Our number one aim in this campaign is to improve the understanding of referencing to reduce the number of students that go through the academic conduct process.
Not only will this mean that students avoid the potentially stressful experience of having their assignments investigated but will also improve the quality of work overall. Here we present some top tips to get you started. There is more detailed information and support available from the university services listed at the bottom of the page - follow the link to find out more. Contents What is referencing and why is it important? The most common mistakes 1. Lack of quotation marks
Quotation marks signify to the marker that you are using the direct wording from an author. This is important because the marker assumes that anything which is not in quotation is the students’ own wording.
One of the most common mistakes we see is a lack of quotation marks. This is when a student copies text from an author and inserts it into their work without putting it in quotation marks. This is plagiarism because the student benefits from the marker thinking that this is their own wording. This can be seen in the example below:
Paraphrasing is when you put an author’s words in your own words. This is important because it shows the marker that you have understood what you have read. It is more than just changing a few words – it is completely rewriting the material whilst still retaining the original meaning. This usually involves summarising or identifying key ideas and arguments, rather than just rewording a specific section of text.
Another common mistake we see is a lack of proper paraphrasing. This is when a student copies text from an author and inserts it into their work, often changing a few individual words by substituting synonyms but without putting it fully into their own words. This is plagiarism because the marker assumes that anything that is not in quotation marks is the students’ own words. This can be seen in the example below:
3. Lack of secondary referencing
Secondary referencing is when you acknowledge the input from two authors; for example, “Author A,
as cited by B”. You need to do this when you want to refer to a work that you've read about in a different source. This is important because it gives credit to Author A who had the original idea and Author B who provided a summary or analysis of Author A’s work. It's also important because the marker needs to know which author's work you've actually read.
Whilst less common than the examples above, lack of secondary referencing is still problematic. It is essential that you reference the work that you read, as well as that of the original author. Failing to reference both is plagiarism because it does not give credit to one of the authors. Furthermore, without reading the original author’s work, the student does not know if the summary they have read is accurate. This can be seen in the example below:
4. Sharing work with friends
Any work that you produce at university is your own. If an assignment is not group work then you are responsible for completing it on your own and only you can get credit for the work.
Whilst it may be very tempting to share work with friends to give them an idea about how to approach answering a question, if they rely on your work in their own assignments or exams this could be seen as collusion. This is because they would be getting some credit for the work that you have done and because it gives them an advantage over other students who haven’t seen your work.
Furthermore, whilst you may trust your friend not to directly copy your work, they may share it with someone else and you have no control over this. We recommend being very careful if you are sharing your work with friends.
Sometimes you will write an assignment about a topic which you have studied before. This could be whilst doing your dissertation, or whilst completing a masters or PhD.
In this instance, it may be tempting to copy and paste work which you have previously submitted as this is your own work. However, this is still plagiarism: you cannot get credit for the same piece of work twice because this would give you an advantage over students who have not completed work on the topic previously.
Instead, you need to reference your own work in exactly the same way as you would for any other author. This means providing a citation for yourself in the style of your specific discipline, e.g. author name, source, page number. It also means paraphrasing your previous wording, or using quotation marks – although quoting an entire paragraph would not be best practice).
Top tips for good academic practice
Now that we have looked at the most common mistakes, we want to share some tips with you so you can be confident you are getting your referencing right.
1. Complete the Academic Honesty and Plagiarism module on ELE
We recommend completing this module once a term to make sure that you fully understand the expectations of referencing.
A lot of students we see who get investigated for academic misconduct either didn’t do the ELE module as part of their induction, or haven’t done the module again since the very beginning of their time at university.
If you read a book, left it at home and then met your friend in town who asked you about what you’re reading, you wouldn’t be able to quote from the book or read out the blurb. Instead, you would have to describe it in your own words.
Similarly, after you finish reading an academic source we would recommend closing it and then trying to summarise it. Because you don’t have the book open and are not tempted to copy directly, your summary will be in your own words. This is a really good way to improve your paraphrasing skills.
3. Make your quotations count
On the whole, it is best to paraphrase the ideas of authors because this demonstrates that you have understood what you have read. There are times, however, when you will need to quote something directly.
Quoting a whole paragraph only shows the marker that you can copy and paste text, it doesn’t show how you have understood an argument. Therefore, we recommend only using quotations for individual sentences or small sections, particularly when the author has phrased something really effectively or you would lose the original meaning by paraphrasing.
Often academic poor practice or misconduct occur unintentionally because of poor note taking practices. This happens because a student copies directly from a source but doesn’t indicate in their notes that this still needs to be paraphrased so they think that they have already put it in their own words.
We recommend two approaches: columns or colours.
Columns – in this approach, you use a Microsoft Word table to put your notes in. Use one column for direct quotations that you want to use in your assignment and another column for paraphrased material that you have already put into your own words. Colours – in this approach, you use one colour for direct quotations and another colour for paraphrased material. This way, when it comes to writing your assignment you know what text you can copy in (which you have already put into your own words) and what still needs to be paraphrased.
Most student we support through academic misconduct have been under pressure and run out of time which is what has led to the referencing errors.
We always recommend doing the referencing as you write your assignment rather than leaving them until the very end. This will allow you time to spot any potential mistakes and correct them before you submit your work.
If you are unwell physically or mentally and are unable to submit your work in time, we strongly recommend that you
apply for mitigation. This can be done 24 hours after the deadline has passed. It is always better to submit your work when you are well enough to do so.
If you are ever unsure about your referencing, we always recommend reaching out to someone to discuss your concerns.
It is always better to be on the safe side and check than to take a risk and deal with it on your own. The person you speak to won’t be annoyed that you’ve asked them but would be happy to provide reassurance that you’re on the right track.
For a list of who you can contact about this, see
Other support below. University Support
In addition to the advice that we have recommended, there is a lot of support with referencing available though the University. Whether you are a first year wanting to understand the basics or a third year who needs a refresher, there is support available for you.
Study Zone provide learning resources, drop-ins and workshops on a range of study skills topics, including academic writing, referencing, time management, exams and revision, and digital skills: LibGuides brings together all the key information on referencing and has links to information about all the referencing styles used at the University. On their webpage, you can learn about: The basics of referencing How to use Cite Them Right Which referencing style you need to use for your subject Guides on specific referencing styles, such as Harvard, Oscula and Vancouver How to check the accuracy of your references What referencing software you can use FAQs
The Library also has
Academic Liaison Librarians who are here to support you to make full use of the resources for learning and research. You can book an appointment for tailored support or email your librarian with any questions. Studiosity is a service that offers online support for students 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Their two main services are: Writing feedback – provided within 24 hours of submitting your work Connect live – one-on-one online session with a specialist INTO provides English Language Support to help students on undergraduate, masters or research programmes with the language requirements of their academic studies. They offer the following programmes: Improving your General Academic English Improving your social and cultural English Improving your subject specific academic English Guided Independent Learning
Students can access support directly from staff within their department. This is the best first port of call if you need some informal advice. We would recommend speaking to:
If you are unsure about which service you might need support from, you can always contact us for advice.
As Annabel has explained above, referencing is fundamental to the principles of academic honesty. In this section, we will look at some examples of mistakes that we see regularly.
It’s always great to hear from others who have had the same experience. We spoke to some students who have been through the process to see what advice they would give someone in their situation.
Why was your work investigated for academic misconduct? Because I misreferenced What was the process like The process was a bit daunting because the emails didn’t disclose much information on what the specific misconduct was so whilst waiting for more information it can be a bit stressful. However, when I had a meeting to discuss this, the panel were friendly and explained everything well. What advice would you give to someone in your situation? I would advise not to worry because in many cases it can just be a simple mistake you have made which can be resolved in the meeting. I would also say to seek advice from your personal tutor and the Guild because it can be reassuring to hear from someone who is very familiar with the process. Why was your work investigated for academic misconduct? Plagiarism, falsification and/or misrepresentation What was the process like? Initially a bit worrying and confusing What advice would you give to someone in your situation? Reach out for help. Talk to someone you trust, and also contact the Guild to set up a meeting. They have helped students in your situation before, and they will know how to help you. Don’t worry too much about the meeting, remember: the staff are there to help you understand what you did wrong, not to tell you off! Even so, it is good to be prepared - writing a statement really helped me, as it ensured that I conveyed everything I wanted to say. 2nd Year Philosophy & History student Why was your work investigated for academic misconduct? Plagiarism/incorrect paraphrasing What was the process like? Initially a bit stressful What advice would you give to someone in your situation? Even though it is not an easy time, just know that these meetings are held as a means of communicating with you to see where things went wrong. They're not trying to punish you, they want to see you succeed. 3rd Year Medical Imaging student Why was your work investigated for academic misconduct? It was an open book exam and I was informed that my work was similar to another student What was the process like? A bit daunting but I had the massive help of an advisor from the Guild who was extremely helpful. They were so supportive from the start to the finish, and I would have struggled a lot more without them. What advice would you give to someone in your situation? I would say always check about referencing and understand the ruling of open book and what is allowed and isn’t. If you ever happen to be in this situation then contact the Guild. Their advisors are so experienced and will explain everything to you right from the start. They can even attend the meeting with you. 3rd Year Archaeology student Why was your work investigated for academic misconduct? Collusion and plagiarism What was the process like? Confusing at first but at the meeting they were understanding What advice would you give to someone in your situation? Don't share your work with other students finished or unfinished under any circumstances! MSc in Business Analytics student Why was your work investigated for academic misconduct? Plagiarism What was the process like? In the meeting, it will be pointed out which part of your report was suspected of poor academic practice and you'll get a chance to explain your side of the story. After the meeting, the team would then inform of the outcome and assign tariffs as mentioned in the website. What advice would you give to someone in your situation?
This situation can be a bit nerve-wracking especially if you're an international student as this could cause an issue with your visa deadline. My advice would be to immediately contact the Guild who would support you with their expertise throughout the process and make the process less stressful.