Part of the process of academic writing is giving credit to people whose ideas you use in your own work. It’s really important to do this, so that people who read your work will know where you have used the work of others to strengthen your own arguments.
If you don’t let your reader know whose work you’ve used and where you’ve used it, then it looks as if you’re trying to pass another person’s work off as your own. This is called plagiarism, and it’s a form of cheating. Here's an example of a citation:
“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Isaac Newton (personal letter, 1675, [online] available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/movingwords/shortlist/newton.shtml)
The general rule is always the same; you should give a citation if an idea presented comes from someone else, or if you want to use wording taken from elsewhere. Citing isn’t just about avoiding plagiarism, but is also a key part of writing essays effectively. Done properly it can polish your work, and shows that you have a good knowledge of the subject.
The University does not have one single system for citations. It really depends on your programme and courses, and you should take time to find out if your course has a specific style it wants you to use.
This information can normally be found in your course handbook. If not, it’s okay (and encouraged) to ask for guidance. The best tip we can offer is, however you cite the work of others, be consistent, and never use wording from another source without acknowledging it somehow!
There are different methods of citing, but here’s a basic formula. Take this sentence:
First, we need to show where it comes from, which we can do with a footnote:
Now, we need to show which parts are a direct quote, which we can do with another footnote and some quotation marks:
Finally, we can add a bibliography at the end listing all the sources.
Here are some examples of styles that are commonly used at the University, using the same piece of text. Notice how it can be done by paraphrasing, or by using direct quotes:
There are loads of places you can ask for help if you’re not sure about how to cite. Your Personal Tutor is a good starting point, or the lecturer for the course in question.
You could also speak to a Course Organiser, a Programme Director, a Student Support Officer from your School, or the Institute for Academic Development
The University defines plagiarism as follows:
“Plagiarism is the act of including in one’s work the work of another person without providing adequate acknowledgement of having done so, either deliberately or unintentionally.”
There are different kinds of academic misconduct, but all are treated as serious by the University, even if they are unintentional. These include…
- using someone else’s words without acknowledging it (e.g. by using quotation marks or indentation.) Note that paraphrasing can be plagiarism too if it isn’t acknowledged! It’s not only ideas that need acknowledging, but particular forms of words too.
- self-plagiarism (submitting the same work in order to get credit more than once, e.g. re-using parts of past essays)
- collusion (unauthorised working with others on an assessed piece of work)
- falsification (making things up, e.g. quotes, data, results, or anything else)
- cheating (using any dishonest means to gain an advantage in an assessment)
- personation (passing off someone else’s work as your own, or knowingly letting someone do the same with your work)
If you are accused of plagiarism, you can contact a member of The Advice Place to discuss your next steps. We also have helpful information on our website, which you may find useful.
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