Just like studying on campus, an online degree requires you to produce written assignments too. For each of these, you will need to support your thinking with external sources.
An essential aspect of this is clearly acknowledging where you have used the ideas and/or text of others, which is known as ‘referencing’.
Getting used to referencing can seem challenging at first, but once you understand how it works, it should start to feel like a natural part of academic writing.
Why is it so important?
Published writing by others are their intellectual property, so where you draw on them or quote them directly, you must make this known by referencing.
Referencing not only gives recognition to the academic whose work you are using, it also shows that you have carried out your own specific research to back up your argument. This gives credibility to the conclusions you reach.
Failing to properly reference your work can mean that you are accused of plagiarism, which can incur academic penalties.
Plagiarism involves submitting work for formal assessment that includes the intellectual property or work of others, but without a reference to make it clear that you have done so.
How can I make sure I am referencing correctly?
To reference correctly, the first thing to be aware of is the referencing system that your school uses.
Although styles vary, each referencing system requires you to include the details of your external source (usually the author’s surname and the year of publication), in both the main body of your assignment, and in a bibliography and/or reference list at the end.
Here’s an example of the Harvard system, which is widely used at the University of Birmingham:
As Wright (2006, p16) suggests, many business leaders feel that…
Wright, J. (2006) The Business Leaders of Tomorrow. London: Random House.
Remember, if you are currently in the midst of an academic assignment, be sure to avoid the following:
- Copying the work of others
- Copying your own work from previous assignments
- ‘Making up’ information or statistics
- Getting other people to write your work for you
- Buying essays from others
To help make referencing easier, there are several software packages and online tools you can use to automate the process.
All University of Birmingham students, whether campus-based or online, can access Turnitin software to make sure they have provided the correct citations in their assignments.
If you have any questions on referencing, please visit our Academic Skills Gateway for advice on learning techniques to aid your studies. We also offer an interactive plagiarism course to help you learn best practice.
Or, if you have not yet enrolled and would like more information about our 100% online postgraduate degrees, please fill out our form and a member of Admissions will contact you.