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Guide to writing a reference

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Guide to writing a reference
March 18, 2019 1st Anniversary Wishes 3 comments

You have been asked to write a character reference for someone going to court because this person has broken the law. A character reference.

Writing a Reference Letter (With Examples)

By Ali Hale

At some point in life, you’re almost certainly going to have to write a reference letter for someone. It might be a former employee or student, or even a family friend. Here’s what you need to know about the purpose of reference letters and how to write the most effective letter possible.

Note: I will be using “candidate” to refer to the person who the reference letter is about, “you” to refer to the person writing the reference letter, and “recipient” to refer to the person receiving the letter. I’ll emphasise here, though, that reference letters are not only for job or academic “candidates”, it’s just a handy term to use to keep this article straightforward!

What is a reference letter and when are they used?

A reference letter is usually written to testify to a person or (occasionally) a company’s skills, character and/or achievements. Sometimes a reference letter is known as a “recommendation letter”. It is a formal document, and should be typed and written in a serious and business-like style.

Reference letters are used in a wide variety of situations; there is no definitive list that covers all possible scenarios. The most common examples are:

  • When a candidate applies for a job, they may need a reference to support their application.
  • If an interviewee is given a job offer, they may need to supply a reference letter before the contract can be signed.
  • A student applying for an academic course often requires a reference letter to support their application.
  • A student applying for funding will often need to supply reference letters.
  • Companies may use reference letters as testimonies to their trustworthiness and ability to carry out a job well.
  • Prospective tenants may need to provide their landlord with a reference letter, testifying to their good financial status. (This could be from a prior landlord or from a current employer.)

Who should write a reference letter?

If you are approached and asked to write a reference letter for a job candidate, a student or a company, consider whether you can legitimately do so. A reference letter is a formal document, and it is crucial that you do not lie or fudge the truth in it, or there could be legal repercussions. If someone wants a reference letter from you:

  • The candidate should be someone you know reasonably well. For example, you cannot provide any authoritative comment on the academic ability of a student who’s only been attending your lectures for a week.
  • You should know the candidate in a capacity which gives you the ability to write a meaningful reference. For example, if you have worked with the person, it would be appropriate for you to write a reference letter to a prospective employer for them.
  • You should be able to provide an honest and positive reference. If you truly feel that the candidate has no good qualities for you to emphasis, or if you have had a personality clash with them in the past, you should tell them to seek a reference letter from someone else.

What goes into a reference letter?

The exact structure of a reference letter will differ slightly depending on the type of reference it is, but this is a good basic outline:

  1. Start using the business letter format: put the recipient’s name and address, if known, and address them as “Dear [name]”. If the recipient is currently unknown (this would be likely on an academic application, for instance), then use “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To whom it may concern”.
  2. It is often helpful to introduce yourself in the first couple of lines of your letter. The recipient will not need your life history: just give a brief sentence or two explaining your position and your relationship to the candidate.
  3. Your next paragraph should confirm any facts which you know the candidate will be supplying along with your letter. For example, if you are writing a reference for a job applicant, some or all of these details may be appropriate:
    • The person’s job title, and role within the company.
    • The person’s leaving salary when they were last employed by you (or your organisation).
    • The dates which the person was employed from and until.

    If you are writing a reference letter for an academic course, you will need to confirm the person’s academic grades.

  4. In your third paragraph, you should provide your judgement upon the candidate’s skills and qualities. It is often appropriate to state that you would gladly re-employ them, or that their contributions to your college class were highly valued. Single out any exceptional qualities that the candidate has – perhaps their drive and enthusiasm, their attention to detail, or their ability to lead.
  5. Where possible, use your fourth paragraph to give a couple of concrete examples of times when the candidate excelled. (You may want to ask the candidate to tell you about any extra-curricular projects they’ve been involved in, or invite them to highlight anything they’d particularly like you to include in the reference letter.)
  6. Close your letter on a positive note, and if you are willing to receive further correspondence about the candidate’s application, make this clear. Include your contact details too.
  7. As with any business letter, you should end appropriately; “Yours sincerely” when you are writing to a named recipient, and “Yours faithfully” when you do not know who will be receiving the letter.

Things to avoid

Make sure that you avoid:

  • Mentioning any weaknesses the candidate has.
  • Saying anything that could be construed as libel.
  • Writing in an informal manner: keep the letter business-like. Jokes, slang and casual language are not appropriate and may harm the candidate’s chances.
  • Including personal information not relevant to the application. Mentioning the candidate’s race, political stance, religion, nationality, marital status, age or health is usually inappropriate.
  • Spelling mistakes, sloppy writing or typos: this letter is hugely important to the candidate, and you should take care to make it look professional.

Reference Letter Examples

There are a number of good templates for reference letters available on Business Balls. I’ve included one below, which would be appropriate for a general-purpose reference – if you were writing a reference in your capacity as the candidate’s former employer, you would need to include more specific details:


To whom it may concern

I confirm that I have known (name) for (number) years.

(State relationship – social, business, working together in some other capacity, club, activity, project, etc.)

At all times I have found (name/him/her) to be (state characteristics – eg, dependable, reliable, hard-working, conscientious, honest, peace-loving, courteous, etc – to be as helpful as possible think about what the reader will most prefer to see, in terms of satisfying concerns, or seeing evidence of relevant required skills or characteristics).

I’m happy to provide further information if required. (optional)

Yours faithfully, etc.

You can find examples of full reference letters on’s “job searching” section. They list letters appropriate for a variety of different situations: here’s one from a previous employer in support of a job candidate:

To Whom it May Concern:

I highly recommend Jane Doe as a candidate for employment. Jane was employed by Company Name as an Administrative Assistant from 2002 – 2005. Jane was responsible for office support including word processing, scheduling appointments and creating brochures, newsletters, and other office literature.

Jane has excellent communication skills. In addition, she is extremely organized, reliable and computer literate. Jane can work independently and is able to follow through to ensure that the job gets done. She is flexible and willing to work on any project that is assigned to her. Jane was quick to volunteer to assist in other areas of company operations, as well.

Jane would be a tremendous asset for your company and has my highest recommendation. If you have any further questions with regard to her background or qualifications, please do not hesitate to call me.


John Smith

If you are still unsure what best to include in the reference letter, imagine yourself in the position of the candidate’s prospective employer, or of the panel reading his/her academic application. What information would they need to know? What qualities would they like their candidates to have? Obviously, you should never lie or mislead in a reference letter, but you should try to focus on areas which will give the recipient the most useful information possible about the candidate.

Video Recap

How to Ask for a Reference Letter

If you’re in the position of requiring a reference from a past employer or from someone who taught you at school or university, then you need to approach them in an appropriate way.

“Appropriate” might be quite formal or quite informal, depending on your relationship with them. For instance, if you’re approaching a lecturer who taught you along with dozens of other students and who does not know you well, it’s appropriate to be quite formal; if you’re approaching your former line manager, who you shared nights out and weekends away with for years, then being formal would seem strangely standoffish.

In a fairly formal context, you might write something like this:

Dear (name)

I hope all is going well (at their company / in their department).

I’m applying for (give brief details of the role or position you’re applying for). Would you be able to provide a reference letter for me? I’d be very grateful. You can send it to (add the name and contact details here)

With thanks in advance,

(Your name)

If you’re approaching someone who you’re on very friendly terms with, it’s really up to you to decide what to say.

Whatever the situation, it often makes sense to mention particular points that it would be helpful for the reference to cover (e.g. “The company is especially keen to know about my experience with summarising complex information quickly, as that will be a major part of the role.”)

It can also be helpful to include details that the person writing the letter may not be aware of. For instance, if you took part in significant extra-curricular activities at university alongside your studies, you may want to mention this.

Writing a Reference Letter: Quick Summary

When you’re writing a reference letter, you should:

  • Ascertain why the referee needs the letter. A reference letter for an academic position will read very different from a reference letter for a prospective landlord.
  • Consider whether you can reasonably provide the type of reference required. If you do not know the candidate well, or if you are unable to give them a positive reference, you should encourage them to seek someone else.
  • Format your letter as a standard business letter, and briefly introduce yourself at the start.
  • Confirm key facts about the applicant (e.g. how long they worked for you, and in what role).
  • Provide your judgement upon the candidate’s skills and qualities. Be honest, but do focus on the things that you feel will reflect the candidate in a positive light.

If you’re asking someone to provide a reference letter, you should approach them in an appropriate way, and give them the information they need in order to write you a good reference.

Reference Letter Quiz

For each question, select the correct answer.

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Read the guidance to understand what you should include when asked to provide a reference for someone.

Writing References - Oxford System

guide to writing a reference

An effective reference letter could mean the difference between a candidate's acceptance or rejection. You may be a person requesting a reference letter, or you may be a person writing a reference letter. In either case, the information in this article can make both requesting and writing the letter easier. A reference letter is essentially the same as a recommendation letter but the reference letter is sent to an unknown employer, whereas a recommendation letter is sent to a known employer. Primarily, a reference letter is used to introduce a person and vouch for his integrity, character, and abilities.

This article discusses:

Requesting a Reference Letter/Letter of Reference

Before you request a reference letter, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Ask for a reference letter from people who know you and your capabilities, such as former employers, teachers, coaches, community or corporate leaders, influential friends who have known you a long time, etc. Relatives are not a good choice. Three letters are usually enough.
  • Be sure to give the people you ask enough time to write the reference letter—a week to 10 days should be sufficient.
  • Tell the people who agree to write letters for you about your goals and what they could write that would help you to achieve those goals. Don't be shy. A reference letter is a sales letter that is intended to sell you. Now is the time to point out your accomplishments!
  • Follow up your request with a review of your conversation in writing. In your letter it may be helpful to suggest specific phrases or sentences that the writer could put in your letter. When you send your follow-up letter, be sure to also include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. If you don't receive your reference letters within 10 days of your conversations with the prospective writers, you may need to contact them to confirm that each is aware of your deadlines.
  • Once you receive your reference letters, send the writers thank-you notes. You should also let each writer know about your subsequent success and how much their letters helped you to attain your goal.

Agreeing to Write a Reference Letter/Letter of Reference

Are you the right person to write a reference letter? If you are asked to write a letter of reference, you may need to discuss this subject with the requester. Can you honestly write positive things about the person who has requested the letter? If not, you should bow out gracefully at the beginning. On the other hand, if you feel you qualify, brainstorm with the requester so you can write what he or she wishes to be said, and be sensitive to his/her deadlines.

Have the person give you a list of accomplishments, organizations that he/she belongs to, or any other relevant information. It might surprise you to see how much that person has done outside of your personal contact with them. This can also help you get a more accurate picture of the individual. Having the person give you a copy of his/her resume is an easy way to have this information at hand. Keep in mind, however, that you can only vouch for what you know from your own personal experience with the individual.

How to Write a Reference Letter

Here are some easy guidelines (in no specific order):

  • Explain how you know the applicant and how long you have known him/her.
  • In what respect is this person exceptional to others you have known with a similar background? List the applicant's exceptional qualities and skills, especially those that are related to the applicant's field of interest or job search. Give specific examples to back up what you have written.
  • Refer to the requester's competency in a specific field and/or prior experience, organizational and communication skills, academic or other achievements, interaction with others, sound judgment, reliability, analytical ability, etc.
  • Omit weaknesses. If you can't write a positive letter of reference, you should diplomatically decline when you are first approached.
  • State your own qualifications. Why should the reader be impressed with your reference letter?
  • Emphasize key points that you want the reader to take note of on the resume or application. Be sure to elaborate meaningfully; don't simply restate what he/she has already written.
  • Unless it is absolutely relevant, do not refer (either in a direct or implied reference) to the applicant's race, religion, national origin, age, disability, gender, or marital status.
  • Don't be too brief, but be succinct and make every word count. Generally speaking, a letter of reference for employment should be one page; a letter of reference for school admission should be one to two pages.
  • List your own contact information if you are willing to receive follow-up correspondence or answer questions.
  • Make the ending strong without overdoing it. Undue praise can be viewed as biased or insincere.
  • Proofread! The letter of reference represents both you and the applicant.

Reference Letter Tips

Here are some additional things to keep in mind:

Appearance. Type your reference letter. Your reference letter casts a reflection on both you and the candidate. Appearance may even determine if it will be read or not. Print the letter on good quality ink-jet paper.

Specifics. Concentrate on several different aspects of the person. Be specific when you refer to his/her skills, attitude, personal attributes, contributions, performance, growth, etc. during the time period you have known the candidate.

Word usage.

  • Be careful with "power words"! Some words that seem harmless in every day conversation can carry both positive and negative connotations when written and presented to a prospective employer. Here are a few positive adjectives: honest, articulate, effective, sophisticated, intelligent, observant, significant, expressive, creative, efficient, cooperative, imaginative, dependable, reliable, mature, and innovative.
  • Avoid adjectives and adverbs that carry a mediocre connotation such as: nice, good, fair, fairly, adequate, reasonable, decent, and satisfactory.

Attributes. The National Association of Colleges and Employers compiled the following list of attributes. They can be exceptional topics to address as you describe the candidate:

  • ability to communicate
  • intelligence
  • self-confidence
  • willingness to accept responsibility
  • initiative
  • leadership
  • energy level
  • imagination
  • flexibility
  • interpersonal skills
  • self-knowledge
  • ability to handle conflict
  • goal achievement
  • competitiveness
  • appropriate vocational skills
  • direction

Intangible qualities. The ASCUS Annual listed the following intangible qualities as important when evaluating teaching candidates—a good list to consider for other vocations as well:

  • empathy
  • native intelligence
  • a divergent, abstract thinking style
  • a high level of commitment
  • the ability to be a "self-starter"
  • a high energy level
  • the recognition that excellence is a journey, not a destination
  • the potential ability to lead
best goodbye email
Retirement greetings wishes
letter giving advice to someone
What is head over heels in love
miss you card
Job appointment announcement
thank you for the job referral
Example of speech of goodwill

Employee reference letters

guide to writing a reference

Writing a character reference

You have been asked to write a character reference for someone going to court because this person has broken the law. A character reference is a letter and includes your opinion of this person.

The magistrate or judge will read the character reference before deciding what penalty to give.

The reference will be more helpful if you have known the person for a long time or you have had lots of contact with them. You must also be of good character and not have been in serious trouble with the police before.

What to include in the reference

The tone of the reference

Write the character reference so it is formal but speaks honestly about this person.

The contents of the reference

Below are questions that the magistrate or judge usually wants to know about. You do not have to answer every question in your reference. Only comment on things you actually know about the person.

Who you are

  • Introduce yourself, say what your job is and include any qualifications you hold.

Your relationship to the person

  • How do you know the person? How long have you known them? How often do you see or call them?

Your knowledge of the person’s charges

  • Has the person talked with you about the charges and why they are going to court?
  • How do they feel about what they have done?
    • Are they sorry for what they did?
    • How have they shown that? For example, have they been distressed or upset?
    • Have they gone to counselling?
    • Have they paid for any damage or said sorry to the victim?
  • Has the person suffered any hardship or punishment because of these offences? For example, did they lose their job?
    • Was their reputation damaged?
    • Do they feel disgraced in their community or among family and friends?

Your knowledge of what is going on in the person’s life

  • What do you know of the person’s background and any hardship in their life?
  • Are there any personal problems that may have played a part in what they did? For example, drug or alcohol use, financial issues, mental illness. What are they doing to overcome these problems?

Your opinion of the person’s character

  • What is their general character and reputation in the community?
  • What sort of person are they? Is it out of character that this person committed the offence? Why do you think this?
  • Do they have prior convictions? If so, does this affect your opinion of the person?
  • Has the person contributed to their community by doing voluntary work, or had special achievements in their job or schooling, or sporting activities?

How to set out the reference

Write the reference like a letter. Type it up and put it on a letterhead if you have one.

See the example character reference (below).


  • Put the date at the top of the reference.
  • For cases being heard in the Magistrates’ Court, address the reference to ‘The Presiding Magistrate, [court location]’. For cases in the County or Supreme Court, address it to ‘The Presiding Judge’.
  • Start all references with ‘Your Honour’.
  • Sign the reference at the end.

Where to send the reference

Give the reference to the person going to jail. Do this well before the court date. Or send it to their lawyer. You can also call the lawyer to discuss the reference.

Example character reference

14 February 2013

The Presiding Magistrate
Melbourne Magistrates’ Court


Your Honour,


[Who you are]

My name is Peter Johnson of 1 Temple Court, Keilor Park, architect.

[Your relationship to the person charged]

I have known Jane Citizen of 123 Alphabet Street, South Melbourne, retail assistant, for five years. We used to work together.

[Your knowledge of the person’s charges]

I understand that Jane Citizen has to attend court about a theft charge. She is very upset about the charge and I believe she is sorry for what she has done.

[Your knowledge of what is going on in the person’s life]

She has been under stress due to her mother’s difficult battle with cancer. Even though she has been charged with theft I would continue to trust Jane with my money and belongings.

[Your opinion of the person’s character]

I can say that in all the time I have known her, Jane Citizen has been a decent, hardworking and trustworthy person. I believe any behaviour she displayed that caused her to be charged with theft was a one-off event.


Yours faithfully,
Peter Johnson

Get help

Find out how you can get help with going to court for a criminal offence.

Learn how to write a reference letter. Professional writer Larry Barkdull shares must-know reference letter writing tips.

A Guide to Writing Recommendation Letters

guide to writing a reference

Citations indicate that you have used external sources in your text. Reference styles contain rules on how to format the citations. You should always use the style recommended by your supervisor or teacher. Sometimes you have a free choice, and it is then important that you are consistent in the style you have decided to use. KI have produced reference guides for APA and Vancouver, the two styles used by most programs at KI. These guides can help you format the citations correctly.

Why use citations?

The most important reasons why you use citations in an academic text are that:

  • the reader has to be able to refer back to the original source and read more
  • the work of the original author receives acknowledgement
  • what you have gathered from a text is clearly differentiated from your own work
  • you demonstrate that you are familiar with your field and this gives the text credibility
  • you need to support or criticize claims
  • you need to compare or illustrate your ideas or results.

Reproducing something verbatim and not crediting the source is cheating and can lead to negative consequences. Some examples of what is regarded as cheating by KI's Disciplinary Committee are:

  • copying text from the internet or other sources without citing the source
  • cooperating with another student without permission (e.g. two students answers are identical, despite the assignment being individual)
  • copying another student's essay or other written piece of work.

Citation, reference, quotation, paraphrasing …

  • A citation is a reference in the text to a published or unpublished source. A citation is used to show that you have used someone else's material to build up your own understanding of the subject.
  • A reference appears in the reference list or bibliography and provides enough information for the reader to find the source (title, author, year and other details depending on the type of source).

  • A quotation is an exact reproduction of someone else's statement. A quotation is indicated using quotation marks "…".
  • Paraphrasing is reproducing someone else's text or part of their text using your own words.

Citations in the text

In your text, it is important that you show from where you have taken information that originate from other sources. The rules of the reference styles govern the format of the citations in the text. However, you also need to integrate the citations in your own text and put them in context. In The Academic Phrasebank (produced by the University of Manchester), you find useful examples.


APA (American Psychological Association) is a reference style commonly used in psychology and health sciences. KIB's reference guide to APA is intended primarily for students at Karolinska Institutet. References are to be considered as recommendations based on APA 6.

KIB's reference guide for APA

Citations in the text include the authors' surnames and dates. You can use author and date in parentheses or mention the author or authors in the sentence and add only the date in parentheses.

... Rodriguez (2014).
Rodriguez (2014) shows that ...

In the text, APA citations have the same format regardless of the type of source. A citation that refers to a book, article or report will contain the same information, author(s) and date. Citations with different numbers of authors will on the other hand differ a little bit from each other. Read more about how to handle special situations, for example more than one citation in the same parentheses and more than one reference by the same author with the same date. On this page you will also find instructions on how to insert page number(s) in the citation. This is mandatory if you use quotations.

In the reference list you should include author, title and other information that makes it possible to find and identify the reference. The references in the reference list will look different for different kinds of sources. You will find templates and examples in the reference guide.

The reference list is sorted alfabetically after the first author, editor or other entry term. Read more about how to sort the references in the reference list. The reference list is placed in the end of the document, before appendices.

The complete manual for the APA style is only available in print, but you will find answers for many questions here:


Vancouver is a reference style established by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. It is commonly used in the field of medicine. KIB's reference guide to Vancouver is intended primarily for students at Karolinska Institutet. References are to be considered as recommendations based on International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE)s Sample References and Citing Medicine, an e-book on the Vancouver Style by National Library of Medicine.

In the reference list you should include author, title and other information that makes it possible to find and identify the references. You will find templates and examples for different kinds of sources in the reference guide. The reference list is placed in the end of the document, before appendices.

KIB's reference guide for Vancouver

In the text you should use numbers in parentheses. More information and examples are found below.

One citation

The citation is listed with numbers in the text.
The citations are numbered sequentially.
The reference list is numbered and is arranged in the order the citations appear in the text.
The numbers are enclosed in parentheses.
Square brackets and superscript numbers can also appear in the Vancouver style.
Only one author is written out in the text, followed by et al.
Example: In Sweden, about 30,000 cases of lung cancer are diagnosed annually (1). Between 1986 and 2005, the number of cases among women has increased by about 3% per year, while the increase among men has stopped (2). The differences between the sexes is connected to the differences in smoking habits in men and women, respectively. Because it takes a long time for lung cancer to develop, these changes reflect smoking habits of many years ago. Smith et al. have indicated a delay of an average of 30 years (3).

More than one citation

Each reference appears in the reference list only once, and when a reference is cited more than once, the same number is used as when the it was cited for the first time.
If more than one reference is cited at the same time, they are separated by a comma and a space.
If more than two sequential references are cited, they are written with a hyphen in-between them.
Example: Among non-smokers, lung cancer is significantly more common among women than men. Fifteen per cent of all women who get lung cancer have never smoked, while five per cent of men who suffer from lung cancer are non-smokers (1, 3). It is still not clear why this is. Several studies have investigated women's exposure to known risk factors for lung cancer, such as radon (4, 5) and passive smoking (4, 6-8), but no statistically significant link has been found. Studies investigating the link between hormone replacement therapy and lung cancer have arrived at contradictory conclusions (5-7).

Placement of citations

Citations are placed next to the statement they refer to and before the full stop when they are placed at the end of the sentence.
If superscript numbers are used, these are placed after the full stop when the citation is at the end of the sentence.
Example: Lung cancer is more common among female smokers than among male smokers (1), and a possible cause of this is a greater sensitivity to the carcinogenic effect of cigarette smoke among women. Several studies come to the conclusion that women have a greater sensitivity (9–11), while Bain et al., in a large cohort study, could not demonstrate any difference in sensitivity between the sexes (12).

More than one statement with the same source

If an entire paragraph or more than one statement have the same source, this can be shown in the text and the citation only needs to be included once.
Example: Studies indicate that lung cancer may grow more slowly in women. Lindell et al. (13) showed that 85% of the lung tumours that took the more than 400 days to double in volume were found in women. This result is a reflection of the higher incidence among women of forms of cancer with a slower disease progression such as alveolar cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma, but Lindell et al. found that the time it took for the volume to double was greater in women, regardless of the histological type of lung cancer. Their study also showed that …


If you use quotations in your text, you should give information about page number(s). Include the page number(s) after the citation in the same parentheses . Use the abbreviation p./pp. for page number(s).
Example: "Evidence based medicine is the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients. (1, p. 71)

Citing documents from the web

There are examples for different kinds of sources on the web in the reference guides for APA and Vancouver. Please note that other kinds of sources than those under the heading Web might be relevant, for example reports (Rapporter) and legislation and other kinds of governmental publications (Offentligt tryck). Choosing the right type of source and deciding what information to include in the reference can be difficult. You are welcome to ask for advice and to discuss possible solutions in KIB-labb.

Citing datasets

If you use a published dataset you should cite it in the same way as you cite other sources. The following information should be incldued:

  • Creator/organisation
  • Title
  • Year
  • Version
  • Data respository/publisher
  • DOI or link to the dataset

You will find templates and examples in our guides to APA and Vancouver.

Citing images

There is no exact standard for how the source of images with unrestricted licences are to be stated, aside from always providing the name of the creator or copyright holder. If you would like to use material with a Creative Commons licence, it is recommended that your acknowledgement includes:

  • Title  and link to the image
  • Name of the creator and link to their user name
  • Licence and link to the licence

Example of how a citation might look for a Creative Commons image.

The copyright holder may often give permission for the image to be used and distributed to a certain extent, for example in a non-commercial context. If you have been permitted to use an image in a certain context, as a rule you must state it's source. There is no exact standard for how the source is to be stated; according to the Swedish Copyright Act (1960:729), "the copyright holder must be stated to the extent required by good practice." What is considered good practice depends on how and when the image will be used. It is best to look at how the copyright holder is usually identified in similar contexts.

Citing images in the APA and Vancouver Style

You find examples on how to refer to different types of images in the reference guides for APA and Vancouver (choose Sound & Images). There are more examples on APA references on the APA Style website

A comprehensive collection of examples of Vancouver citing is found on the website of the Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand.


Before submitting your assignment you should always check the references, both the citations in the text and how you have formatted them in the reference list. This checklist might be helpful. Please note that you need to use the guide for APA and Vancouver for detailed information about the format of the citations and references.

Finding referencing tricky? Ask us in the library what the citations and references should look like!

WATCH THE VIDEO ON THEME: Insider's Guide to Writing a Great Letter of Recommendation

Writing a student's reference doesn't need to be daunting – or a chore. UCAS expert, Charlie, shares some tips on getting it right.

guide to writing a reference
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