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References, citations and avoiding plagiarism

An introduction to the function and practice of referencing your sources

Independent research: Obscure sources

As you research independently, you may come across types of information and sources that you might not have seen before, or find difficult to identify. This can be particularly true when you find something online, as the type of source it is might not always be obvious. 

For example, can you tell the difference between an official Government publication and a House of Commons paper? 

Would you know how to reference a dataset or a Tweet? 

It is also more likely to be the case in certain disciplines:

  • if you study Psychology, it will be useful to know how to recognise and reference a Psychological Test;
  • Education students might need to know how to reference an Ofsted report;
  • Law students a UK House of Commons Bill.  

Whatever the source, in order to include the correct information in your final reference, it is important to identify the type of source you have found.  You will soon become familiar with the more conventional sources in your subject, but it is worth being aware that different types will have, sometimes subtly, different forms. 

You can make sure you have got this correct by checking back against the guide to your referencing style, if you are ever in doubt.