Answered By: Sarah Purcell
Last Updated: May 16, 2022     Views: 2612

Secondary referencing is citing work second-hand. This is typically ideas or research that has been cited in another piece of work. Whilst you are allowed to do it, you should try to locate the original source yourself, using the details in the reference list and Library Search. If something is so relevant that it is worth citing in your own writing, we recommend reading the original first-hand, rather than second-hand. 


Sometimes secondary referencing is unavoidable as the original source may not be available, may be out of print, or written in another language. If this is the case, you need to:

  • cite both the original source, and the source you've read which cites that idea or quote
  • fully reference in your reference list only the source you've actually read, not the original source.


The way in which you present a secondary reference in your work depends on the referencing style you need to use. Most courses use Harvard style from Cite Them Right, which we’ve used to generate the following references:


Are you quoting or summarising?

In-text citation

Direct quote or paraphrasing (the Lewis source appears in your reference list)

Harvey (2015, quoted in Lewis, 2016, p.86) provides an excellent survey…

Summarising (the Murray source appears in your reference list)

White’s views on genetic abnormalities in crops (2014, cited in Murray, 2015) support the idea that…



Comments (2)

  1. What if the sentence in the secondary reference has more than 1 authors work within the same sentence. How do we reference that?
    by Edidiong Essiet on Jun 25, 2021
  2. Hello, thanks for your question. As it can be a bit tricky to answer without context, we always invite our students and staff to send an example of their writing. Once we have a look, the answer may be a bit clearer!
    by Sarah on Jun 28, 2021