Source references

Referring to sources is a characteristic of research reports. The rules of research communication stipulate that when a writer refers to previous research or other peoples’ work, he or she must state the sources used in within the text itself and in the list of references/bibliography. The text reference should be so precise that source can be recognised and found. The text reference indicates the list of references/bibliography at the end of the text containing more detailed bibliographical information. Therefore the text reference and bibliography must correspond accurately: The text reference should guide the reader effortlessly to the right place in the bibliography. The bibliography only includes works that have really been used by the writer and to which he or she has referred in his/her writing. Using source references the writer indicates to the reader which parts of the text is his/her own work and which parts have been sourced from elsewhere.

The amount of references used depends on the research and the writer and whether the research will be published and who will read it. The main general functions of source references (regardless of the type of research) are, however as follows:

  1. documentation 
  2. control 
  3. information 
  4. specification

a. Documentation

All information presented in a research report must be documented: the writer must indicate the sources on which material presented and used in the report are based. It is not necessary to document general knowledge and theoretical concepts. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between what is general knowledge and what is not. Usually textbook and handbook information and knowledge gained from encyclopaedias is considered to be general knowledge.

b. Control

Recording sources used is the trademark of a reliable research report. The reader must have the opportunity to verify that the writer has analysed and understood the sources used correctly. This requires precision and accuracy of the writer.

c. Information

A research report is also a source of information for other such readers. The source references provide wider information on the field in question and guide the reader to sources of information, which are important in terms of work in that field.

d. Specification

References provide an opportunity to add to the issues discussed in the text. Using references it is possible to provide further explanation of literature relevant to the subject under discussion in the text or to present a quote that supports a certain argument that would otherwise disturb the fluency of the text due to its length. It is also possible to clarify statements made in the text using references by presenting a translation from the text in its original language.

How to use Quotations

The amount of quotations used depends on the research and field of research. Quotations are used less in the fields of Natural Sciences and Technology. Other research is presented briefly or is only referred to. Presenting sources and referring to other literature when compiling research is more common in the field of Humanities and Social Sciences where quotations are commonly and often used.

Independent research is not based on quoting and borrowing other research but on one’s own ideas and thoughts. Sources are quoted to support one’s own ideas.

Direct Quotation

Use direct quotations carefully. Direct quotations should only be used when the issue in the source material has been presented so accurately and convincingly that paraphrasing or summary could falsify or damage the information. Use direct quotations sparingly and if you do have to use them make sure that they are as short as possible. Instead of a whole sentence or clause only use a few words that can convey the issue presented in the source with the required precision and tone. You must also ensure that you your quotations are not separated from their original meaning and context.

Indirect Quotation

The most usual form of quotation is a brief explanation based on the source material in the form of a summary or paraphrasing. A summary is a brief explanation of the crucial information in the source material and paraphrasing is a wider explanation of the information without brevity.

When interpreting source material you must ensure that the reliability of the information is conveyed. A skilled summary is a central technique of demanding writing. Summarising and paraphrasing is not a quotation with the quotation marks missing. You can use the terminology and concepts of the original text in your own writing without claiming that the original is your own – this would be plagiarism.

Mention the author of the original text at the beginning of the quotation when you need to summarise larger parts of a source e.g. several sections.

Reference System

Technical punctuation guidelines may conjure up a rather shallow view of a researcher’s writing tasks. It is useful to remember that accuracy and precision in presentation increase the value of the research. It is therefore necessary to be conversant with the basic technique of referencing while writing a piece of discursive text.

The Harvard referencing system is currently in use i.e. the name, year system. Its advantage over other systems is that the age of the source material is immediately obvious. The source reference comes directly after the quoted material in brackets and it is organised as follows: surname(s) of source author(s) + year of (publication) + page(s).

Example: Yrityksen kustannuksen voidaan jakaa työ-, aine- ja pääomakustannuksiin sekä ulkopuolisten suoritamiin palveluksiin (Honko 1969, 23).

The source reference is placed between brackets before the full stop of the sentence, if the quotation is only one sentence long. If there are several sentences in the quotation prior to the final sentence, the source reference is recorded as a separate bracketed sentence. In this case the final mark of the quotation (full stop, question exclamation mark) come before the brackets and the source reference has its own full stop within the brackets.

Example: Sulkeissa olevat lähdetiedot sijoitetaan tavallisesti aakkosjärjestykseen. Myös aikajärjestys tuntuu usein luonnolliselta. (Hirsjärvi, Remes & Sajavaara 1997, 332 .)

There is not a comma between the surname and the year of publication, however there is a comma and a space between the year of publication and the page number. The name and year of publication refer to the list of references/bibliography that will provide more detailed information.

Honko, j. 1969. Liiketaloustiede. Ekonomia Series 3. Helsinki: Weilin + Göös.

Online sources are also referred to using the name-year system. The source is referred to in the text using the surname of the author and if this is not possible the name of the article is provided as a reference. If this information is not available from the web site the reference must include the owner of the website and the year of publication, just as with book sources. The www addresses are given in the bibliography in alphabetical order according to source name. If the same web site is used more than once the different sources are marked in order with small case letters of the alphabet, as for works by the same author published during the same year.


Tutkimuksen mukaan noin 16 % ohjelmistoprojekteista onnistuu taloudellisesti (Standish 1995).

Ihmiset oireilevat yksilöllisesti sisäilman laatuun (Yleisradio 2003 a).

Älykkyyttä voi parantaa heti syntymästä lähtien (Yleisradio 2003 b).

The www addresses for the above references are recorded according to the reference word with the date read at the end.

The Standish Group. 1995. The CHAOS Report. Web document. Available from: (read 21.11.2003)

Yleisradio 2003 a. (read 2.8.2003)

Yleisradio 2003 b. (read 5.9.2003)