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Research: Referencing

Help for you as a researcher: why, what, how, where....?


Referencing is the ethical practice of citing your sources, to let your readers know where you found information or ideas, so they can distinguish it from your own thinking.  

Creating a list of all the information sources used in a research project is the most basic form of referencing.  Such an alphabetical list is called a bibliography or works cited page. 

In the body of your writing, you will be expected to include citations, showing which source in your bibliography the specific information you're using in the sentence or paragraph came from.  Two common forms of citations are:

  • in-text citations (also known as parenthetical citations)
  • footnotes or endnotes

MLA (short for the Modern Language Association) is the default formatting style for referencing at our school, up through Grade 10.  (IB Diploma students may be told to use other styles, depending on the subject).

MLA requires inline, or in-text, citations, NOT footnotes.  (Note that footnotes may be used in MLA if you are providing extra or explanatory information, not citations.)


MLA style is a system for documenting sources in scholarly writing. For over half a century, it has been widely adopted for classroom instruction and used worldwide by scholars, journal publishers, and academic and commercial presses.

The eighth edition of the MLA Handbook, published in 2016, rethinks documentation for an era of digital publication. The MLA now recommends a universal set of guidelines that writers can apply to any source and gives writers in all fields—from the sciences to the humanities—the tools to intuitively document sources. 

The List of Works Cited

The eighth edition of the MLA Handbook introduces a new model for entries in the works-cited list, one that reflects recent changes in how works are published and consulted. Previously, a writer created an entry by following the MLA’s instructions for the source’s publication format (book, DVD, Web page, etc.). That approach has become impractical today, since publication formats are often combined (a song listened to online, for example, could have been taken from a record album released decades ago) or are undefinable.

In the new model, the work’s publication format is not considered. Instead of asking, “How do I cite a book [or DVD or Web page]?” the writer creates an entry by consulting the MLA’s list of core elements—facts common to most works—which are assembled in a specific order. The MLA core elements appear below:

Author. Title of source. Title of container, Other contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Publication date, Location.

In the new model, then, the writer asks, “Who is the author? What is the title?” and so forth—regardless of the nature of the source.


From "What's New in the Eighth Edition." Modern Language Association, 2016,


MLA8 on one page


UNIS subscribes to NoodleTools for you. It can help you create correctly formatted references, but it can also help you with note-taking, outlining, and general research organisation.

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Video: Understanding ML8 by Kyle Stedman

In-text Citations

Image Attribution

United Nations International School, Hanoi