Referencing and plagiarism

Before we begin to explore some of the difficulties you might encounter around using sources, citation and referencing we want to remind you of our discussions around note taking in Chapter 5. The two methods of note taking we explored there took you away from the original academic text in order to help you to develop notes and ideas that were in your own words and made sense to you. Nevertheless, we cannot stress enough that it is very important that you always make reference to the authors from whom you got the ideas in the first place. As we suggested above you will need to keep some kind of record of what you have read along with your own notes; this means that you will always be able to use your sources correctly in your writing. One of the 'rules' of academic writing is that you must always attribute ideas that 'belong' to somebody else. Put another way, you must never try to pass off as your own ideas that 'belong' to somebody else and that did not originate from you, particularly if they are published in one form or another. If you do use ideas that you know you have read in a book, article or web-based resource you must make this clear, through the use of references. If you do not then you may find yourself accused of plagiarism. If your previous experience of education has been outside an anglophone institution you may not have come across the idea of plagiarism before and, therefore, you will probably want to pay particular attention to the discussions in this chapter.

The concept of plagiarism is very complicated, not least because it is often very difficult to decide where an 'original idea' came from. If you remember, in Chapter 1 we mentioned 'talking for writing'. In seminars students and tutors talk over ideas together, ideas that may then be redigested and developed by lecturers in their own academic publications. So, in some ways, the idea of ownership of academic knowledge and ideas is very difficult to define. That said, as a student the onus is on you to make sure that you cannot be accused of plagiarism and so you must always make sure that you reference other authors' work meticulously. We discuss one particular referencing system below. If you know that you have read something in a book or found it on a website it is not worth attempting to pass the idea off as your own. It is quite likely that your tutor will know the work that you have read and know that it does not 'belong' to you. Although many students get quite worried about plagiarism, as you become a more experienced student writer you will feel more confident with what you feel are your ideas and which ones need to be referenced. It is best to start by erring on the safe side and referencing whenever you feel unsure, rather than omitting a citation. Later in this chapter we explore how you can integrate different authors and voices and use this creatively in your writing.

The easiest things to reference are direct quotes. Obviously, if you are quoting directly from a book then you must give a clear reference for it. Changing a few words around may mean that the material is no longer a direct quote, but that doesn't change the fact that it has been taken directly from a published text and needs referencing in the same way. There are two ways of using a quote from reading: allowing the quote to 'stand alone' or incorporating the gist of what the author has said more seamlessly into your own text - this is known as paraphrasing. When the quote stands alone then it is easy to put the reference immediately after it. When you are quoting in a rather general way, in a sense summarizing what the author you have read says, then you should put your reference as close as possible to your first statement or sentence about this author's ideas. Then the reader will know that the ideas that come next are likely to be a summary of somebody else's ideas that you have read, rather than ideas that you are laying claim to. This latter form of referencing can seem quite difficult and that's why you need to check with your tutor on a piece of your own written work if you are doing what is required. The following three examples from Goodman and Redclift (1991) give you an idea of the different ways in which you may see references used in published work, particularly in the social sciences. Although the examples we use here are conventional, in that they refer to books, the same principles still apply with citation to electronic resources:

1. Among the most thoughtful of these accounts, and one which places emphasis on the impact of new domestic technologies or 'white goods', is that of Bose (1982) writing about modern North American households.

2. As manufacturing took over from cottage industry, women left the domestic handloom, and their labour was transferred to the mill: 'Women had always been involved in the family production of textiles. When textile production was removed to the factories, girls entered the factory workforce. But, even in that setting, they were seen as working for the household. In Italy and France, some factory owners tried to create "family" conditions and supervision for their female employees and, on occasion, even to arrange marriages for them' (O'Day 1985: 43).The transfer of many of women's skills, and much of their labour, from the household to food processing was in some respects a similar process, occurring at a later stage in the industrialization of the United Kingdom, but there were also significant differences.

3. It was argued at the time that domestic training was not only useful in servants to the middle classes, it was also essential in working-class wives (Dawes 1984).

These examples are taken from one published work. One of the best ways of learning how to use references in your subject area is to pay attention to the ways in which the authors that you read for your studies incorporate references into their texts. In (1) direct reference is made to Bose's work on the impact of new domestic technologies. The author name is directly referenced and the date of this work is placed in brackets immediately after this. A different approach to citation is used in (2). In this case, a complete quote from O'Day's work is used and not only author name and date of publication are included but also the page number for the quote. In (3) Dawes' work is being used to support a more general statement about domestic training, a debate to which it is assumed - by the reference - that the author Dawes has made a significant contribution.

Sometimes this kind of referencing can be ambiguous and this is something you need to pay particular attention to, making sure that the meaning is as transparent as possible to the reader.

In exploring this further we consider the following example from one student's work:

4. Although real change in the conditions of production did not occur until their work was brought into factories in the process of industrialization, it could be argued that to some extent women have always been part of the labour force (O'Day 1985).

Which of these do you think best describes what the student means in making reference to O'Day's work?

a) O'Day has argued that real change did not occur until women began to work in the factories.

b) O'Day has argued that women have always been part of the labour force.

c) O'Day has argued both of the above a) and b), and the student writer is reporting this as fact.

d) O'Day has argued that real change did not occur until women's work was brought into the factories and it is the student herself who is suggesting that women have always been part of the labour force.

There is no definitively correct answer. There are a number of reasons why there may be some ambiguity about what the author O'Day said and what the student is claiming was said. For example, the student's citation to the source may have been placed too far from what it is meant to be referring to, and therefore it is unclear precisely what meaning it is meant to convey. The student may have paraphrased the source so it is difficult to establish what was said by the original author and what is the student voice.

This sentence from a student essay, which we have made up, is also ambiguous:

Many commentators have indicated their concern with the failure of educational research to engage adequately with the ongoing problem of social disadvantage (Reddy 2005).

What do you think the writer meant when she drew on Reddy's work? What additions do you think you would like to make to this sentence to make the meaning clearer and less ambiguous? The sentence above could mean that:

a) Reddy is one of the commentators being referred to by the student;

b) Reddy is reporting on those commentators who have indicated their concern with the failure of educational research.

We think that the meaning of this sentence would be less ambiguous if the names of the commentators were included and the reference to Reddy's work was moved forward in the sentence as follows:

Reddy (2005) points to the fact that many commentators (see Falls 2003; Nason 2007) have indicated their concern with the failure of educational research to engage adequately with the ongoing problem of social disadvantage.

Remember that, in order to avoid ambiguity when citing sources, it is always a good idea to read your work through carefully before submitting it, paying particular attention to your use of citations and making sure they mean what you intended. (NB You will not see citation to Reddy, Falls and Nason in the references section at the end of the book because we have made these names up.)

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