Monthly Archives: September 2015

How to check your own reference list

When editing academic work such as theses, journal articles and reports, I always check that all the references in the text are in the reference list, and all the references in the reference list are used in the text.

Referencing is important because it allows readers to find, read and check the original sources you found useful. Accuracy in referencing contributes to the credibility of your work.

Here’s how I do it.

  • Print a hard copy of the reference list.
  • Start at the beginning of the document file and scroll through it onscreen.
  • For every reference, tick it off on the hard copy reference list.
  • Check the spelling of the author and the date are the same in the text and the list.
  • If the reference is not in the list, write the author and date on the list.

At the end, you should have a reference list with hopefully all (or most) references ticked off, and no extra references to add.

  • Check errors are not due to poor spelling or incorrect dates.
  • Add in references which are missing.
  • Use the “find” feature to check references do not appear in the text, before deleting references not used.

Referencing software such as Endnote can help keep track, but it is still worth a final manual check. Formatting the reference list consistently with complete information is also important.

Short summaries take time

The summary at the beginning of a longer document is intended to save readers time by summarising the whole document. The summary may be called an abstract for a journal article, or an Executive Summary in a report.

It can be a challenge for authors to condense all their careful thought and effort on a long document into a much shorter summary. But remember the reader.

More people will read the summary than the whole document. Ideally the summary will encourage readers to read on. But if they don’t, what do you want people to know and remember?

It can take a surprising amount of time to get the summary right as every word is carefully considered. If time is limited, copying sentences from the document is a starting point, but it is best to write just for the summary.


  • Be aware of any length limits, such as 100 words or one page.
  • Allow enough time to write the summary – don’t rush it at the last minute.
  • Rewrite key messages in a clear and succinct form.
  • Choose words carefully to convey the extent of certainty.
  • Focus on the results, more than the process, if space is limited.
  • Remember a well-chosen graphic or key statistic may be more effective than many words.
  • Use the present or past tense (not the future tense), as the work has been done.

See our related post on writing to a word limit (August 2014).