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References, citations and avoiding plagiarism - old

An introduction to the function and practice of referencing your sources

Organising your research: How to avoid plagiarism

We all work in different ways, and how we approach research and writing is no exception. However, there are some basic principles in this process that might help you to avoid losing track of your sources, or inadvertently plagiarise.

In the research phase:

  • Notes: When you take notes from sources, make it clear when you are copying verbatim and when you are putting things in your own words.  Always keep a record of where you read the information.

When you refer to a source in your own work, you can either:

  • Paraphrase: Rewrite a sentence, paragraph or idea in your own words.  This can help to demonstrate that you have understood the argument and the academic context.
  • Quote: Use the exact words of the author, in quotation marks. 

Whenever you quote, or paraphrase, another person or source you should: 

  • Cite/reference: Cite all sources correctly according to the appropriate system.

Organising your research: What should you record?

In order to cite sources correctly, you will need to record the following information, as a minimum, from each source:

  • Who created the item? (author, artist)
  • What is it called? (the title)
  • When was it created?
  • If part of a larger work?  What is that called?
  • Where is it published/disseminated?
    • By whom?
  • Page numbers of any quotations

An understanding of what is required in a reference for each type of source is important.  You can check this information on the 'How to reference' page for your citation style (Harvard/Vancouver)


UCL uses Turnitin.

Turnitin is a plagiarism detection tool which checks students' work against a large database of sources such as journal articles, websites and other students’ work.

It provides a 'similarity index score' expressed as a percentage, which you can use as a guide for how much of your own text matches other sources.  You can check your work in a test version via the Plagiarism and academic writing for students Moodle course.