Academic achievement

Academic referencing at college or university

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It’s crucial to use academic referencing, also known as a citation, in your assignment at college or university. This is one of the important academic skills to master, but why, when and how?

Why reference?

  • Good referencing supports and strengthens your arguments by citing references to academic sources which confirm what you are stating
  • To give credit to whose academic work you have quoted or to whose work you have referred
  • To demonstrate academic integrity and avoid a charge of plagiarism by ensuring you have acknowledged and credited source material when using text, ideas or materials that are not your own
  • To allow the reader to be aware of what you have read
  • To demonstrate you understand the conventions of academic writing
  • To illustrate the depth and the breadth of your reading – which is a good academic practice

When to reference?

  • Every time you provide a direct quotation from work that is not entirely your own
  • Every time you indirectly refer to the work of someone else, for example, if you:
    • paraphrase
    • summarise
    • quote
    • use information
  • When you want to provide sources of further information, clarification of points, or additional evidence to support your arguments

You must reference all sources, including:

  • Art sources, including artwork, poetry and plays
  • Books
  • Communication, including presentations, emails and interviews
  • Computing sources
  • Course material
  • Databases
  • Documents such as company reports and dissertations
  • Healthcare sources
  • Images, graphs and tables
  • Journal article
  • Legal authorities
  • Media
  • Newspapers
  • Online sources
  • Reference materials such as maps and dictionaries

The above list is not exhaustive as a reference list or bibliography could also include, for example, conference papers, standards and patents.

How to reference?

Always check which specific referencing style (citation style) is required for each assignment as a different referencing style uses a different approach, e.g. Oxford University (the Oxford Standard) uses footnotes. In contrast, others, such as Harvard referencing, known as Harvard style, and American Psychological Association, known as APA style referencing or just APA referencing, use inline author name(s) and year of publication. While performing a library search, contact the university library services or tutor, or read the module handbook for the reference guide.

When researching and taking notes, always write down the full details of the source. Taking and recording notes will ensure the writing and referencing system is more manageable and help avoid accidentally copying and plagiarising (which can be seen as academic misconduct).

Sources: RGU Referencing

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