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Why reference?

You probably know that it is important to reference your writing at university, but why is this so?

  • It supports and strengthens your argument.

Every academic paper is in essence an argument, not in the everyday use of this word, but an argument in the sense that you take a position on an issue and support it with evidence gathered from the sources you have read.

  • It demonstrates that you have read.

As a student writer your purpose is to show your reader (your marker) that you have read, thought about and come to a point of view on the assigned topic.

  • It shows what you have read.

Your references demonstrate the depth and the breadth of your reading.

  • It enables the reader to locate the sources referred to in your paper.

It is necessary to provide details of sources so that readers can access them.

  • It means you have acknowledged your sources and avoided plagiarism.

Plagiarism is the use of someone's ideas or words without acknowledging them. This is unacceptable and a serious academic offence.


Finding referencing challenging? If you do, you're not alone.

If you are finding referencing a difficult task in your assessments, you are not alone. Referencing can present a number of challenges, especially for new students or students returning to study after a long break. Understanding some of these challenges can help you to overcome them.

At secondary school it is generally not required to acknowledge sources in the body of papers. However, at university, students are required to summarise and paraphrase sources using their own words and acknowledge sources in the body of their papers. This is not an easy aspect of academic writing, especially for new students. It is important that students understand that a failure to rephrase sources and acknowledge them appropriately, accidentally or on purpose, means that plagiarism can occur.

  • There are many different academic traditions.

Students from non-Western academic backgrounds may have to adjust to a different intellectual tradition. They need to be aware of Western notions such as intellectual property, which may differ from the way that knowledge is regarded in other academic cultures.

  • There can be variations even within one style.

There can be different (and acceptable) variations within one style of referencing. Indeed your unit guide may specify a variation on one of the styles listed in this referencing guide – and for that reason your unit guide should always be consulted first before using this referencing guide.

  • Students may have more than one style to learn.

Various schools at Deakin, and even units within schools, may require students to use different referencing styles. This is often because different professions typically use particular styles in their leading journals, and thus a school may adopt a particular style. Therefore students may find themselves using more than one style at a time. This can be quite a challenge. The important thing is to be consistent within each style and to follow your unit guide's requirements.

  • Standards for new online media sources are still evolving.

You may notice that various universities have different ways of referencing a particular source for particular style. This is because standards for online sources are still evolving. The Deakin online referencing guide is just one approach, and you should use this as your guide after first consulting your unit guide for any specific requirements.

  • Students may find that there are different standards of rigour from unit to unit.

As mentioned above, you cannot assume that what is acceptable in one unit will necessarily be acceptable in another, even in the same faculty or school. In addition there are different standards of rigour from unit to unit in regard to referencing, in particular in regard to new online sources.


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