Why Our Future Depends On Referencing

Macleay's Dr Manny Aston explains why referencing matters more than ever.

We've all been there. You're hunched over a laptop in the middle of the night, eyes flitting between a Harvard Referencing webpage and a rushed assignment. Yawning, you slowly tap strangers' names into a keyboard, followed by the publication dates of ideas you don't fully understand... The day before a deadline, Harvard Referencing feels like a waste of time.

Far from being insignificant, Macleay's real-life Albus Dumbledore Dr Manny Aston says the pursuit of truth lies at the heart of democracy. "References are the trail of evidence we use to determine if a concept is corroborated," he explains, "how it can be interpreted and whether it has evolved over time." In a world of fake news, checking facts has real political consequences.



References Prove Pollies Wrong

During Donald Trump's first 100 days as President, the Washington Post reported that the leader made 492 false claims. Journalists proved this by cross-checking Trumps' statements against other sources of information.


This week on the 2nd of June, Trump denied calling the Duchess of Sussex "nasty" despite the fact his comments were recorded. "I never called Meghan Markle 'nasty'," Trump tweeted on Sunday, adding: "Made up by the Fake News Media, and they got caught cold!" Later that day, The Sun posted audio of the interview online. The file proves that President Trump is lying, which comes as a surprise to, well, no one. 

References Make Governments Accountable

Dr Aston explains that the ABC acts as a media watchdog, exposing corruption and incompetence in the Australian government. "But since 2014, funding has been slashed by almost $400 million," he says. "These cuts are a threat to accurate and impartial news." Referencing is expensive, but oh so worth it.


References Allow Us To Protest

Government's don't always make the right decisions. It's often the little people who talk the loudest that drive societal change. Without lobby groups making reference to data and evidence on the issue of Marriage Equality, Australia could've voted 'no' in 2017's postal survey. Now, we're rooting for the Gen Z-ers skipping school and wielding scientific stats to protest inaction on climate change!


References Keep Us Humble

Dr Aston explains that the concept of 'genius' is a myth. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series is based on centuries of folklore, and the best singers have help writing their songs. In fact, multiple producers claim Beyonce takes credit for songs she didn't even write!

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The Best Leaders Acknowledge Their Inspiration

In 1665, the founder of modern physics Sir Isaac Newtown recognised his forebears Copernicus, Descartes and Galileo when he said, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."  Widely credit for that metaphor, Newtown actually took it without acknowledgement from 12th-century writer Bernard of Chartres - not so humble after all!  


In Newtown's defence, referencing wouldn't be invented until four centuries later...  

The Birth of Referencing Was Slimy

In 1881, Harvard University professor Edward Laurens Mark wrote a paper on slugs. Next to someone else's idea, he wrote the author's name and year of publication in brackets. Harvard Referencing was born!


Referencing is Easier Than You Think

Dr Aston says that referencing is simple. "When you're writing, and you quote an idea, do what Edward Marks did, and throw in a few page numbers as well." At the end of your paper, make sure you include a Reference Page. For each source, "have the author's name, the year, the title, the distributor and the place."

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References Can Be Unreliable

Maintain a healthy dose of scepticism. A published work can contain many references, but still be utterly unreliable.  In 1988, the High Court of England found that David Irving deliberately misrepresented historical evidence to promote Holocaust denial in dozens of books. This set precedent for the legal protection of historical facts.


Facts Matter

In 2018, Poland's Holocaust Law made accusing the country of complicity in German war crimes a criminal offence. This is despite evidence to the contrary – during World War Two, Polish collaborators were in cahoots with Nazis.

The erasure of history has ramifications. In 2019, Post-Holocaust restitution is a hot button issue in the upcoming Polish election. Leader of the ruling Law and Justice Party Jaroslaw Kaczynski declares the government "does not intend to pay anything" to Holocaust survivors in the final years of their life.

Our Future Depends On Referencing

In Australia, trails off evidence will soon play a significant role in debates over religious freedoms and LGBT+ rights, as well as the constitutional recognition of Indigenous peoples.

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