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Referencing

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We help UWA students avoid plagiarism.

If you want to use sources effectively, we have the resources and advice you need.

Referencing videos

Brush up your referencing skills with our videos below, or view these videos on the Referencing playlist on our YouTube channel .

Referencing Survival Guides

Reference sources and use them more effectively. Download our Survival Guides or pick them up from the STUDYSmarter Resource area (Level Two, Student Central).

Referencing and plagiarism

Referencing is an integral part of academic writing. It enables us to show where our information and ideas came from, so that readers can find out more if they are interested. It also allows us to demonstrate our research skills, situate our work in a field of study and show our ability to communicate using methods appropriate to the situation and thus our mastery of the conventions of academic writing. By referencing correctly, we prevent plagiarism and the penalties associated with it.

Plagiarism is a form of academic misconduct. It occurs when authors don't reference sufficiently, reference in the wrong place or in the wrong way, or don't reference at all when referencing is required. It also includes presenting someone else's work as your own. Buying and selling assignments is one of the most serious forms of plagiarism.

Avoiding plagiarism

Avoiding plagiarism is easier if you:

  1. Understand what the university expects of its students. Check the University's policy on Academic Conduct and the Student Charter of Rights and Responsibilities.
  2. Know very clearly what has to be referenced at uni. This includes anything that isn't your own creation or idea, and that isn't common knowledge (something everyone knows and that is widely accepted as fact). Examples of what you might need to reference include information, ideas, words, images, codes, concepts, arguments, and so on, whether published or unpublished, online or in print, or conveyed to you in person.
  3. Keep records of where you learn new ideas and concepts. Note bibliographic information (author, date, titles, place of publication, publisher) of everything you read in print and on the internet, and details of what you see and hear (who, where, when).
  4. Avoid copying sections of reading into your notes. Paraphrase information (put it into your own words) before you write it down. This means that you have to understand it before you write it down and that you are less likely to use the author's material in your own work without referencing it. Include references in your notes, and if you note any quotes, be sure to include these in quotation marks, with page numbers.
  5. Draw your own conclusions based on what you have read, heard and observed. Use these ideas to begin assignments, chapters, sections and paragraphs, and follow these ideas with well-referenced examples and evidence. Use the literature as evidence to support or highlight your own 'voice'. If there are differing ideas on a topic, analyse and evaluate these. Discuss the implications of ideas, point out gaps in understanding and make recommendations.
  6. Look at how others use and reference ideas. Check out our examples of what not to do as well as examples of what to aim for.

Using sources effectively

To use sources effectively:

  1. Keep track. As you research, note down the relevant bibliographical details for each source that you look at, including page numbers. One method is to start a new page for each new source, with bibliographical details at the top of the first page, and page numbers down the margin matching the information from those pages.
  2. Note quotes. Develop a system for indicating in your notes when what you have written down is a quotation. You could use quotation marks, page numbers and colour, for example, to keep track of these. Paraphrases could be in a different colour, with a page reference in case you need to check your interpretation later, and summaries in a third colour.
  3. Respond as you go. Noting down your own ideas and responses to source will make it easier to integrate them into your own argument. Indicate which ideas are yours so you can remember later. You could, for example, use a different colour again for these.
  4. Choose your sources carefully. Pick what to reference and be selective. Consider the academic credibility of your source and its information.
  5. Know your system. Check if there is a set referencing style for your course or unit, and follow it. Even if there is not a set style, you will be expected to use a referencing style consistently and correctly. Access the UWA Library referencing and citation guides for information and advice.
  6. Quote when the exact phrasing from your source is important.
  7. Paraphrase to show your comprehension of the ideas and information in the source.
  8. Summarise when building a background to your argument.
  9. Keep a space for your own voice. Show how your sources connect and contribute to what you are arguing.
  10. Allow time. When planning a schedule for working on an assessment, allow time to insert references and to check that they are correct. STUDYSmarter's Planning Toolkit and Assignment Date Calculator can help you stay on track.

Examples of adequate and inadequate referencing

Check out the examples below of the types of referencing problems students have - plus some solutions!

Example 1

Original source

An important outcome of the earlier introduction of children into childcare centres has been a measurable improvement in levels of social development. These increases can be traced back to the proposition that childcare centres provide a more socially and intellectually stimulating context for early childhood progression.

Gibson, P. (2005) Childhood development in the 21st century. Richmond Press: New York.

Plagiarised text:

Children who attend childcare centres at an earlier age show a significant improvement in levels of social progress. These improvements reflect the view that childcare centres give children a greater opportunity to mix with other children in a socially and intellectually stimulating setting (Gibson 2005).

This is plagiarism because, although it restates some of the ideas of the original, other words and phrases in the attempted paraphrase are exactly the same as the original. In this case, the writer must either rewrite the whole passage in her own words or acknowledge the use of phrases from the source by using quotation marks.

It should be noted that the writer is not claiming the ideas are her own because she has included an in-text reference indicating the source of the ideas. She is, however, claiming the words of the original source as her own words because she has not placed the phrases from the original in quotation marks to indicate they are the words of the original source, or alternatively, rewritten the ideas from those phrases in her own words.

Another plagiarised example:

Gibson (2005) argues that the earlier introduction of a child into childcare facilities improves the rate of the child’s social development. This is due to the greater social and intellectual stimulation that is available to the child in this context which encourages early childhood progression.

This text also changes some of the words but uses some phrases from the original. Making minor changes to a phrase (e.g. changing ‘centre’ to 'facilities ' and 'more socially and intellectually stimulating’ to 'greater social and intellectual stimulation’), while keeping the majority of it the same as the original, is not paraphrasing but plagiarism.

Paraphrased and adequately referenced:

Gibson’s research (2005) indicates a recognisable increase in the capacity of children who commence childcare at an earlier age to interact socially. He argues that these findings are a consequence of the richer, more varied relational and intellectual experiences that children encounter in the childcare context.

This text is the best attempted paraphrase because it restates completely the key ideas from the original passage in the students own words. It also has an in-text reference.

Example 2

Original text:

‘In the letters concerned with love and science fiction to Astounding’s readers’ column, “Brass Tacks,” the term “love interest” frequently functions doubly. First, it functions as a synonym for “women”; second, it functions as a space in which the romance discourse can operate within the field of science fiction. If the love interest can be kept out of science fiction, then so too can the discourse of romance. The fear of the love interest in both these senses is part of the delineation of the science fiction field as masculine public space. This is why, in many accounts of the relationship of women to science fiction, the growing presence of women within the field is figured as an invasion.’
Justine Larbalestier (2002) The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction. Middletown, Connecticut; Wesleyan University Press. p. 117.

Insufficient Paraphrase/Plagiarism:

The term ‘love interest’ functions in two ways: as a synonym for women and for romance. It was used by science fiction readers to designate a space where romance discourse could operate within the field of science fiction. By keeping out the love interest, romance is excluded and science fiction remains delineated as a masculine public space. This fear of romance, and thus of the presence of women, explains why many accounts of increasing numbers of women in science fiction represent them as an invading force.

Sufficiently Paraphrased (referenced using Communication Studies style – Harvard variant):

By using the term ‘love interest’ to characterise women and romance, science fiction readers’ letters equated the two in an attempt to exclude both (Larbalestier 2002). Larbalestier argues that the ‘fear of the love interest’ underlies histories of the genre in which increasing numbers of female readers and writers are read as ‘an invasion’, and where science fiction is represented as a threatened ‘masculine public space’ (2002, p. 117).

Example 3

MLA stlye referencing

Original text:

I grew up in Australia in the 1950s on the outskirts of Melbourne. Land was cheap enough to be settled by postwar immigrants, like my family, "flooding" into the country. We struggled to acquire English, a notoriously difficult enterprise since, according to my parents, it did not abide by the usual linguistic rules of logic. There were far too many exceptions, for example, in the disjunction between pronunciation and spelling. In revenge, my mother informed us, only semihumorously, that the idiosyncratic Australian intonation would result in thin lips and protruding chins—as we could easily observe everywhere around us. This was my first exposure to the idea that there could be somatic and even affective attributes of language: One might experience affectively, as well as be outwardly marked by, the embodiment of a language.

Gunew, Sneja. “Technologies of the Self: Corporeal Affects of English.” South Atlantic Quarterly 100.3 (2001): 729-47.

Unacceptable paraphrase (plagiarism):

Sneja Gunew (Gunew 729-30) discusses the way in which her family struggled to acquire the English language when they arrived in Australia in the 1950s. The nature of the struggle was the inconsistency between punctuation and spelling, as well as linguistic rules and logic. From these inconsistencies, Gunew’s awareness was drawn to the different way in which bodies are shaped through language. She therefore argues that there is a corporeal aspect of language.

Although the source is referenced, there are direct quotes that have not been placed in quotation marks. This allows the reader to believe that the words are not from the source.

Acceptable paraphrase

Sneja Gunew’s family used humour in order to ridicule the Australian society that feared the changing of immigration laws during the 1950s (Gunew 729). In this context, Gunew utilises personal experience to discuss the complexity of learning a new language. By focusing on the “affective attributes of language” she argues that speaking English involves an intimate, bodily reconfiguration that is more than just a process of social assimilation (Gunew 729).

Although it follows the sequence of the original, the words are sufficiently changed to avoid plagiarism. The phrase “affective attributes of language” is placed within quotation marks to indicated that it is a direct quote. Gunew is sufficiently referenced in parentheses according to the current MLA style.

Getting help

You can get help with appropriate referencing through workshops, drop-ins and online resources.

Workshops and events

Individual assistance

Online resources


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