How to reference well and avoid plagiarism

With the new academic year around the corner, it’s about time you removed the cobwebs from your academic books and refreshed some of your study skills, especially referencing and avoiding plagiarism. 

Plagiarism is defined as an act of using someone else’s words and ideas without proper acknowledgement of your sources. In short, you pass off someone else’s work as your own which can have serious consequences. While few students attempt to be dishonest on purpose, it is easy to get caught up even if you do not mean to plagiarise. Remember that most higher education institutions use specialist software, such as Turnitin™ to highlight potentially problematic sections of submitted written work. To avoid being accused of plagiarism try these simple strategies:

  • Always use quotes and provide a direct reference to your source
  • Summarise ideas and concepts using your own words
  • Paraphrase someone else’s ideas and theories (provide a reference!) and offer an additional explanation in your own words 
  • Develop good habits when taking notes – always write down the sources of ideas and concepts so that you can easily identify them when writing an essay. 
  • For more information, watch these videos:

                    Avoid plagiarism in 5 easy steps


There are different styles of referencing so check your school’s preference and follow its guidelines. The most commons referencing styles are:

  • Harvard
  • Vancouver
  • Chicago

Referencing well will help you properly acknowledge someone else’s work, indicate your source materials, and demonstrate how you have engaged with the research in your discipline. We have summarised best practice tip regardless of what style you are using: 

  • Always follow your school’s preferred referencing style. Your institution’s library,  student support and your tutor should be able to help. 
  • You must reference when you paraphrase, summarise and quote directly in the text, even if it is just one word. See examples of how to do it in Harvard style here
  • If possible, start making a list of your sources early on, whether it is books, journal articles, online resources, podcasts, films. Any work, ideas and words that are not your own must be acknowledged correctly. 
  • Make your life easy by using e- referencing tools, e.g. Cite This for Me. A word of caution: the online systems are not always 100% right so make sure you proofread your work and double-check your sources. 
  • Referencing three tips


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