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Reviewing the literature is a service that you perform for the Reader. As mentioned earlier, the purpose of a reference is to let the Reader know where a fact or an idea came from so that they can go to the source for more information if necessary. You should use references to support any claims that you make, and if you add any commentary, you must make sure there is a clear distinction between the source material and your own work.

Not all references have equal value. Peer-reviewed articles from academic journals are generally acknowledged to be the highest-quality material that you can use. They are written by experts and are reviewed independently by other experts. Material from books may be considered reliable, but may not be completely up to date. Material from Web sites should be avoided if possible, but sometimes a certain type of information is only available through that route. If you use Web material, be sure to reassure the Reader that it is reliable by providing some details. If a website is only relevant in a general sense - the home page for a technical product for example - then it may be better to pu it into a footnote rather than treat it as a full academic reference.

Pay attention to the publication date. In a technical subject, it is important that reference are current. Anything more than five years old may be of little interest unless it is a seminal work that marks the introduction of a particular concept, or is part of some historical development that you are discussing.

Using a standard format for references is important. If all references are presented in a common format it makes them easier to navigate. It also makes is harder to overlook some of the details. At Edinburgh Napier, the preferred referencing style is APA.

Some texts on academic writing go into referencing in a huge amount of detail. However, it is no longer necessary to spend hours checking the format of your references because that can now be done with software. There are several reference management applications, the two most popular being Zotero and Mendeley. Both allow you to build up a database of references using document metadata. This means that you rarely have to type out the details yourself. They also allow you to add in-text citations and reference lists easily in Microsoft Word and LibreOffice. They can also export bibtex files for use with LaTex. A further advantage of using a reference manager is that it makes it very difficult to miss a paper off your reference list. If you have cited it in the text, the reference manager will automatically add it to the list.