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Referencing and Plagiarism

What is referencing?

Referencing is an important part of academic work, as you refer to the different types of information, including books, journal articles and online resources that you use in your assignments. It puts your work in context, demonstrates the breadth and depth of your research, and acknowledges other people’s work. 

Referencing is made up of two key parts:

  • Citation
  • Reference list (or bibliography)


Whenever you use information that you have read in another source or refer to other people's ideas, you must create a citation to the source in the body of your text as well as the full reference at the end of your work.  This citation refers the reader to the full reference in the reference list or bibliography.  Citations should be used whenever you use someone else's ideas, whether you put them into your own words (paraphrasing), summarise them, or quote directly.

Reference list

The reference list is usually in the form of an organised list with full details of the works you have used. It should appear at the end of your work and contain further information of the sources used.  The references should all follow a set 'style' and be written accurately and consistently. The reference list allows the reader to find the original sources of information that you have used and read them for themselves. 

Both citing and referencing are methods for organising the information that you collect for your studies and assignments. 

What is the difference between a Reference List and a Bibliography?

  • Reference lists only include sources you have cited within your own piece of work
  • a Bibliography list all the sources you consulted regardless of whether you cited them within your own work.  For example, this may be additional background reading that you carried out to inform your understanding of a topic.


Destressing Referencing on Biteable.

Why do I need to reference?

There are two types of reason for referencing:

1. Avoiding negative consequences and following rules.

  • Avoiding plagiarism
  • Acknowledging the work of others
  • Allowing the marker to find your research sources

2. Referencing to gain higher marks and to justify that you have met marking criteria.

  • Referencing can evidence your wider reading and research.
  • Referencing highlights where you back your arguments up with authority.
  • Referencing can highlight your critical analysis and separate it from the ideas of others. 

Referencing therefore, is vital in evidencing the criteria needed to achieve your desired grade.  

How do I reference?

All assignments you submit whilst at University require you to create a reference list which is organised and arranged in what is called a referencing style.

There are several different referencing styles so you need to make sure you know which style you are being asked to use for your course.  This should generally be made clear in any module or assignment information you are given but it's worth knowing that different courses and lecturers may have different requirements, so if in doubt make sure you check with your lecturer.

Once you know the referencing style that you are being asked to use, you will need to follow the conventions or 'rules' for that style, both when citing in the text of your work, and referencing at the end of your work.It's unlikely that you will ever learn and remember all the intricacies of referencing but there is a great online resource to help called Cite Them Right.- use the link in the left hand menu to find out more about,

and access Cite Them Right. 

There are also printed copies of Cite them Right in the library.


What is Plagiarism?

This definition from Cite them Right explains that plagiarism is:

  • Taking and using another person's thoughts, writings or inventions as your own without acknowledging or citing the source of the ideas and expressions. In the case of copyrighted material, plagiarism is illegal.

It's also worth knowing that plagiarism is regarded as a serious academic offence.  You can find out more about this on the University webpages here in section J2.1

Reading this section helps us understand plagiarism a lot better - it also helps us understand how to avoid plagiarism.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Acknowledging the work of others (referencing).

Referencing is the act of acknowledging the work of others. The rule is really simple - if you used someone else's work to create the work that you are submitting as your own, you have to reference to that work. This isn't just for text from library books or journal articles in direct quotations, but also when you paraphrase another person's original thought. It also applies to images and other media you might incorporate, for example music in the background of a presentation or video.

Paraphrasing and references

We often gets asked about paraphrasing and why it matters. This is important; if you are paraphrasing someone else's existing text or work, you are definitely including someone else's original thought.  A paraphrased section therefore should have a citation and reference.  There is a really good example of this from Cite them Right, as follows:

"When you paraphrase, you express someone else's writing in your own words, usually to achieve greater clarity. This is an alternative way of referring to an author's ideas or arguments without using direct quotations from their text.

Used properly, it has the added benefit of fitting more neatly into your own style of writing and allows you to demonstrate that you really do understand what the author is saying. However, you must ensure that you do not change the original meaning and you must still cite and reference your source of information."


Harrison (2007, p. 48) clearly distinguishes between the historical growth of the larger European nation states and the roots of their languages and linguistic development, particularly during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. At this time, imperial goals and outward expansion were paramount for many of the countries, and the effects of spending on these activities often led to internal conflict.

Images and other media

There is one important consideration when it comes to images and other media and plagiarism, that is copyright. Please check this excellent overview by our Copyright Advisor. You may not always be able to use an image or other media file from the internet or elsewhere due to copyright restrictions. If you can, for example due to a Creative Commons BY license, you should always acknowledge the original author/copyright holder.


The final form of plagiarism discussed here has its own category in the academic regulations in section J2.2.  Collusion occurs when a student is working with others on an assignment that should be created individually. It is always worth clarifying with your lecturer whether you are allowed to work together or not. Please note that as long as the work you are creating is solely yours, it is of course permissible to discuss the assignment with your fellow students, just ensure your work is your original.

There is a really useful guide on the Cite Them Right site that explains more about avoiding plagiarism.  You can find it here.