EAP: Overcoming Common Issues with Formatting References and Citations

Formatting references and citations correctly is a crucial skill for EAP students, yet many find it challenging to remember the proper formats. In this post, we will explore common issues students face with referencing and citations and provide an outline for a lesson activity designed to help reinforce these skills using multi-modal strategies.

Common Issues with References and Citations

  1. Inconsistent Formatting: Students often struggle with remembering the correct formatting rules for various types of sources (books, articles, websites, etc.).
  2. Punctuation Errors: Misplaced punctuation marks such as commas, periods, and quotation marks can lead to incorrect citation formatting.
  3. Missing Elements: Forgetting to include essential details like publication year, page numbers, or authors’ names.

Multi-Modal Strategies to Reinforce Learning

Although the strict application of learning styles (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic) has been debunked, employing a variety of teaching methods can help reinforce learning. Here’s how you can integrate multi-modal strategies into your lessons:

  • Air Punctuation (Kinaesthetic): Using physical movement to “draw” punctuation marks in the air can help students internalize the correct placement of punctuation.
  • Naming Punctuation Marks (Auditory): Having students verbally identify and name punctuation marks can reinforce their understanding.
  • Colour Coding (Visual): Using different colours to highlight various parts of a citation or reference can help students visually distinguish between them.

Lesson Activity Outline

Here is a step-by-step activity designed to help students improve their referencing and citation skills using multi-modal strategies:

  1. Dictate a Sentence with Citation and Reference (use hand gestures)
  • Activity: Dictate a sentence along with a citation and reference to the students.


Learning another language can give people the freedom ‘to speak and behave in ways that [are] different from their usual modes.’ (Wilson, 2013).


Wilson, R. (2013) ‘Another language is another soul’, Language and Intercultural Communication, 13(3), pp. 298–309.

  1. Check Formatting
  • Activity: Have students write down the dictated sentence and check the formatting against your example.
  • Purpose: Immediate feedback helps students correct mistakes and understand proper formatting.
  1. Air Punctuation Marks
  • Activity: Ask students to “draw” punctuation marks in the air as they read the sentence aloud.
  • Purpose: This kinaesthetic activity helps students remember the placement of punctuation marks.

  1. Peer Dictation
  • Activity: Split students into pairs. Each student dictates a number of sentences, citations, and references to their partner (see PDF).
  • Purpose: This collaborative activity encourages active learning and practice.

  1. Peer Review
  • Activity: Students check each other’s work for formatting accuracy.
  • Purpose: Peer review helps reinforce learning through mutual correction and discussion.
  1. Colour Coding
  • Activity: Draw students’ attention to the use of different colours to highlight various parts of a citation and reference.
  • Purpose: Visual differentiation helps students understand the structure of citations and references.

  1. Reference Checking
  • Activity: Have students check references by finding the cited information in the source material.
  • Purpose: This reinforces the importance of accuracy and reliability in referencing.
  1. Writing and Checking Citations and References
  • Activity: Students find quotations or information in source materials and write their own citations and references for others to check.
  • Purpose: This final activity provides practical experience and reinforces the skills learned.


By incorporating multi-modal strategies into your lessons, you can help EAP students overcome common issues with formatting references and citations. This approach not only makes learning more engaging but also helps students internalize the rules through varied and repetitive practice. Try the outlined activity in your next class and observe how these strategies can enhance your students’ citation skills.