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WriteCast Episode 29: The Partnership Between Citations and References

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WriteCast Episode 29: The Partnership Between Citations and References

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© Walden University Writing Center 2016



[Introduction music]



[Teaser] BETH: Those two things need to work together in a partnership.



BRITTANY: Welcome to WriteCast: A Casual Conversation for Serious Writers. I’m Brittany Kallman Arneson,


BETH: and I’m Beth Nastachowski.


BRITTANY: In this episode, we’ll be talking about the relationship between citations and the reference list.


BETH: So, the first thing we want to start with is just the purpose of the reference list. I think it’s really important to understand the purpose behind what this part of your paper really does for you and for your reader. I like to say that I’m a selfish writer, and I like to know why I’m learning all of these seemingly unnecessary APA rules, but they do have a sort of reason behind them. And so, right, I think it can be helpful to know the purpose of, of why the reference list is the way it is, so we kind of understand why we need to follow these rules and their purpose. So, the purpose of the reference list is to help direct the reader to the sources that you’re using in your writing. Really, in a very sort of academic way, it’s meant to help other readers replicate the research that you’re doing. So, a lot of Walden, right, it’s a social science university, and so you’re all, a lot of you are working on social science research and the idea is that some reader might want to take the research that you’re doing and replicate it.  So that’s, that’s really what one of the purpose of the reference list is.


BRITTANY: Yeah, Beth, I think that’s such a good summary of what it’s for, and I think, you know, a lot of times, what it feels like it’s for is to prove that you read a bunch of stuff.  Right?  And, and so, I think our impulse, sometimes, is to just include, like, everything under the sun that we ever, like, glanced at that’s on a particular topic. But actually, the reference list in APA shouldn’t include any sources other than the ones that you actually cite in that particular paper. So, even if you read a whole bunch of other sources that sort of informed your understanding of the topic that you wrote about in the paper or that, like, guided you to the sources that you cited in the paper, those sources should not appear in an APA reference list. And, that’s really different from certain other similar kinds of documents that we see in academia. So, for instance, you might have been required to create an annotated bibliography in a course. You might have, in other degree programs, created bibliographies that looked similar to a reference list. Or, sometimes maybe you’ve heard it called, or seen it, seen it identified as, a works cited list.


BETH: Or works consulted.


BRITTANY: And, they are similar. I mean, all of those, all of those kinds of, of documents are similar in that they are pointing to sources that back up the writer’s claims and they’re sort of, I don’t know, giving credibility to the writer’s claims and giving credibility to what the writer’s arguing in the paper. But, those other kinds of lists of resources, like a bibliography, or works cited, or works consulted, oftentimes do include sources that are not cited in the document itself.  And, that’s a pretty significant difference between an APA reference list and a bibliography or a works cited list.


BETH: And, I’d say too, it’s, it’s sort of interesting, if you’re thinking about the different purpose of these different lists and what they’re called and when they’re used, to just take a look at the different resources that you see out there and see how they cite their sources. A newspaper article or a magazine article will cite sources sort of differently.  They may cite sources, or they may not, right, just depending on the genre. You can even think about the academic books that are out there, published by academic publishers.  Those often will have a works consulted as well as maybe a bibliography or a reference list. Or you can then compare that to more popular, you know, books that are out there as well and how they kind of introduce those, those resources. So, just paying attention to how sources cite their research or whether they cite their research can tell you a lot about that source itself and the, sort of, values that they have for how that research and those sources might be used by the reader.


BRITTANY: Yeah, and I think that it helps to recognize that these are choices that are being made by writers or by, sort of, style books, or publication guides, depending on the specific goals of the specific audience of those groups or those authors. And, I think that can be really empowering for you as a student writer to realize, I mean, you are sort of constrained as a Walden student. You have to work in APA. That’s the style that we use here at Walden. But, I think it helps to know that even, even the choice to follow APA rules and guidelines at Walden, that was a choice, and that was an intentional choice made based on the kind of research that students are learning how to do here at Walden, the kind of topics that students are writing on at Walden, and the approach of APA and the way that APA treats citations and reference lists is particularly relevant to the kind of, of work that Walden students are doing.  The main way that it is relevant to the kind of work that Walden students are doing is that in APA, and I think students often kind of miss this or don’t realize this, or it doesn’t get emphasized quite enough, is that the citations that are happening in the body of the text of the paper are directly related to, or working together with, each reference list entry. And so, there’s kind of this partnership going on between the citations and the reference list and their goal, as partners, is to help link the reader of the paper to the very specific source that is backing up that particular claim in the body of the paper.  And so, it becomes a very exact way of citing sources. I think certain of the other styles that we’ve mentioned are a little bit more vague or it’s more difficult to, like, point to the exact claim that’s linked to a particular source, but in APA, that, that shouldn’t be a question at all. Right, if you’re doing your citations and your reference list correctly, there should be no question in the reader’s mind what source you used to, sort of, discover a certain claim that you’re making in, in your paper.


BETH: Right! So, one way to think about it, I like, I like the term you used of partnership. Brittany, I think that makes a lot of sense. Citations and reference lists are kind of in a partnership together and they should directly correlate and relate. So, any source that you cite within the body of your paper is included in the reference list. And then, you know, kind of correspondingly, anything in your reference list needs to appear in the body of your paper as well. So, you can’t have a source in your reference list that isn’t cited in the main part of your paper. And then, of course, anything cited in the main part of the paper is within the reference list, beyond sort of the, the general exceptions to those rules which would be a secondary source citation and a personal communication, which we aren’t going to go into here. But, those are other kinds of things, and if you’re interested in learning what those are, I do encourage you to go to our website and just go up to the search box and search either personal communication or secondary source, and you’ll find lots of other information. But, generally, those two things need to work together in a partnership. They’re kind of linked together. I like that idea of partnership. So, we’ve kind of outlined the purpose of the reference list and how references and citations work together, but practically speaking, strategies for kind of making sure that those two things work together, do you have any tips that you wanted to go over for students listening on how they can, kind of, go about that?


BRITTANY: Yeah! And, I think one of the coolest things about the APA reference list and citation, sort of, partnership is that it’s not just, sort of, these two big categories partnering together. Right? It’s not like there’s a list of citations and then there’s a list of references and they go together. But actually, the citations themselves, this is actually a metaphor that Beth has coined and used in, in webinars and in other instruction, but, and I love it.  It sort of works like little bread crumbs that get dropped throughout the paper that lead the reader to the specific reference. So, the citations actually kind of point to each reference, and a lot of times, I see students trying to cram a lot of detailed source information into the, the citations themselves, so in the body of the text, whether it’s in parentheses or if you’re using an in-sentence or in-text citation. And, that’s actually not necessary in APA, and the reason for that is that we don’t want to disrupt the flow of your voice and your ideas as the writer by, you know, adding in too much detailed information about the source right then and there.  You don’t want to, sort of, derail your reader to be thinking too much about that source at that moment or where it was published or, you know, whatever. So, we just include these very tiny little pieces of the full source information, and they’re the pieces that the reader needs to go back to the reference list and find the full source information. So, we include the author’s name, only the last night, right, because you don’t really need those first initials there in the body of the text. We include the publication year, and sometimes we include the page or paragraph number. And so, that’s enough information, just those three things is enough information to help the reader know where to go in the reference list to find the full source information if they want to know exactly where that source was published, what journal it was published in, or, you know, who the publishing house was for that book, or what the URL or doi is, or something like that.


BETH: And, the author and the year from the citation is the first pieces in the reference entry too, to make it easy to connect the citation to that reference entry for the reader.


BRITTANY: Exactly! I think that’s a great point, and actually, I think that transitions really nicely into some of the tips that we were going to give students to create strategies for checking that everything that’s in your reference list is there and making sure that there, all of those links are made between the citations and the reference list.


BETH: Yeah! And, and these strategies might be more necessary for longer papers. That’s one thing I want to emphasize, is that the longer your draft is, and the longer you’ve been writing it, the more complicated this gets, and the more you need to check this kind of stuff.  For a discussion post, right, you have one paragraph and then a couple of entries in your reference list, you can probably just do a quick visual look to make sure that everything matches up. Or, you could quickly just highlight everything, you know, and just quickly, kind of, look at that. But, when you’re talking about 15, 30, 100 plus page paper or a doctoral study, it gets more complicated, and you do need to make sure to consciously set aside some time to check for these things, because it can get just, just more messy.


BRITTANY: Yeah, and I think, you know, one of the things that’s, that really iterative process of writing and researching and writing and researching that you’re doing, and you’re sort of developing that skill as you move through your Walden program, means that your reference list is constantly changing, even after you’ve started to write. And so, that means, there’s even more room for error or missing something in linking the citations to the reference list, because, it’s not that you’re writing a full draft and then going through and creating the reference list. You’re going to be adding sources, and then you’re going to be adding information into your draft, and then back and forth and back and forth. So, yeah, I really like that advice, Beth, of carving out some time and, and sort of, considering this a necessary part of the writing process, to sit down and work systematically and methodically through the draft to make sure that you’ve got a reference entry for each citation and a citation for each reference entry.


BETH: And ways, ways I’ve done that in the past have really depended, like I said, on the length of the paper, but, I might print out my draft, and then just highlight. You know, I’ll look at a reference entry, make sure it’s there, and then make sure I’ve cited that source in the, you know, body of the paper and cited, you know, highlight there, physically highlighting things to match them up. You can also do that electronically in Microsoft Word.  You could also use the find feature in Microsoft Word to help search for things and, and just go through your citations and say, okay, I’ve cited Smith (2016), let’s make sure I have a reference entry and use the CTRL+Find as a helpful short cut to do that as well.


BRITTANY: Yeah, I think that all of those are really great tools and strategies. One thing I want to clarify too, just because I know this can get confusing for students sometimes is that in your reference list, you should only have one reference per source. Right? So, you don’t want to have the same source listed multiple times in your reference list.  That would get confusing for the reader. But, of course, you’re going to most likely have at least two or three citations in your document per source. Maybe you would only have one, and that’s fine too, but, you know, a lot of times you’re drawing on a text to support many different aspects of your, your claim that you’re making. And so, that’s important too, to note that when we say you’re linking, like each citation should link to a reference and vice versa, we don’t mean every time you cite a source, you need to cite that source again in the reference list. You want to make sure that readers are understanding that there is one source that is, sort of, contributing to multiple, multiple parts of your paper, and not that, that there are, you know, multiple versions of the same source, or something like that.


BETH: That’s a really helpful reminder. So, today we’ve done a general overview, just of the purpose of reference entries and, and really citations, how they work together, and some strategies for making sure that they match up and align up in your writing. We hope that this is useful for you, but we haven’t gone into too many specifics of citation and reference entry formatting. So, do make sure you go to our website and use the search box at the top right hand corner to look up, you know, other questions that you might have about specific citation or reference entry formatting. We have a ton of information there. And so, just clicking around can be really useful. We also would like to hear more ideas from you about what other topics you’d like us to talk about on the podcast. Brittany and I love talking about, you know, writing and APA and tone and academic conventions. All of those sorts of things. So, we’d love to hear what other topics that you’d like to learn more about and hear us talk about. So, please do let us know if you have any ideas by commenting on the blog post or emailing us at Or, commenting on any of the Facebook or Twitter posts about the podcast. Wherever you find us, you can let us know what your ideas are, and they’ll get to us. So, thanks so much, everyone!


BRITTANY: Thanks, everyone! Talk to you next time.


BETH: Bye!




BRITTANY: WriteCast is a production of the Walden University Writing Center. This episode was produced by me, Brittany Kallman Arneson; my co-host, Beth Nastachowski; and our colleague, Anne Shiell.