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  • What is referencing - general introduction and podcast

    What is referencing?

    Referencing is the way we acknowledge and identify what and who we have read so that other people can find that information themselves. It is the way the ‘academic community', of which you are now part, share ideas and information, and show respect to other writers.

    What is a reference? 

    A reference is the information someone would need to find any piece of information, idea or theory you have used in your writing. There are two stages to this; the ‘in text' quotation or citation, and your reference list. In your essay you only need to give enough information for someone to be able to find the full publishing details in your reference list. This is usually the author's surname and date of publication, i.e. (Cottrell, 1999). For the system to work you need to use the same name in your in your ‘in text' quotation as appears in your reference list.

    What is plagiarism?

    You may get accused of plagiarism for a number of reasons the most common problems are inaccurate, incomplete or missing references. Not many students purposefully set out to pass other people's work off as their own. If this is your intention then good luck because you are very unlikely to get away with it and the consequences can be very serious.

    Lots of students, however, are losing significant numbers of marks because their work contains plagiarised text. In most cases this is not a result of dishonesty but of misunderstandings about what referencing is and how it works. If you cut and paste large chunks of text from the internet, stick in a couple of references to show where you got it from and fill in the gaps with your own words you are probably going to be pulled up for plagiarism. Other people's work should be there to support your knowledge and ideas, not replace them. Knowing how to reference correctly is also very important, if the reader cannot find the source because your reference is incorrect, technically you are committing plagiarism.

    Why do I have to reference? 

    Most students think they have to reference to avoid being accused of plagiarism. While this is true to a certain extent, the real reason for referencing is to show that your work is based on a sound body of knowledge. This is the difference between an academic essay and the kind of essays you may have written before. Referencing is the only way tutors can see that you are developing an informed opinion that is supported by your (academic) reading. Referencing also allows others to have access to your knowledge base.

    Listen to a short podcast of students talking about referencing and why they find it so difficult. 

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