Why reference?

Umberto Eco describes why very clearly when he states that “[ ] research deals with a specific object, defined so that others can identify it” (Eco et al., 2015, p.27).

The same applies to examined work as part of a course, like for instance the QCF Level 6 Diploma in Career Guidance and Development. In order for your assessor, the IQA and the EQA to be able to pass your work, you need to be clear on where you got your evidence from. This means that whenever you use evidence, as defined by sources you use to underpin your findings, opinions, critical assessments, evaluations etc… it needs to be clear to anyone reading your work, where you go the evidence from. This is so that anyone can verify the validity of what you are saying, to make sure that you are not plagiarising (see below about this) and for you to come back to that evidence should you need or want to.

How reference?

This comes down to good ‘essay writing hygiene’. To produce a ‘clean’ piece of work that has a good narrative, that makes verifiable sense and that is laid out well, it’s best to reference as you go along.

“Good referencing comes down to consistently applying good ‘essay writing hygiene’!”

Going back over your piece of work after writing it and then putting in all the references, will take up a lot more time, I can assure you. It will be very difficult to find all those sources and resources back again, once you have moved elsewhere in your writing.

This means you need a good technique that works for you and that you can apply consistently throughout your writing, as you go along. This can be by collecting references in MS Word (see my page on this on this website), by using a referencing tool, by doing this by hand, etc… You need to do whatever suits you!

“You need to find or develop a technique that works for you, consistently and easily.”

What is evidence?

Evidence means you have used an external source in your work to underpin or evidence what you are saying. This is any source that doesn’t come directly from your mind, the conclusions you draw, etc…

What are the different sources that apply?

Let’s assume you are writing up Unit 3 and that you are writing a paragraph about Parsons’ theory:Reputable secondary sources are absolutely fine to use by the way. No need to go and find Parsons’ (or anyone’s) original work! But if you’re keen, there are facsimiles for sale of his original book if you like.

When to reference

A reference is needed whenever:

  • You directly quote someone’s work. E.g.: Parsons claims that “[e]mployers of labor are becoming more scientific in their methods of judging the people who work for them” (Parsons, 1909, p.62).
  • You refer to work completed by others. E.g.: Parsons method for making career choices consists of 7 steps (Parsons, 1909, p.45,46)
  • You paraphrase or summarise other people’s work. E.g.: Differentialism is based on matching, using a scientific approach (Parsons, 1909)
  • You use or adapt an image from another source. E.g.:

Environmental career theory or Matching by Frank Parsons.

(Truyens, 2019)

Bibliography for the examples above

What to do and what not to do

There are still things you need to take into account.


Do not reference internal documents. Sources or documents only available on your organisation’s intranet or Teams will not be available to anyone outside of your organisation and can’t be used. If you feel it’s important to include this as a source, you would need to attach the document to your work, if and when permitted of course.
Don’t copy and paste a lot of other people’s text, or long sections by them, into your own work. This is seen as at the very least lazy or there may be suspicion that you don’t really understand the learning outcome and what is required. At worst it’s plagiarism, especially when the author isn’t acknowledged.
Don’t copy and paste text into your own work that is directly quoted from other people’s work without quote marks and ‘in text’ reference. At worst, this can be seen as plagiarism and may have severe consequences.
Never ask someone else to write for you, whether you pay them or not, or copy other candidate’s ideas and work. This is plagiarism.
Never use an AI (artificial intelligence) tool to write work. This is often obvious and will be classed as ‘not your work’. If you are found out, that may at the very least discredit you and cause you to have to start again. At worst, this may cost you your qualification and all the work you did do yourself is wasted. If you are not sure or you don’t understand, ask… research… talk to someone… talk to your assessor…
Generally don’t use other people’s work without referencing. At least it’s disrespectful and it can be seen as plagiarism if you do this a lot.
Don’t avoid using other people’s work to avoid using references. Basing your own conclusions and ideas on evidence is essential to prove that you have understood. Completely avoiding references where they are needed invalidates your work to great extent.

Plagiarism is a serious matter and may cost you your qualification and even your job, if it depends on your level 6 qualification.


Ask for advice and/or help if you are not sure. Your assessor is there to help. Even though they may be busy and not be able to help immediately, they do their best to help where they can.
Use references when and where they are needed. Try and desist from writing a lot of text of ‘what you read somewhere’ without going back to make sure you didn’t miss out adding references.
Use good ‘essay writing hygiene’ and reference as you go along. This will save you a lot of work.
Practise referencing. It’s cumbersome, but essential and if you use a technique that works for you, not too difficult (though people may disagree… at first!). It can define a lot of the quality of your work and makes a pass easier.
Always use ‘in text’ references with the full reference in a bibliography section at the bottom of your work. An ‘in text’ reference without a bibliography entry is pointless and a bibliography entry or reference without ‘in text’ references is not useful either.


  • Eco, U., Farina, M.C. and Farina, G. (2015) How to write a thesis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.