Simplifying student referencing: Supporting academic integrity


Student feedback was the catalyst for a cross-campus project that will deliver streamlined referencing options for students in 2024.

Correct citation of sources is at the heart of good scholarly practice and one of the ways in which academic integrity is displayed. However, the Library’s biennial client survey found that students find referencing for their assignments confusing and stressful. Listening to the voice of our clients is central to building relevant, high-quality library services, so I am pleased to be able to share how we are responding to this feedback and simplifying referencing for our students.

The Library has worked with the University’s Academic Integrity Taskforce, which commissioned a cross-faculty project to explore current referencing practice at Macquarie. Taking a multi-pronged approach, the project team, led by the Library’s Director of Academic Library Services, Susan Vickery, gathered further student feedback, examined sector practice, surveyed Unit and Course Directors, and looked at current support mechanisms available to students.

We found students were concerned about the number of different referencing styles they need to master and wanted clarity around which styles Macquarie University endorses. The students’ impression of being overwhelmed was supported by project outcomes, which identified at least 12 different styles in use across Macquarie, including six variations of Harvard style. Staff recognised the importance of developing students’ referencing skills as part of academic integrity, and reported they would welcome quality tools and resources to do this more effectively.

To address these issues, the project recommended that a more coordinated approach to reference requirements would reduce the complexity and confusion that students associate with referencing, while supporting academic staff to assist their students. These simple but effective changes include:

  • providing students with clear, consistent referencing guidelines within their unit assessments
  • identifying a Macquarie set of internationally recognised and authoritative referencing styles, aligned to Macquarie’s diverse areas of disciplinary focus (APA7, AGLC4, Chicago17 (Footnotes), Vancouver and IEEE)
  • developing quality online Macquarie-branded referencing guides that are readily accessible to teaching staff and students

By simplifying the technical aspects of referencing, students will be able to focus on the principles of academic integrity and ethical scholarly practice that underpin citation.

At the core of the Library’s mission is assisting students to develop information and digital literacy skills, and their ability to find, manage and ethically use information within complex digital environments. We are delighted to be working with colleagues to demystify referencing and develop tools to support students and academic staff. To implement the outcomes of the Referencing Project, the Library is using its students-as-partners approach to develop new referencing guides. We will be engaging with key partners in time to release the guides for Session 1, 2024. I am looking forward to sharing our new suite of referencing tools in 2024 and seeing how they improve our students’ experience.

For more information about the cross-campus Referencing Project, please contact Susan Vickery, Director of Academic Library Services at, or Vanessa Todd, Digital Literacies Program Manager at





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