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Built Environment, Computing and Engineering: Referencing

Library Subject Guide for students in the School of Computing/School of Engineering & the Built Environment.


These pages explain why you need to reference your assignments, give you the link to the School referencing guides and introduces some software that you may wish to use for referencing (see the Endnote box at the foot of this page).

Academic referencing is an unfamiliar, - and daunting - skill for many students. At the beginning, it can seem difficult and complex but if you follow your school’s referencing rules and conventions you will be fine.

At university almost all pieces of academic coursework require you to provide evidence to back up your arguments and writing.  During assignment preparation, referencing will demonstrate where you retrieved your information from.

Look at the marking criteria for your assignments- marks may be awarded for doing referencing well and following the correct referencing style for your school. It is therefore an essential skill that all students need to acquire.

There are three main reasons why you must reference clearly, systematically and consistently:

  • Demonstrate that you have read widely around your topic, using credible, good quality academic  and evidence based sources (not always the first items you found on Google!)
  • Acknowledge the work of others. If you include the work or ideas of others without referencing these, this is called  plagiarism. Plagiarism at Edinburgh Napier is defined as the unacknowledged incorporation in a student’s work either in an examination or assessment of material derived from the work (published or unpublished) of another.
  • Provide full bibliographic information for the items you have listed. This allows your reader to locate the items for themselves if they interested.

A question asked by nearly all students and not one with a straightforward answer !  It all depends on the question you are answering, the level of study you are at and the assessment / marking guidelines you are working to.

Ideally, your referencing should demonstrate that you understand the question, can plan and carry out a literature search using some of the academic sources mentioned in this guide, (books, journals and databases), read sources critically, and  construct a good academic piece of writing to answer the question, using the work of others.

Some assignment questions are straight foward and require few references. Essays on the other hand requiring up to 3,000 words may need quite a few. Check your assignment guidelines, and if in doubt ask your module leader.



Referencing Help

Other referencing resources

You must follow the advice in your school guide (link above), but it might be useful to have a look at the referencing section of Getting Ready For University Study.

Reference management software

Reference management software is effectively a large online filing cabinet for storing references and matching PDFs.  They will save you a great deal of time and effort when you are writing a paper, dissertation or thesis, but they do require a reasonably good level of IT skills.

Automatically export database search results to your reference manager e.g. from LibrarySearch or journal article databases. As you write your assignment and need to include a reference, pull the reference into your document from the reference manager. It will create the in text citation and the end reference list for you, formatted in the bibliographic style of your choice.

Edinburgh Napier supports two reference managers    - Endnote and Mendeley . See our separate reference management Libguide.


Endnote Desktop   -  Download from the university network. Also  available off campus via the Virtual Desktop Service. Synchronise Desktop & Online versions together for on/off campus use.

Endnote Online -    web based. Great for off campus use. Good for undergraduates

 Endnote  videos 


Mendeley - web based. Has a social networking element, allowing users to find and share references with others. Can set up a personal profile of your own publications.

Mendeley videos