthy reference list.