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25 - Your Use of References.

How to use other people’s work in your assignment.

Citing the work of others

Using References


An important part of university research and learning is to show the source of the material you are using to argue your point. This is why we use references in our writing. References show where ideas, theories or data originally came from.

The references are used by the person reading your work to help them work out if they believe what you are telling them. They can investigate the references to see if they believe them.

If the reader does not accept the information supplied by the reference, then they will not accept the part of your report or essay where that reference is used.

Again, this is like the foundation for a house. The information in the references is the foundation and your assignment is the house you build on top of it. If the references are poor then the foundation of your report or essay is poor and it will have problems.


Finding References.

Information has never been more attainable. Obviously there is an enormous amount of information available by simply going on-line.

When writing essays it is important to use good quality references. This means avoiding just doing the easy thing and finding a quick reference on an “information portal site”.

A “portal” is an entrance to something. It may be a door to your house or the entrance to a road tunnel.

On the Internet, some sites are set up as portals. That is, they are an entrance to a particular set of information. They make it easy for people to access certain information.

When writing an assignment you need to find references to base your arguments on. Different portals make this easy, however they are often not seen as good quality references. This is another example of where taking the easy path may not give the best results.

WikipediaTM and some on-line “MBA” sites are portals of information.

We love Wikipedia. We use it all the time. It is a great help to get an initial overview of a particular issue. It is an excellent resource, however, it is not yet accepted by most universities as a reference.

Don’t quote Wikipedia or on-line MBA sites. You need to use Academic or Industry material.

Our guess is that Wikipedia will continue to get better and better with time. At some stage it will probably be accepted as a reference at universities.

Ask your teacher if they currently accept WikipediaTM as a reference.

We recommend using Wikipedia as an additional source to learn more about particular aspects of your course. When writing an essay we recommend you then look at the references Wikipedia gives at the bottom of a page for a topic. These will probably be good quality references that you can look into for more in-depth research. You can then use quotes from these articles and everyone will think you are a hero.

Inserting quotes into your assignment.

Many students have trouble putting quotes into their reports or essays. A common mistake is to simply copy some lines from an on-line reference and then paste this into your assignment. These students feel that by putting an in-text citation with this they are all good. By using the in-text citation you should not be accused of plagiarism, however it is obvious to your teacher that you have simply used copy-and-paste rather than write your own work. This will probably lose you marks.

You need to elegantly insert quotes into your essay. As a simple way to do this we recommend using words like:

“According to ….. blah blah blah.”

“As stated by …. blah blah blah.”

“…… refers to blah blah blah.“

This is a professional way of doing it. You are quoting people rather than just doing a copy-and-paste.


The Harvard reference guide.

This is a globally accepted format for writing out your references.

Lots of universities have developed simple guidelines on the use of the Harvard referencing system. Check if your university has one. Otherwise we recommend doing a GoogleTM search to find one you like to use.

The guide tells you how to do a reference for an on-line source, a book, a journal and many other types.

It shows you in a simple manner how to structure the things you need to write for a reference.

Ask your teacher how much of the Harvard format they would like to see used with your references.


Variation & Spread of References

Some students make the mistake of getting to a certain section of the assignment and suddenly remembering to use references. They then race to find a few on-line and then throw them into that section. This will only get you part of the marks.

For great marks you need to find references that are not only good quality but also are relevant to different sections of the assignment. If your report has 8 sections and you are using 5 references there should probably be something like 1 reference in each of 5 parts. If you just throw them into one part you will get less marks.

Also, for great marks, you need to use references that are from completely different sources. For example. if you are going an assignment on the banking industry, then if all 5 references are from the same bank’s website then this will get less marks.


How many references are needed?

If the essay requirements or the marking matrix do not state how many references are required I suggest asking your teacher.

If the essay requires 4 references, put in 6 or 8 decent ones to ensure a good mark. This is exceeding expectations.

The words “at least” or “minimum” are often used to describe the quantity that is needed. “At least” means the minimum number required. If the requirement says “at least 4 references” then if you put in 4 you only receive 50% of the marks for this part of the marking criteria.



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