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Beginner's Guide to References

What is referencing?

When you do an assignment you will gather a large amount of information that informs your research. Such research may come from a wide range of sources, including books, articles, journals, websites, or other sources, such as television shows, radio broadcasts, podcasts, emails, lecture notes or films, to name just a few. Referencing is a way of acknowledging the sources when you have used them in your work.

How do I reference?

Whenever you quote, paraphrase (express the same message but in a different way), or draw on the theories, facts, figures and examples in other people's work, you must always acknowledge this by referencing.

Strategic management is about establishing "a profitable and sustainable position against forces that determine industry competetion" (Porter 1985, p. 1). This notion fits closely with the positioning school of strategic management (Mintzberg et al. 1998).

Whenever you reference, you must cite sources in two ways (a) in the main body of the text, (this is commonly referred to as in-text citation), and (b) in a reference list (and/or bibliography). In-text citations simply document the sources that you have used as you refer to them in the assignment. For example:

Mintzberg, H., Ahlstrand, B., and Lampel, J., 1998. Strategy safari: The complete guide through the wilds of strategic management. London: FT Prentice Hall. Porter, M.E., 1985. Competitive advantage: Creating and sustaining superior performance. New York: Free Press.

The reference list (and/or bibliography) should be placed at the end of the assignment. An example of a corresponding reference for the above in-text citations would read as follows:

It is important to note that the exact format of the in-text citation and the reference list will vary according to referencing style.

What is a referencing style?

There are six main referencing styles: AMA, APA, Chicago, Harvard, MLA and Vancouver. Each style specifies a precise format that must be used. In some cases, these styles not only refer to in-text citations and the reference list, but the entire formatting and language used in the document. When you do an assignment, your lecturer or tutor should tell you which one to use. If you are unsure then ask, since it is important to know which referencing style you should be using.

Why do I need to reference my work?

  • Poor referencing is the easiest way to lose marks: Universities and colleges allocate up to 10% of your final mark based on the accuracy and consistency of your referencing. Since the six main referencing styles - AMA, APA, Chicago, Harvard, MLA and Vancouver - all follow clear, strict formats, lecturers do not excuse poor referencing.

  • Good referencing can improve the quality of your work and boost the mark you receive: Referencing is a useful means of demonstrating to your marker the extent and quality of your research as well as showing how much time and effort has gone into your work. By showing the ability to place your ideas in the context of other people's research it can improve the standard of your work and provide evidence to support your argument.

  • Inadequate and/or inaccurate referencing could lead to accusations of plagiarism: Plagiarism is not just a fancy word for cheating and has serious consequences. Not everyone that plagiarises is trying to cheat. It can be an easy trap to fall into if you don't know the rules. At best, an accusation of plagiarism will result in a lengthy process where you will have to prove your innocence and have it permanently noted on your university record. On most occasions you will receive a very low mark for your work or fail the unit/subject outright. In extreme cases it could result in you being dismissed from the course entirely.

What counts as plagiarism?

Quite simply, you plagiarise when (a) using someone else's work and passing it off as your own, (b) using someone else's work without acknowledging the source, and (c) passing off an idea as your own when it is not. Paraphrasing (expressing the same message but in a different way) without referencing the appropriate sentence or paragraph is one of the most common mistakes that you can make. Even submitting parts of your own work where these may be useful in another assignment is considered plagiarism, so don't forget to quote or reference yourself where appropriate!