Does A Presentation Need References?

adding references to presentation

The importance of including references is pretty obvious while you’re writing a research paper or article, be it for handing over to your teacher or publishing online by yourself. 

But what about a presentation? Do you still need to include references in your presentation? Are references in a presentation a necessity or merely a redundancy? If they’re an important part of the presentation, just how do you go about including them? 

Confusing, I know.

But that’s what this article is for! 

Now, time to answer the big questions…

Should A Presentation Contain References? 

Yes, absolutely. 

Referencing is a way to add credence to the claims and statements in your presentation by providing evidence of where you’ve sourced them from. There are millions and millions of places from which you can discover the references you wish to include in your presentation. 

If you’re going to be delivering a presentation in a professional or formal setting like a school or workplace, you should try to always include references in your presentation. This shows your audience that you have done your research and that you are crediting the source of your hard work instead of plagiarized stuff.

By citing the work of another author, you acknowledge and respect the hard work and intellectual property of another writer. This is a marker of trust and respect not just for the author you’re citing, but also for yourself. So to sum it up, adding references to your presentation, especially if it’s a formal one, is a good idea. 

Why You Need To Add References To Your Presentation 

importance of adding references

Now that we know that referencing is an important part of any presentation, let’s move onto the next big question: why is it so important to include references in your presentation? There are many reasons for this, some of which I’ve listed below. 

1. Proof That You’ve Done Your Research 

As mentioned above, adding references to a presentation lets the audience know that you know what you’re talking about and that you’ve done your research on the topic. If you’re listening to a presentation that offers no sources at all, you might find yourself wondering: just how does this person know so-and-so to be true? Where did they get this information from? Is the information they’re giving true and reliable? 

By adding references to your presentation, you prevent this seed of doubt about your information’s authenticity from creeping into your audience’s mind. 

Now that the source of your presentation is on the table, they can turn their attention to more important stuff: your actual presentation. 

2. Helps You Filter Illegitimate Sources 

For any given topic, there are millions of articles or blogs, or other information sources on the internet that you can turn to. A common question that pops up while dealing with such a vast storehouse of resources is: how do I pick which information to include and which not to include? 

Most often, people tend to include the information that is the easiest to understand and access. However, just because an article is easy to access doesn’t necessarily mean that the information it contains is legitimate or true or based on a solid source of research work itself.

Most people often don’t bother to check the legitimacy of a source.

However, when you realize that you have the onus of providing your audience with the source of your information, the pressure to filter through all your sources and check whether they’re legit or not increases. 

After all, now you’re not the only person who’s going to know where your information is coming from. The audience will, too. 

This added responsibility works to make you more prudent while selecting which information to include in your presentation, and which to discard. 

3. Avoids Plagiarism 

Plagiarism is the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own. If done deliberately, plagiarism is unprofessional and immoral. And even if you’re not doing it deliberately, nobody likes to see plagiarized stuff, doesn’t matter whether it’s for a project or article or in a presentation.

Indulging in plagiarism is not just morally bad, but it can also have real-life, legal repercussions, as plagiarizing someone else’s work is a legal offense. So, it’s better to stick to the safe side and add references wherever you feel it’s necessary to include them in your presentation. 

4. Gives Due Credit To The Source 

Nobody picks a source that doesn’t make sense or doesn’t add value to your presentation in any way. If you’re picking a source, it means that the source is good.

It means that they’re probably well-versed or even experts in their field, and have spent a lot of time doing their research on the topic at hand. Mentioning the source of your information, thus, is a way of acknowledging the hard work and efforts of the person behind it. It is a way of offering credit to the source where the credit is due.  

5. Helps Distinguish Your Own Ideas From Your Research 

Another reason why adding citations in a presentation is so essential is because it helps the audience distinguish between the original ideas provided by you, the presenter, and the ones that belong to someone else. 

This distinction is important, as not every piece of information that you choose to include in your presentation necessarily reflects your own point of view about the topic.

Sometimes, in fact, you might not agree with the ideas presented by a source, but you might need to provide different perspectives on a topic or simply explain something. 

Besides, another reason why it’s important to distinguish the original ideas of the presentation is because sometimes they can be unique and remarkable, and help you stand out from other presentators in terms of creativity and originality.

When the audience or the judges realize that a particular point or topic that they really like is coming from you, the person in front of them, and not some distant sources off of the internet, their opinion of you improves. 

And who doesn’t want that, right? 

When To And When Not To Include References In Your Presentation 

presentation research

Now that we’ve wrapped up with the importance of adding references in a presentation, let’s move into the next commonly asked question:  when should you add references to a presentation? 

There are a few guidelines to keep in mind when you’re attempting to determine whether or not to add references to a presentation. 

A reference or citation should be used when you’re employing to support your point content that did not originate with you. 

Following are a few scenarios in which you might want to add references in your presentation: 

You Need To Add References…

1. When you’re paraphrasing or summarizing someone else’s words

When you’re summarizing or paraphrasing what someone else said, it’s always good practice to add references for the same. That is because, even though you’re explaining their research in your own words, it is their research, after all. 

2. When you’re introducing information that is not common knowledge 

Another scenario where it’s wise to add references is when the information you’re introducing is not commonly known. So, if you’re saying something about, say, the theories of microeconomics, it’s important to cite where these theories are coming from. 

3. When you’re directly quoting someone else

 It’s essential to add a reference if you’re directly quoting what someone else said. If you’re saying word-to-word what someone else said, make sure to put those words in quotes and to give due credit to the original source or speaker. 

4. When you’re using facts that you’ve discovered in another source

 It’s always wise to mention clearly to the audience if the facts and/or statistics you’re using in your presentation are something that you assembled from another source. If the research is original (for eg: if you’ve carried out a survey yourself and are quoting the results of the same) then you don’t need to cite yourself.  

Confused how to add facts to your speech? Check out our article on 11 Steps To Add Facts In A Speech Without Making It Boring for some tips.

5. When you’re introducing something that’s highly debatable

Make sure to add references if you’re providing multiple points of view on topics that are highly debatable. It’s important for the listener to be able to distinguish what opinions and beliefs are held by you i.e their speaker and which ones are derived from other sources. 

Now, let’s move onto the next part: when should you not include references in your presentation? 

You do not need to include references if…

1. What you’re saying is your own insight

You don’t need to include references when what you’re saying is something that you came up with on your own. While it’s important to use a vast array of resources to support your point, equally imperative is to include in the presentation your own thoughts and opinions on the topic. 

2. What you’re saying is common knowledge

There are many things that are common knowledge, and including citations for the is not necessary. For instance, if you’re staying something like, say, Mahatma Gandhi believed in non-violence, you don’t need to include a reference for your statement–after all, that’s a pretty well-known fact. 

However, while you’re ascertaining whether or not to include a reference for a statement in your presentation, it’s important to determine whom the piece of information is common knowledge for. Something that is popularly known in a particular field might not be that well known to common people. So, make sure to tread carefully. 

3. When You’re Using Your Own Artwork, Video, etc.:

You don’t need to include references when the image or other piece of media is something that you’ve created on your own. However, if you’re using someone else’s audio clip, image etc. make sure to add references for the same. 

4. When You’re Using Your Own Research 

As mentioned above, if you’re using your own research to support/contradict something, you don’t need to add references for the same. After all, the research is a product of your own effort and not someone else’s. 

How To Include References In Your Presentation

So now that you know the importance of adding references in your presentation and have filtered through what kind of information you need or don’t need to add references for, the next step is to figure out how to add the references in your presentation. 

A few guidelines for the same are as follows: 

In-Text Citations In A Presentation

You can use references within the text of your presentation slide itself. For this, you can follow the APA format for in-text citations (Author, Date) that is used in regular, written essays and research papers.

Or you can also go with any other format that you’re familiar and comfortable with. In-text citations are a great way to cite quotes, facts, statistics etc. However, while using in-text citations, don’t forget that you need to include the cited sources in your slide in your reference list as well. 

Using Reference Lists 

Reference lists are generally added at the end of the presentation to provide a summary of all the sources you’ve cited in the rest of your presentation. 

Make sure that both; your in-text citations and reference lists follow the same format. That is, if you’re using an APA format for your in-text citations, don’t use an MLA format for your reference list. Stick to the same format for your in-text citations and reference list. 

Don’t begin your presentation with a reference list–the list should be placed in a separate slide–or slides–at the end of your presentation. If you feel like your reference list is quite exhaustive, then you can skip adding it to your presentation and pass out a reference list handout to your audience instead. 

Adding References For Media 

If you wish to snag your audience’s attention and keep it with you during your presentation, it’s important to add visual stimuli like photographs, GIFs, etc. to your presentation. However, while using visual elements like photographs in your presentation, it’s important not to plagiarize them. Don’t just pick a random image off of Google. Instead, select pictures from sources that are open for “public use”. For example, Flickr. 

Also, since images are treated as figures in the APA style, you also need to add citations for them. 

You can do this by adding a footnote including the figure number and a description in the caption beneath the photograph. You could also create a separate slide with the title “Media Sources” or something similar and make a list of your image sources. 

How To Cite References In A Presentation With APA Format? 

Although the APA manual does not have a separate section on how to format a PowerPoint presentation, you can structure your presentation slides in such a way that they follow APA style guidelines. 
To do this, keep in mind the following points: 

  1. On your title slide, include the same information that you would have on the title page of your research.  
  2. In-text citations are to be used if you’ve included any of the following in your presentation: quote, paraphrase, image, graph, table, data, audio, or video file. The following format is to be used for the in-text citations: Author, A. A. (year). Title of presentation [PowerPoint slides]. Website Name. https://xxxxx
  3. Do not use copyrighted images, as photographs are considered figures in APA style. If you’re using photographs produced from an outside source, make sure to cite it. 
  4. Place the reference list on the last slide of your presentation.  


To sum up, it’s important to add references in your presentation, as they not only avoid any unintentional plagarism on your part, but also act as proof of your research, help you filter illegitimate sources, and also distinguishes your original ideas from those that belong to someone else. Whether you need to include reference for a particular piece of information or not, however, depends on a variety of factors. Still, it is better to err on the side of caution. Over-referencing is better than under-referencing. 

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