Referencing your sources
It is important at University to ensure that you are referencing your sources, referencing them correctly, and managing the process as painlessly as possible. This will help you avoid getting into difficulty over plagiarism, make the most efficient use of your time, and demonstrate your subject mastery.
We don’t work in isolation and are almost always basing our work on work that has gone on before us. “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Sir Isaac Newton in a letter to Robert Hooke (1676)*.
Plagiarism occurs if we fail to cite other people’s work and use it as our own, whether it is a quotation from a book, a paraphrase from a web page, data from a journal article or a paid-for essay from a “paper mill”. Unless you can claim it is common knowledge you should reference the source. You can even be accused of plagiarism for poor reference practices or reusing your own work without proper attribution.
- Demonstrating your reading and subject knowledge
Good referencing practices will help you avoid plagiarism. It also demonstrates to your readers or lecturers the width of your reading (not just from one source or one type of resource) and the depth of your reading (good quality resources, works of major importance on your subject).
Note that references are made up of two parts: the reference (which will appear in a list at the end of your assignment or dissertation) and the citation which appears in the main text where you mention the work.
Referencing is essentially about ensuring that your reader can locate the work that you are citing. There are various systems for doing this but most University of Portsmouth students are expected to use APA 6th Edition. Some will be asked to use Vancouver (School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences) or Oscola (law). Always check with your lecturers what style you should use.
The Library supports referencing in three ways: Firstly through our Referencing webpage and Cite Them Right which provides advice and lots of examples. Secondly through our Chat and email help – although we cannot do your referencing for you, we are always happy to help give advice and pointers. Thirdly through our seasonal referencing ‘pop-ups’ where you can ask for specialist help.
In addition, good habits of note taking and managing your references, from initial reading to final citation in a submitted piece of work, will help you to save time hunting for a tiny reference detail when you’re under pressure of deadlines. Whether you use a notebook and pen, an app on your phone, cards in a shoebox or a dedicated piece of software, it’s worth developing good habits from the outset. Note that apps and the ‘cite’ button found in many databases can be really helpful, but their output should always be checked against Cite Them Right for accuracy. You may find referencing management software helpful.
* Newton, I. (1675). Letter to Robert Hooke dated February 5.