Skills for Business and Management

by Martin Sedgley

Referencing and avoiding plagiarism

The importance of referencing

How to reference your assignments

Your business school will have particular requirements for how students should reference their academic assignments.You must therefore fully acquaint yourself with the guidance that your university provides on the exact formatting they require. This will be available in soft and hard copy forms, and you have to consult these in detail each time you finalise your citations within the essay text and your full reference list at the end.

As well as satisfying the university's regulations, accurate referencing also meets your tutor's academic expectations, and therefore achieves higher grades for your assignments.

Whilst there is no universal guide for how to reference, there are general principles for when a reference is needed within your writing. Basically, these citations are needed whenever you bring in data from other sources. This principle applies to the following:

When to provide citations

  • To inform the reader of sources of tables, photos, statistics or diagrams presented in your assignment.
  • When describing a theory, model or practice associated with a particular writer.
  • When giving emphasis to a particular idea that has found a measure of agreement and support among commentators.
  • To inform the reader of sources of direct quotations or definitions in your assignment.
  • When paraphrasing another person's idea or definition that you feel is particularly significant or likely to be a subject of debate.

Avoiding plagiarism

How to avoid plagiarism

If you follow all the referencing guidelines above, you will not fall into the plagiarism trap. Your university is also likely to help you double-check your own work against inadvertent, poor academic practice by requiring you to submit your draft assignment through plagiarism checking software, Turnitin. This will produce a report that shows you direct matches in your text with sources from anywhere on the Internet. You can then paraphrase and cite these appropriately before your final submission. Examples of Turnitin reports are provided in Chapter 7 of the textbook.

To be sure that you understand how to avoid plagiarism and poor academic practice, all forms of this are summarised below:

You have committed plagiarism if you:

  • Pay another person to produce your assignment, whether that is a friend or an online 'essay mill'. This is the most serious offence, and you would be punished severely by the university.
  • Copy another student's work and submit that as your own. Again, the intent here is to deceive, which would result in major penalties, potentially even expulsion from the university.
  • Allow another student access to your work, and s/he copies and submits that. You may well be deemed by the university to be as guilty as the offender, unless you can prove that s/he submitted that copy without your knowledge.
  • Copy statements exactly from a source without showing those are direct quotes, i.e. without 'speech marks', and do not give a citation.
  • Summarise or paraphrase ideas from a source into your essay without citing the author.

Poor academic practice (a lesser, but still significant offence) occurs if you:

  • Copy statements exactly from a source without showing these are direct quotes - even if you give a citation.
  • Import ideas from a source, only paraphrasing these slightly - even if you give a citation. See Chapter 8 for guidance on paraphrasing.