Writing academic reports and references

Writing academic reports and references

Often I am asked about the references for some of the pieces I have written about on this site, for example SWOT, PESTLE & SMART, so I thought it was about time to provide an answer here rather than just in person.

Unfortunately writing a reference for some of these is not as easy to answer as you may believe.

The Harvard (and other referencing systems) were developed for the use of academic material. On this and other more popular management models there was no public paper, it was practical research applied. In addition technically unless you had access to the original paper, your reference should be this site (page) and the company newsletter. During my research of SWOT, PESTLE & SMART, I have found many references quoted that are plain incorrect – many by established academics!

Many academics seem to blindly trust the research of their colleagues – this is a dangerous thing to do. For example many quote Drucker and “The Practice of Management” as the source of SMART – it is not. I have been through several different editions and there is no reference to the model in any of them. Humphrey and the information provided on SWOT  is the nearest I have found to any original documentation.

The reality is with SWOT is that no one really knows, the piece I have presented is the earliest credible reference, but this does not mean he was the originator.

So to answer the question, you can only use references to sources of information you personally have used, be they modern or original.

Recently there has been a move to extend the use of the referencing system to more informal publications (see below) so technically you should reference my site and the newsletter, as these are the nearest things to the source as anyone will find (but I am still on the case but now unhopeful).

Writing Harvard references for less formal sources

Web Pages

For web pages you must include the full address of the page, not just the address of the site. This can be copied from the address bar which normally appears at the top of the browser.

Morrison, M. (2006) SWOT Analysis, http://rapidbi.com/SWOTanalysis, Date accessed 16/01/09.

An extra date, the date you accessed the page is included at the end of the reference, because web pages, unlike books, can be modified and even disappear entirely. Note it is recommended to print pages as paper references as the content of a page is likely to change.


Newspaper and newsletter articles

For newspaper articles the required elements for a reference are:

Author, Initials., Year. Title of article. Full Title of newspaper/ publication, day and month before page numbers and column line.

Hack, A., 2005. Corporate mergers:killing our high streets.
The Guardian, 3 Feb. p.4b.


Management and Leadership development are importent to you and of course to the team here at RapidBI. We hope you find this information valuable, if you do please tweet or facebook like this page. Thanks

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About Mike Morrison

Mike Morrison is a consultant and change agent specialising in developing skills in senior people to increase organizational performance.
Mike is also founder & director of RapidBI, an organizational effectiveness consultancy.

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