Why is referencing important?

Referencing is crucial.

Not only does it demonstrate that you have thoroughly researched the topic you have chosen to investigate and that you have leveraged reliable sources and evidence to support your arguments, it also protects you as a student or academic researcher against accusations of plagiarism and intellectual theft.

What’s the risk of plagiarism?

Universities differ but all agree on a single point: plagiarism is a serious academic offence. Students have failed papers and even been excluded from their course for leveraging someone else’s work without openly acknowledging their contribution.

Some universities require students to hand in a signed statement with their work. And others will use anti-plagiarism software that draw from a huge database of books, journals and previously submitted student work to greenlight submitted work.

Put simply, if you plagiarize you risk getting caught. Reference your work correctly and graduate risk-free.

As a student, you should keep an eye out for the following:

Types of academic plagiarism:

  • Outright Copying
  • Inappropriate Paraphrasing
  • Academic Collusion
  • Inappropriate Citation
  • Self-Plagiarism

 

Outright copying

Copying materials, ideas or concepts without using quotation marks or acknowledging the author of the original text.

Inappropriate paraphrasing

Changing a few words here and there but retaining the initial ideas and structure without proper acknowledgement.

Academic collusion

Handing in an assignment completed by someone else or working as a team to complete an assignment to be submitted individually.

Inappropriate citation

Referencing the original source but failing to cite secondary sources from which ideas have been leveraged to complete the assignment.

Self-plagiarism

Recycling work that you have previously submitted for a different assignment without proper acknowledgement or citation.

Why should I cite sources?

Keep in mind that small details matter and that solid referencing demonstrates knowledge and academic confidence. By citing experts in your field, you frame your work as standing on the shoulder of giants. Your observations make intellectual progress. You are seen as having a thorough and solid understanding of your field.

Take a look at the following extracts borrowed from The Origin of Sea Salt in Snow on Arctic Sea Ice and in Coastal Regions (Dormine et al., 2004):

Interactions between the snowpack and the atmosphere lead to important modifications of atmospheric composition, and the most dramatic example is perhaps the complete destruction of ozone from the ground up to altitudes greater than 1000 m, observed in the Arctic and in Antarctica in the spring, when the frozen sea and the ground are almost entirely snow-covered. It is now reasonably certain that brominated species, derived from sea salt bromide, are key species in the chemistry of this ozone destruction. However, many aspects of this chemistry are not fully understood and prevent the detailed modeling, let alone the prediction, of these ozone depletion events.

Interactions between the snowpack and the atmosphere lead to important modifications of atmospheric composition (Domine and Shepson, 2002), and the most dramatic example is perhaps the complete destruction of ozone from the ground up to altitudes greater than 1000 m, observed in the Arctic (Bottenheim et al., 2002) and in Antarctica (Tarasick and Bottenheim, 2002) in the spring, when the frozen sea and the ground are almost entirely snow-covered. It is now reasonably certain that brominated species, derived from sea salt bromide, are key species in the chemistry of this ozone destruction (Barrie et al., 1988; Fan and Jacob, 1992; Tang and McConnell, 1996). However, many aspects of this chemistry are not fully understood and prevent the detailed modeling, let alone the prediction, of these ozone depletion events (Bottenheim et al., 2002).

You will notice that the second paragraph is more authoritative than the first. It shows that the authors have done their research, that their work is valuable to a particular academic community and that they are confident enough to show their sources.

Which referencing style should I use?

APA, MLA, Chicago, Oxford, Harvard, Vancouver, OSCOLA and IEEE. It can all be very confusing. There are almost as many citation styles are there are European languages. Each style has its own syntax and set of rules to cite sources in academic writing.

To know which style you should be using for your assignments, ask your professor or teacher.

We’ve created some easy-to-understand guides to help you master the style you’re using.

 

Select your style guide to learn more