It is well known that a significant number of UK students cite assignments incorrectly. An article in The Sunday Times (Jones, 2006) claimed that up to 10% of all degree-level submissions contained some form of plagiarism – the act of copying or plagiarizing someone else’s work. That’s a lot of cheaters, but here’s the thing – most of the 10% are doing it unintentionally. What happens is they don’t cite their sources properly, and even though that’s a harsh result, it’s considered plagiarism.
There are various ways to cite your research sources, but the main method in the UK, and the one used by 95% of universities, is the Harvard system. This is a style that places emphasis on the author of the information and the date it was made public. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple – more information about the source is needed, and the order in which it appears matters. For ideas, consider the following examples of the most popular reference types:
Formula: Author Surname, Initial. (year) book titleCityPublished: The Publisher, p. p.
Example: JK Rowling. (2006) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, London: Bloomsbury Publishing, p. 24-25.
Formula: Site(Year) page title, [online] Available at: URL [Accessed: date].
Example: BBC News (2009) Apple iPhone beats BlackBerry as smartphone sales soar, [online] Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk [Accessed: 12 Oct 2010].
Formula: Author Surname, Initial. (year) article title, newspaper namedate and month of publication, p. p.
Example: J. Smith (2008) Markets crash as inflation risesThe Guardian, June 7, p. 45.
More importantly, they must be in alphabetical order by author, and they also need to be italicized in some places. It’s not easy. However, it is necessary – Oxford Brookes University has its own team of 14 Academic Misconduct Officers who investigate cases of plagiarism resulting from improper or no citations (Jones, 2006), while programs like Copycatch and Turn It In The automated software will also sniff out references for missing information in seconds. If caught, the student could face failure or expulsion.
So what is the answer? Fortunately, for those of you who don’t have an extreme memory for dry formulas, there are sites that can prepare you an entire reference list in the correct style and format – all you need to provide are details that are easily found in the source itself. There are several feature-rich tools available on the Internet, including Neil’s Toolbox, Scotchbib, and CiteThisForMe. All of these follow the Harvard bibliography style, which will generate a properly formatted bibliography if you enter the relevant data.
All in all, don’t underestimate the importance of references – it may seem like an insignificant part at the end of an assignment, but without it a lot of your work could be worthless, don’t wait to discover this first hand.
JONES, S. (2006) On the prowl for copycats, The Sunday Times, June 2006