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Referencing FAQs and tips

How do I use other people's words and ideas in my assignments?

While researching your assignment topic you will read a variety of materials that serve different purposes. Sometimes this reading just gives you background information to help you better understand the topic, but frequently you will want to directly discuss ideas or concepts you have read about. It is important to remember that the major points in your assignment need to be expressed in your own words. You can use your readings to support these points in a number of different ways. You might choose to include a direct quote or a paraphrase, but more often you will be summarising what you have read, always remembering that you need to cite your sources at the relevant points in your paper.

Why do I need to reference my assignments?

There are a number of reasons why you need to acknowledge your sources in your assignments. Firstly, readers need to be able to distinguish between your ideas and those you have gleaned from a variety of sources. Secondly, if readers wish to further research information you have given or confirm specific facts or data they need to be able to quickly and easily refer to the original source. Thirdly, any use of ideas, data, facts and figures from sources without acknowledgement is plagiarism.

Which referencing style should I use?

At Deakin, the Harvard, APA (American Psychological Association), Oxford, Law, Vancouver and Numbered Citation referencing styles are used across various disciplines.

Step one is to consult your unit guide to find out which style is required for your unit. Another reason to consult your unit guide first is that some units may have requirements that differ from the styles presented in this referencing guide.

Step two is to consult the online referencing guide. Again, keep in mind that this is a generic guide only – any specific requirements from your unit should take precedence.

If you are still any doubt, you should seek advice from academic staff within the unit you are studying.

What is the difference between a bibliography and reference list?

These two terms are often confused so you should always confirm which you are being required to produce. A bibliography is a list of all the works that you have consulted in preparing an assignment. These sources may or may not be cited in the assignment. On the other hand, a reference list
(sometimes called 'works cited') includes only those sources that you have cited in your paper. Both a bibliography and a reference list are arranged in alphabetical order according to the family names of authors. Most undergraduate university assignments require a reference list.

How do I know whether a source from the internet is reliable or not?

Students should be always aware that the processes for publishing material on the web are often less rigorous than for print sources. Be wary of simply using Google to find information – this is not to say that you cannot source appropriate material online but first read this this resource on using electronic sources. Don't forget to use your online access to the Deakin Library. Explore the Deakin library guides in your subject area and review the Library's digital literacy tutorials.

How much can I quote? Is there a limit?

Direct quotes should in general be kept to a minimum and you should always have a clear purpose for using a quote. Use your own words where possible.  Paraphrasing and summarising information in your own words shows a more sophisticated understanding of your topic. Critical analysis is an important academic skill in any field – try to present your own views of other writers' ideas, rather than simply repeating their ideas.

What is Turnitin and how do I use it?

Deakin University uses Turnitin, a software program that detects similarities in wording between assignments submitted and the program's database of published material. The program does not check for plagiarism – it simply allows you to check whether you have copied the words of others before you submit your work. It is important to first understand how to avoid plagiarism as well as the rules of referencing. To find out more, complete the Turnitin module in the self-paced CloudDeakin resource Unistart.

How do I reference online sources that give very little publication details?

Referencing standards for online sources are still evolving and you can often find conflicting advice about how to format them. This can be very confusing and frustrating when you really just need a quick answer!

It is quite possible that you have an online source that does not fit into any the listed categories in this guide and that you are left with no clear answers as to how to reference it. Don't panic!  Just follow these steps.

Step one:
Always consult your unit guide first, which may recommend a style that is slightly different from the styles set out in this referencing guide. Keep in mind too that some forms of online sources may not be acceptable for use in your unit.

Step two:
Gather as much bibliographic information on your source as you can – it is always best to provide more rather than less. Many webpages do not have an obvious author, date or even title. Be sure to look in the header or footer for this sort of information, for example, the authoring organisation of the webpage and Page last updated date.

Step three:
Consult the required style in this online referencing guide. Sometimes the answer will be clearly provided in the guide, and at other times you may have to look at more than one section to find out the most appropriate way to reference. For example, if you have an online source with few publication details and your required style is Harvard, it might be useful to look at the sections General principles: No author and General principles: No date. But then you might also need to look at Online, broadcast, video: Webpage to find more specific information on citing a webpage. You might then need to ask yourself: is this in a webpage or is it in fact an online article, a blog or a social media site? There may be more specific information in this guide on these types of online sources.

Step four:
If you still have any further questions about how to reference, seek advice from academic staff within your unit or from a Language and Learning Adviser.

What should I do when the referencing guide does not have an example of the type of source I want to reference?

The referencing guide does not attempt to give examples of every possible source that students may need to reference. If your source is not among the examples given in the guide, you may need to combine elements of two or more examples.

Let's say for example that you want to reference a chapter in an e-book. The e-book is an edited book containing chapters written by different authors. There is no example for this type of source in the referencing guide. What you need to do is combine the elements of two examples that are provided and that are relevant for your source: Chapter in an edited book and e-book.

In other cases you may also need to look at the General principles section under headings such as No author or No date, as well examples of specific source types.

Are page numbers always required in citations?

It depends if your citation is a direct quote, a paraphrase, a summary or a more general reference to your source. Direct quotes always require page numbers in citations, and paraphrased text should also include page numbers. Citations that refer more broadly to authors' opinions or that are a summary of research findings do not always require a page number.  See your recommended referencing style for more specific details on formatting.

What level of detail of referencing is required to attain an HD?

While your attention to detail with referencing is very important, it is best not to focus too much on referencing alone as this will not gain you an HD! However here are some tips:

  • Follow the requirements as set out in your unit guide and then follow the online referencing guide as closely as you can.
  • It is important to be as consistent as possible when adhering to a style.
  • Within the specifications of the style it is always best to provide more bibliographic information rather than less.
  • Consult academic staff within your unit or a Language and Learning Adviser if you are still unsure.

What is the difference between a primary and secondary source?

In some cases you may be reading an author (B) who cites another author (A). If you then want to cite author A from author B's work (without having read A), then author A is a primary source and author B is a secondary source.

When you are citing a secondary source provide both primary and secondary authors' family names. Here is an example from the Harvard style guide:

Donato (cited in Cotterall & Cohen 2003, p. 158) explains the concept of scaffolding, which supports learners as they extend their competence and skills.

In this example you have read Cotterall and Cohen, who refer to Donato, but you have not read Donato yourself.

In the reference list you would provide details of the published source you have read (the secondary source), not the primary source that they are citing. The following reference list entry is in the Harvard style.

Cotterall, S & Cohen, R 2003, 'Scaffolding for second language writers: producing an academic essay', ELT Journal, vol. 57, no. 2, pp. 158–66.


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