When you write an essay, report or dissertation, you almost always base your work upon existing literature. And you have to credit the sources of information you use. In this module you learn when and how to incorporate literature references in your work.
This module will take you about 15 minutes to complete.
If you do not know what a reference is, first take the course A module 'How do I make sense of a reference?'.
It is standard practice in the academic world to draw upon the work of others. Writing is a primary form of communication for scholars; it is through their publications that they present their own ideas about a subject and respond to the work of their colleagues. By referring to other publications, you show whose work you are drawing upon or discussing.
There are several reasons for crediting literature:
When you make use of other people's information in your own work, you are always required to credit your sources. This applies to information of all kinds: facts, research data, a research method and so on. It also applies if you draw upon somebody else's ideas or criticize their work. And it applies to visual as well as written information; when you reproduce an image, graph, table or diagram, you must state where it comes from!
It does not matter whether the source you are using has been formally published or not. Information taken from, say, a lecture or another student's essay or dissertation has to be credited as well.
You do not need to credit your sources when you are reporting a ‘generally known' fact. If you state, for instance, that the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, that is such a fact which does not require a reference.
Two rules of thumb:
If you do not include proper references in your work, you could be accused of plagiarism: passing off others' work, ideas or arguments as your own. Plagiarism is regarded as fraud and is taken very seriously in the academic world. If you commit plagiarism during your studies, you could face serious punishment including exclusion from a course or even expulsion from the university. For academics, plagiarism can mean the end of their career.
What is regarded as plagiarism?
The following are clear examples of plagiarism:
But the following also count as plagiarism:
To avoid committing plagiarism, you must take care that you carefully reference all sources used.
But you are also expected to develop your own ideas in a report or dissertation. You cannot just cobble together existing information – you have to add something original to it. For example, you can compare what you have found in different sources and draw your own conclusions about the topic. Or you could apply ideas taken from the literature to a new situation.
As long as you acknowledge all your sources carefully and include sufficient new ideas in your work, you do not need to worry about being accused of plagiarism.
You do not need to provide literature references for:
In most cases, you have to use your own words to report what you have read. After all, you are writing your own story based upon existing literature. So it is logical that you do so in your own words. If you copy the existing text word for word, or almost, then you are unlikely to write a flowing passage. Moreover, reformulating things in your own way helps you to develop ideas which you can then support with facts and ideas drawn from the literature. In this respect we draw a distinction between paraphrasing, both of which are different again from the literal quoting of a source.
Paraphrasing means rewriting a short passage of text – usually no more than a sentence or paragraph – in your own words.
Example of paraphrasing
Say that your original source contains the following passage:
Example of incorrect paraphrasing: the meaning is not reproduced accurately:
Example of correct paraphrasing:
Quoting is the literal reproduction of a text. You should only quote in exceptional cases, when have good reason for showing your readers the exact formulation from the original source. For example:
Under no circumstances should you ever write a paper that consists simply of quotes pasted together. As a general rule of thumb, for every line that you quote you should write two lines of your own analysing it.
Some general instructions for the use of quotes are:
Because it is so important to cite the literature you consult clearly and systematically, scholars have made agreements about how they do this. But different disciplines tend to use different systems. Whichever method you use, two factors are crucial.
The intention of any system of referencing is that your reader can tell exactly where you have found all the information you use, and can trace those sources if they wish.
The table below shows the different ways of citing literature most commonly used in the Netherlands.
|author, year||footnotes / endnotes||sequential numbering|
|Step 1. Indicate in your text that you have used a source||author's surname and year of publication in brackets, plus page number in some cases.||number of the footnote or endnote||sequential number of the publication|
|Step 2. Cite the source used||
references listed in alphabetical order, by author's surname, at the end of the paper
complete references in footnotes or endnotes
numbered references at the end of the paper, in the order in which they are first mentioned in the text
|Disciplines in which this method is widely used||
Social sciences (eg. Psychology, Economics, Politics), Biomedical sciences
|Humanities (eg. History)||Biomedical sciences|
|View an example||View an example
Step 1: Indicate in the text that you use a certain source
|View an example
Step 1: Indicate in the text that you use a certain source
The above are just broad categories. Within each there are different styles dictating exactly how you should present your literature references.
Once you have cited a source in your text, you need to provide a complete reference identifying the exact source. You must give enough information for the reader to be able to find that source easily.
The table below shows what details you should include in a reference, depending upon the type of source:
|Book||Chapter in book||Journal article||Web-page1|
1 You may not always be able to find all the web-page details listed, but note down as many as you can.
APA-stijl (widely used in the social sciences)
Vancouver-stijl (widely used in the biomedical sciences)
ACS-stijl (widely used in the exact sciences)
There are several useful computer programs available to help you produce references and draw up literature lists, like EndNote. The details of the literature can be imported from databases like PsycINFO and PubMed, or you can enter them manually.
It is then easy to create a link from a Word document to the material you want to cite. You can also choose what format (‘output style') the references and literature list are presented in.
For more information, visit the page on Endnote on the UBVU website.
Whenever you make use of somebody else's work, you must credit the source. Two factors are crucial:
There are a number of referencing systems: author and year in the text; footnotes or endnotes; and/or sequential numbering. Within each of these there are different styles stating exactly how to present your references. Ask your tutor which system or style you should use.
Report the information in your own words (paraphrase or summarize).
|Quote the source verbatim.||
Plagiarism is the presentation of other people's writings, ideas or arguments as your own work. Plagiarism is regarded as fraud and taken very seriously in the academic world. To avoid committing it, make sure that you carefully cite every source you use and include enough ideas of your own in your work.