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Referencing and citation.

HEAT Stage 2: Finding and managing information.

2.5 Referencing and Citation


Why should I reference?

No academic research is entirely original – many ideas come from other people's research. It is important to acknowledge this within your work because:

  • Who said what (and when) is important – otherwise ideas could be misrepresented and falsified.
  • Allows ideas to be traced back – the "long conversation" of academic research.
  • Aids the production of a good argument. You are not alone: past research provides vital back-up!
  • Demonstrates you have understood where your ideas are coming from = more credibility = better marks.
  • Correct attribution is simply 'honest and open'
  • Academic research would be impossible without having a system in place to trace ideas back – that system is referencing.


Referencing the sources you've used

It is good academic practice within your assignments to acknowledge where you have found your information. There are two key elements when referencing correctly:


Information is accredited within your assignment, usually in the format of the Author followed by the date of Publication in brackets.

Example: Pears and Shields (2009) argue that...



A list of references is usually found at the end of your assignment, arranged alphabetically by author and providing full details of the information you have used in a standard format which includes the Author, Date, Title, Place of publication and Publisher.

Example: PEARS, R. and SHIELDS, G. (2008) Cite them right: the essential referencing guide, Rev. ed. Newcastle upon Tyne: Pear Tree Books.

Always ask if you're not sure!


Quoting and Citing – what should I reference?

  • If you reproduce writing word-for-word, this is a quote and should be in "quotation marks" or indented in the text.
  • If you paraphrase someone else's idea, it should be acknowledged and cited in the text.
  • In both cases, the acknowledgement in the text should refer to your reference list. Any book read but not directly quoted or cited in the text should still be listed in the bibliography.



A bibliography includes any sources you have read as part of your research. Bibliographies can be annotated and are a useful means of directing readers to further sources of information.


Harvard referencing style

There are many different referencing styles. One of the most commonly used is called Harvard. A Harvard reference would look like this:


PEARS, R. & SHIELDS, G(2008)Cite them right: the essential referencing guide, Rev. ed. Newcastle upon Tyne: Pear Tree Books.

  • PEARS,R & SHIELDS,G -> Author
  • (2008) -> Date
  • Cite them right: the essential referencing guide -> Title
  • Rev.ed. -> Edition (if not first)
  • Newcastle upon Tyne -> Place of Publication
  • Pear Tree Books -> Publisher


Referencing Tips

  • Keep a record all the books and articles you find as you find them (create you reference list/bibliography as you go along).
  • Give yourself plenty of time to research and write your work (this will allow you to avoid the temptation for last-minute 'panic plagiarism')
  • Always cite the sources used in your assignments – both direct quotes and ideas you have paraphrased. This is the basis of 'good academic practice'.

For more information about citation and referencing, please see De Montfort University's Harvard System of referencing guide.


Avoiding Plagiarism

Many students are uncertain as to what constitutes plagiarism. Below are two related but very different definitions of plagiarism:

Plagiarism is...

  1. The deliberate attempt to gain advantage by presenting someone else's work as your own
  2. The substantial duplication of another's work without acknowledgement of the original source


The first is Intentional – where a student uses another individual or organisation's work (whether an academic, a fellow student or a third party) and submits it as their own. There are heavy penalties for students who are discovered to have intentionally submitted work which is not their own.

The second is accidental – where a student uses information from a book, journal etc., but does not credit the information source within their assignment. This can be avoided by accurate referencing and citation, and acknowledging your sources.


Bad Academic Practice

"Plagiarism by mistake"

  • Universities will have policies in place to detect both deliberate and accidental plagiarism
  • Both plagiarism and bad academic practice attract severe penalties – avoid them!


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