What are source details in academic referencing?

This is the first of three lessons about Locating Source Details. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Review the concept of sources in academic contexts

– Explore the differences between reference elements and source details when referencing

– Provide examples wherever possible to help guide the reader

Lesson 1

While following correct referencing practices is an important part of being an academic, it’s a complicated process. Sometimes students encounter challenging situations that need to be overcome. What if you don’t have all the necessary elements to create a reference for example, or don’t know how to locate the necessary source details to complete one? This short course on locating source details therefore aims to (a) introduce what source details are (Lesson 1), (b) provide guidance o n how to find those details in the most common sources (Lesson 2), and (c) discuss what to do if reference elements such as authors and titles are missing (Lesson 3).

What are academic sources?

Whether spoken, written or graphic, a source is any piece of text that’s used by a student or researcher to provide evidence, examples or explanation in their own research. While students may be familiar with many of the most common source types such as books, journal articles and web pages, sources can of course be very varied, including obscure resources such as sacred texts, law reports and live performances and concerts. 


What are source details?

Source details are the particular pieces of information that are required to complete the reference elements that form a reference. For example, to complete a reference for a printed book, researchers will be required to find five reference elements. As the following diagram shows, these elements are the ‘Names of Authors’, the ‘Year of Publication’, the ‘Book Title’, the ‘Place of Publication’ and the ‘Publisher’:

While the same reference elements are required for all printed books (in the Harvard Style at least), source details are quite unique to the source being referenced. To exemplify this, the following table deconstructs the previous diagram into its reference elements and source details and provides an additional examples:

Are source details necessary when referencing?

What these two diagrams demonstrate is that without knowing the particular source details of the sources being used, it will be very difficult to accurately reference them. An accurate reference is one that has all of its reference elements intact, completed and correctly formatted. However, don’t panic if a source you have doesn’t appear to provide you with every required reference element. It’s quite possible that either (1) you are looking in the wrong places for that information, or (2) the source does not contain all of its necessary elements. 

To find out more about how to quickly locate source details, continue studying with Lesson 2. You may however wish to first complete the Lesson 1 activities to check your progress and understanding.

1 of 3 Lessons Completed


Once you’ve completed all three lessons in this short course about Locating Source Details, you might then wish to download our Lesson Worksheets to check your progress or print for your students. These professional PDF worksheets can be easily accessed for only a few Academic Marks.

Lesson 1 explores the topic: What are source details in academic referencing? Our Lesson 1 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button. 

Lesson 2 explores the topic: Where can citation and reference details be found? Our Lesson 2 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button. 

Lesson 3 explores the topic: Can references be without authors, dates and titles? Our Lesson 3 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button. 

To save yourself 2 Marks, click on the button below to gain unlimited access to all of our Referencing Challenges Lesson Worksheets. This All-in-1 Pack includes every lesson, activity and answer key related this topic in one handy and professional PDF.


There are currently no PowerPoint activities, additional teacher resources or audio and video recordings created for this topic. Please come back again next semester.


Would you like to receive 10 more Academic Marks to unlock our content? Community feedback is very important to Academic Marker, so if there’s something you like about our materials or an aspect that could be improved, please complete the form below (or get in touch at [email protected]) and we’ll credit your account to say thanks.

Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on reddit
Share on email

Wish to say ‘thanks’ for these free materials? Share academicmarker.com with your fellow students, tutors, colleagues and classmates 🙌.