Office of the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Business)

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Office of the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Business)

College of Business:

Guidelines for referencing and presentation

in written reports and essays

Version: 4
Approved: April 2010
Review date: Not later than December 2011



Table Title Page

Table 1 Referencing styles – type of author 6

Table 2 Referencing styles – no author 6

Table 3 Referencing styles – books 7

Tables 4a-d Referencing styles 10

Table 5 Order of entries in a reference list 22

Table 6 Other referencing systems 23

Table 7 Commonly used abbreviations in referencing 24

Table 8 Direct use of another person's work without citation 26

Table 9 Paraphrasing without citation 26

Table 10 Piecing together texts and linking them 26

Table 11 Integrating ideas from multiple sources 27

Table 12 How to avoid accusations of plagiarism 27

Table 13 Action/instruction words used in assessment tasks 29

Table 14 Mind mapping for essays 30

Table 15 Checklist for essays 34

Table 16 Mind mapping for reports 38

Table 17 Sections of a report 40

Table 18 Examples of the language used in the different sections of a report 45

Table 19 Formal versus informal language 45

Table 20 Report writing checklist 47

Table 21 Glossary 49

1. Introduction

The written word is the basis of business communication today, whether in a formal business report, a letter, informal memo or email. As a business professional, you will be judged by how well and how clearly you use words to communicate.

As well as teaching technical business skills in a broad range of disciplines, RMIT Business is also committed to help you develop appropriate business writing skills for the University assessments you will be required to submit.
This document is intended for RMIT Business TAFE and undergraduate students, although postgraduate students are encouraged to use it as a starting point. It details how to format your written work and demonstrates:

  • the differences between academic essays and business reports;

  • guidelines for their preparation;

  • how to ensure you meet the technical requirements;

  • how to cite references;

  • how to avoid plagiarism.

You will find a set of broad guidelines to help overcome common problems with grammar, formatting, and use of abbreviations. This document is intended as an integral reference on matters of style and method. It will also help you further develop your written communication skills.

The RMIT Business Guidelines are based on the Style manual for authors, editors and printers (2002), referred to here as Style manual (2002) which is published on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia, and is the Commonwealth Government’s preferred style. The Style manual (2002) can be used to provide guidance on areas which are not covered in the RMIT Business document, but if there is any inconsistency you should follow the RMIT Business document.
There may be certain other style requirements published in a course guide or indicated by the lecturer in charge.
Examples used in this guide are presented in text boxes to make them easy to follow.

Example of correct in-text reference using quotes

‘Whilst this work has been developing in the USA it had very different beginnings in Britain ‘ (Wright 1982, p. 51).

Additional support and assistance with essay writing, writing style, and referencing can be found by viewing the Learning Lab <>.

1.1 Getting started

Do not leave the task until the last minute. You are urged to consider the following advice in relation to written assessments:

  • Start thinking about the topic as soon as it has been selected and list the questions you believe you should try to answer.

  • Do background reading, but keep checking the set topic to ensure that you stay focused.

  • Place the topic of your answer within the appropriate context. For example, an essay question on the macroeconomic policies of a particular country will require you to define ‘macroeconomic’ before you can write about policies in different countries. So you may need to complete background reading before commencing the specific reading related to your written task.

  • What do you need to fully answer the question? Do you need to collect data, source more reading materials, analyse new or existing data? Where will you source this information?

  • Allow time to secure essential references, remembering most libraries often do not have sufficient multiple copies of references. Learn quickly to get the relevant information for your assignment, using the table of contents, chapter summaries, indexes and reviews. Always record the details of the publications in full for inclusion in your notes or plan in case you decide to refer to a source in your essay.

  • You should use all available research resources including the Internet and other electronic sources, to both save time and allow you to conduct international research and data gathering from home or work. However, in using these new technologies you must ensure that database resources, web pages, email, electronic discussion lists, etc. are properly acknowledged (see chapter 3 for electronic document referencing).

1.2 Editing

Do not leave editing until the last minute, but leave sufficient time to rewrite work to improve your expression. Remove irrelevant or redundant material. Refine arguments to be more concise and forceful, and to remedy any other deficiencies.

Often, the best way to ensure your writing flows systematically is to read your work aloud. Your natural pauses become your punctuation and paragraph breaks, and sometimes, while reading aloud, it becomes obvious what needs to be deleted and what is missing from your analysis.
1.3 Confidentiality

If you include confidential and/or controversial material and do not wish your essay or report to be viewed by people other than RMIT staff, you should discuss this with your lecturer or course coordinator.
1.4 Referencing

What is referencing?

  • Referencing means acknowledging someone else’s work or ideas. It is sometimes called ‘citing’ or ‘documenting’ another person’s work.

  • Referencing is a basic University requirement.

As an RMIT Business student, you are required to use the Harvard referencing system as outlined in the following pages. This author date system is based on the Australian Government 2000, Style manual for authors, editors and printers, 6th edn, John Wiley & Sons, Australia.
Note: The Harvard system has many variations. You must use this version known as the AGPS style.
We have created an interactive website to assist you in the pursuit of referencing to the required standard. The site contains examples you can read as well as self help exercise with the information presented in a just in time format. It would be beneficial fore you to bookmark the RMIT Business online referencing resource.
Why reference?

  • To draw on the ideas, language, data, and/or facts of others. (You are expected to read and research widely.)

  • To provide depth and support to academic work through citation of theories or key writers whose work supports your answer, argument, or contention.

  • To demonstrate knowledge of current thinking in the field.

  • To support academic writing, essays, business reports, and oral presentations.

  • To demonstrate your ability to synthesis and analyse ideas sourced through your research.

  • To acknowledge work from others that you have quoted, summarised, paraphrased, synthesised, discussed or mentioned in your assignments.

  • To provide a list of the publication details so that your readers can locate the source if necessary.

  • To demonstrate the level and breadth of research undertaken by a student. References used correctly will benefit your work and may add to your final grade.


  • Without appropriate referencing students are in effect “stealing” the work of others- this is tantamount to academic fraud and is called plagiarism.

  • Failure to reference your work means that you may be found guilty of plagiarism which incurs academic penalties. Further information can be found at RMIT Regulations 6.1.1 – Student Discipline.

  • Failure to use the correct referencing format may affect the grading of your academic work.

2. Referencing

2. 1 Introduction

Whenever you rely on someone else’s work you must acknowledge that by providing details of the source. Harvard Referencing has been developed to provide standard, compact ways of conveying this necessary information.
In this system, each reference is indicated in two areas of your work:

  • in the text (in-text citation) by using the name of the author(s) and the date of publication of the work.

  • In the reference list, where the full details of each reference, including the title and publishing details are given

2.2 In-text citations

There are two ways of referencing in-text:

  • Paraphrasing

  • Direct quotes

2.2.1 Paraphrasing

When paraphrasing, the ideas of the author(s) are expressed in your own words.
Paraphrasing is used to indicate to the reader:

  • your understanding of the content in the reference you are using.

  • your ability to relevantly and appropriately use ideas and information to support an argument or an opinion. How to reference in-text

There are two options for in-text referencing

  • Adding the citation at the end of the sentence.

  • Using the author’s name as part of your sentence.

  • When paraphrasing include the author’s name and date of publication.


Lack of variability in a product is an important measure of its quality (Shannon 2003).


Shannon (2003) describes the role of statistics in minimising product variability.

2.2.2 Direct quotes

When quoting, the exact words of the author(s) are used. Direct quotes should be kept to a minimum. How to reference in-text

There are two options for in-text referencing

  • Adding the citation at the end of the sentence

  • Using the author’s name as part of your sentence

  • When using direct quotes include the author’s name, date of publication and page number


Statistical thinking can be defined as a ‘set of thought processes and value systems that focus on understanding, managing and reducing variation in the output of the firm’ (Shannon 2003, p. 5).


Shannon defines statistical thinking as a ‘set of thought processes and value systems that focus on understanding, managing and reducing variation in the output of the firm’ (2003, p. 5).

2.3 A reference list

  • The publication details of every item cited / used in your writing need to be included in the reference list at the end of your paper. Any websites used must also be documented in full. This enables the reader to locate the source if they wish.

  • Each reference list entry requires a specific format depending on the reference type i.e. whether it is a book, book chapter, journal article, website, etc. This is indicated in the following tables (page 6 onwards).

  • You must use a variety of sources in your written work e.g. books, journals and websites etc. This indicates that you have researched widely.

What is the difference between a reference list and a bibliography?

  • A reference list details in alphabetical order by author family name, all the works/articles/journals/ monographs/web pages and data sources you have cited in your written work.

  • A bibliography lists, in alphabetical order by author family name, all the works/articles/journals/ monographs/web pages and data sources you have used or accessed to create your written work.

Note: RMIT Business requires all students to use a reference list in assessment tasks unless otherwise instructed by your lecturers.
2.3.1 Referencing internet sources

Referencing of web resources follows the same principles as for printed material. Often it is difficult to decide how to reference a web site, especially when it originates from a corporate or government body.
It may not be clear:

  • who or which part of an organisation is responsible for the content. (Check the header, footer or “About” section of the site).

  • when it was created or last updated. (Many sites are continuously updated – check for clues such as references to events which happened in a particular year or look for a copyright date. If it is clear that a site is continuously updated use the current year.)

  • which part to take as the title. (Home pages do not always require a title. For subordinate pages, choose the most obvious heading on the page).

  • who is responsible for publishing it.

The important thing is to make it clear exactly which part of the site you are referring to and provide details of the bodies responsible.
Viewed date

As documents on the web are subject to sudden change, it is essential to include the date on which you accessed the document, especially if no date can be found on the document itself.
Web addresses (URL - Uniform Resource Locator)

Provide the full URL for the site.

If you are accessing information via a Library database, give the name of the database not the URL.
As URLs often change, e.g. when a site is restructured, you need to provide sufficient information such as title and author for the reader to locate the document on the site.
Enclose the URL in angle brackets

e.g. . followed by a full stop.
It is important to use the URL prefix to identify type of access involved e.g. http:// ftp:// gopher://
General rules for in-text referencing where the name(s) of the authors are given

For books, journals, websites, conference papers and newspapers, the general rule is to use the family name and the date.

Table 1

Referencing style – types of author

In-text reference

One author

Family name

Year of publication

Kumar (2007) argued that…

...(Kumar 2007).

Two or three authors

Family name

Year of publication

Brown and Lee (2008) offer the opinion that…

....(Brown & Lee 2008).

Four or more authors

The name of the first author followed by ‘et al.’

Year of publication

Note: Family names of all authors, and initials, to be used in the reference list

Ng et al. (2004) stated that…

…(Ng et al. 2004).

For specific information regarding referencing, refer to pages 8-22 of this Guide or use the online referencing resource <>.
General rules for in-text referencing where the name(s) of the authors are not given

Table 2

Referencing style – no author

In-text reference

Newspapers from a database or hard copy

Name of paper – in italics



Date viewed

Database if applicable

In-Text Reference

As stated in the Financial Review (1 August 2007, p. 62, viewed 27 August 2007, Factiva Database)…..

…. (Financial Review, 1 August 2007, p. 62, viewed 27 August 2007, Factiva Database).

Websites – corporations / institutions

An organisational publication with no individual author e.g.  a corporate website or report, treat the company as the author

Name of authoring body, corporation / institution

Year of publication

Telstra (2007) provided the latest….

...,(Telstra 2007).

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