All of us are required to provide references at some stage or the other in life, primarily during academic and employment phases. References are confirmations or a means to authenticate one's educational and/or professional expertise and history. Typically, past academic authorities such as teachers, professors or administrators from educational institutions, past managers, colleagues or other senior-level individuals in jobs you've held before make the best references that you can provide to future potential employers or academic institutions. It is best to avoid listing close family or friends as references, though this is not actually wrong or unacceptable. Listed below are some steps involved in preparing a reference sheet, this is nothing but a collection of 4-5 references which you can provide as and when the situation arises.
Getting started. There are different opinions as to how many references one should provide in a reference sheet. A decent number is three to four; however even providing four or five references is also optimal, giving you the choice of listing references from across the spectrum of your academic or professional life. Make sure though, not to list less than a minimum of two references.
Selecting the right references. Remember to list only those people who know you well and are familiar with your performance and skills in whatever field they're involved in. Your selected references should be in a position to provide positive information about you; should be intimately familiar with your special talents and qualities and be able to elaborate on actual achievements or experiences which highlight the ‘rightness' of your being the ideal candidate.
Keeping your references informed. Before you roll out the reference sheet for submission to prospective employers or to any academic institutions, inform all the people you've chosen as references so that these individuals are aware that they might be called upon to provide confirmation and details about you. Keep them informed also on the kind of job or course you are applying for, so that they can put their reference in proper perspective.
Details to be provided. In the reference sheet, list the following details for each of your references - full name, designation or title, name of company or institution, address, telephone numbers and email addresses, if any. Also remember to mention your own details such as name and contact information at the top of the sheet, and a brief description of how each of the references is related to you.
Remember that the reference sheet is not actually part of your resume, but a supplementary addition which should be provided as and when the need arises. In most instances, it is sufficient to mention on your resume that references would be provided on request. However, there is no constraint against mentioning a couple of references at the very end of your resume itself. In such cases, take care not to mention more than two or three reference persons with all the required details as described above.