Reference and avoid plagiarism
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These words have almost the same meaning, which is to give details of where you found your information for an essay or assignment, whether from a book, journal article, web page, lecture, or any other source.
Why is it important?
It is accepted practice in the academic world to acknowledge the words, ideas or work of others and not simply to use them as if they were your own. Failure to do this could be regarded as plagiarism
- to enable other people to identify and trace your sources quickly and easily
- to support facts and claims you have made in your text
- to show that you have read widely and use a variety of sources
What about commonly known facts?
It is not necessary to reference information (dates, facts etc) which is commonly known in a particular subject area (e.g. Battle of Hastings took place in 1066). This is called common knowledge. Sometimes it is difficult to decide if a fact is common knowledge and it might be helpful to check with a member of academic staff. Please also see the guidance on Cite them right online (select Basics and then What is common knowledge?)
What is the first step in referencing?
As you find and use information from books, journals, web sites etc for your assignment, make sure you note down details about each source. Look for an author (might be an organisation), title, date, edition, place of publication and publisher; for journal articles, book chapters and quotations you will also need page numbers; for online resources you will additionally need the url or doi and the date on which you accessed the information
Which referencing style should I use?
- Check with your Department or School which referencing style is required, and also if it provides its own guidelines to that style.
- Many Departments/Schools at Brookes use the Harvard system. We have a series of short videos on how to reference different resource types with the Harvard system. For detailed help use citing your references using the Harvard (author-date) system ( Word or PDF); printed copies of this Library guide are also available at the Library Help Zone/Enquiry Desks
- Cite Them Right Online is an online service designed to help you correctly reference a wide range of resources using Harvard and other referencing styles. It is easy to use with the ability to enter and check your own referencing examples. Advice is also given on avoiding plagiarism.
- Some Departments/Schools use a different style, such as MHRA or OSCOLA. Detailed guidance can be found on the relevant Course resource help page.
What is plagiarism?
Plagiarism - what is it?
Plagiarism is presenting or submitting someone else's work (words or ideas), intentionally or unintentionally, as your own. This is considered to be a form of cheating and may be subject to disciplinary action.
There are various forms of plagiarism including:
- Copying: using the same, or very similar, words to the original text (whether in a book, journal, website or any other source) without either acknowledging the source or using quotation marks. This also applies to images, pictures and melodies
- Inadequate paraphrasing: changing a few words and phrases from the original but retaining too much of the original structure and expressions
- Collusion: working with others but passing off the work as your own individual work
- Duplication: submitting work for one module which had been prepared for another
How to avoid plagiarism
Cite Them Right Online has a useful section on avoiding plagiarism. You can also always contact your Academic Liaison Librarian for advice.
The University Regulations and Policies give detailed information about all aspects of cheating.
Further help about plagiarism and Turnitin
Brookes has available an Interpreting Turnitin student guide video, which was produced by Mary Davis
There are a number of useful books in the Library about avoiding, and deterring, plagiarism. Search our LibrarySearch system, using plagiarism as a keyword.
PLATO is an online tutorial on understanding and avoiding plagiarism. It is available in RADAR (Brookes Research Archive and Repository). Follow these steps to access:
- Go to RADAR (Brookes Research Archive and Repository) and log in with your staff/student number.
- Click on 'View Content Package' to open PLATO.
Information about the text-matching tool Turnitin is available:
What is academic integrity?
Academic integrity is about good academic practice in your research, reading and writing, but it is also about how to spot and solve problems with plagiarism and other academic breaches in your work.
The Oxford Brookes Academic Integrity course covers the rules of plagiarism but also gives students useful advice on building confidence to avoid plagiarism in the first place. Students who have completed the course have been really positive about the benefits to them and their work.
The Academic Integrity course takes about one hour and can be completed by any Oxford Brookes student - foundation, undergraduate or postgraduate - and can be taken at any point during your time at Brookes, but the earlier you take it, the more you will benefit from what you learn. You can access the course through Moodle and start it whenever you want.
Reference management software
You may wish to consider using a reference management software system as a method of storing reference details and creating citations in your work. There are lots of different tools available and a guide on Wikipedia lists and compares many of them. Oxford Brookes University supports EndNote, which enables you to format references in various styles including ‘BrookesHarvard’ (matching the Library guide and Cite them right online). EndNote is freely available to all Brookes students and is the system that Library staff offer training on and will be able to help you with.
Library staff are always ready to help you with referencing. Visit the Library Help Zone, JHB Level 1 (Library Enquiry Desks at other Brookes libraries).