Secondary or 'two-in-one' references are the ones that seem to cause people the most trouble. They are needed when you want to make a quote or discuss an idea from a book (for example, by Smith) but you actually found the quote or the idea in a book by Jones, who discusses Smith's work. So how do you reference this? Do you give the reference to Smith and pretend you have read the original source when you haven't? I hope not, because this is a bit dishonest and it won't help the tutor locate the reference in Jones, if he or she wants to look at it. So do you just give the reference to Jones? Do you give one or both books in your reference list?
The answer depends on who you are and what you are writing. If you are
an undergraduate writing a routine essay you need to give the reference
in the form:
If you are writing an article for publication or doing an extended piece of work at postgraduate level, you will be expected to use original sources as much as possible. So you should find Smith's book, read the appropriate section and reference, quite legitimately, to Smith. If it is impossible to locate a copy of Smith for some reason, you can give a secondary reference as a last resort.
So now let's look at a fuller example for a secondary reference. I want to quote the famous cultural critic Raymond Williams. But, I actually found the bit I'll quote in another book, by Dale Spender:
'..each of us has to learn to see.' (Williams, 1975, cited in Spender, 1985, p. 140)
So I don't give the page number of the Williams, and I make it clear that I found the Williams quote in another book in the reference in the text. 'Cited' here is another word for 'quoted' or 'referred to'. In the list of references at the end you can only provide details of the book you have actually looked at i.e. Spender in this case.
A Question: could you put in the page number of the Williams (Spender gives it in her own reference), not bother mentioning Spender at all, and pretend that you've read the Williams yourself?
Answer: I'm shocked that you should even think of it. In fact, yes, of course you could do this, but you shouldn't. And like any other form of pretending to have read things you haven't, you can get caught. For instance, if your tutor asks you what you thought about an idea elsewhere in the Williams book, you're going to look pretty silly.