Why reference?

You probably know that it is important to use referencing in your writing at university, but why is it so important?

Using the right sources in your work provides you with the supporting evidence you need in your assignment. Referencing is the acknowledgement of the sources that you use in your work. You must reference all sources that you use in your assignment, including words and ideas, facts, images, videos, audio, websites, statistics, diagrams and data.

Good referencing:

  • Shows what you have read
    Your references demonstrate the depth and the breadth of your reading.  
  • Enables the reader to locate the sources referred to in your paper
    Researchers rely on referencing to locate sources.  
  • Supports and strengthens your argument
    An academic paper is a carefully constructed argument in the sense that you take a position on an issue and support it with evidence gathered from the sources you have read, to try to convince your readers. 
  • Demonstrates academic integrity
    Proper referencing ensures that you have acknowledged your sources and that you have done your best to avoid plagiarism – the use of other people's words, ideas or materials without proper acknowledgement. Plagiarism can be intentional (deliberate cheating) or unintentional (happen accidentally). Academic misconduct – any act where the honesty, reliability or integrity of a work has been compromised – can incur serious penalties by the University.

Some referencing styles use footnotes (e.g. Oxford), while others require the name of the author(s) and year of publication in the body of the paper (e.g. Harvard and APA). Different units may use different referencing styles, so always check carefully which style is required for each of your assignments.

When reading and taking notes, always write down the full details of the source (author/s, title, page number and other publication details). This will make the writing and referencing process much easier later on, and also help you to avoid accidentally copying and plagiarising someone else's work.

Understanding requirements and variations in style

Australian university referencing requirements may be different from those at your previous school, college or university.

Australian university students are required to acknowledge all sources in the body of their paper where they summarise, paraphrase or quote sources. If a student fails to use and acknowledge sources appropriately, whether accidentally or on purpose, plagiarism might occur.

There can be variations even within one referencing style.

Some referencing styles may have several variations (as used by different academic publishers), especially for online sources, as this is an area of referencing that is still evolving. Remember that the Deakin guide to referencing is just one approach – there may be a number of acceptable variations. Your unit guide may specify a variation of one of the styles presented in this referencing guide – and for that reason your unit guide should always be consulted before using this guide. Whichever variations you use, it is important to always be consistent in how you format your references.

Different units may use different styles.

Various Schools at Deakin, and even units within Schools, may require students to use different referencing styles. You cannot assume that the referencing style for one unit will necessarily be the same in another unit, even in the same School. This can be confusing, so make sure you always check the particular referencing requirements in each unit guide. Once you know which referencing style to use for a specific unit, be consistent as possible within that style.

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