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Why Acknowledge Sources?

Learning usually involves drawing on the published insights of others

Why acknowledge sources? 
Learning usually involves drawing on the published insights of others, whether it is by reading a book, an article, or consulting a website. These sources can provide not only factual information, but also key concepts, ideas, and theories, which will advance your own understanding and help you to engage with a question or topic in a critical and informed way. In contrast to other forms for writing, such as newspaper articles or school essays, written academic work in Birkbeck programmes requires you to acknowledge the sources that you have used through referencing.


Referencing will help you to construct a clearer line of argument and to grasp more easily the relationship between materials assembled from different places. It will also help you to find items you have consulted previously. 


Acknowledging the sources of your work is also essential for the reader to understand your grasp of knowledge in the subject area, assess your original contribution, and thus provide effective feed-back on your work. Good referencing is therefore one of the criteria for evaluation. 

Most importantly, however, referencing protects you against unintentional plagiarism - the presentation of another person's thoughts or words as one's own - which may have serious consequences.


When do I reference sources?
If you quote the exact words of another author or source.

If you paraphrase or summarise a passage by another author. Paraphrasing means taking another's ideas and putting them into your own words, not just changing a few words. 


If you use an idea, theory or specialised information from the work of another author (such as statistics, theories, information about people, places and events) 


Which pieces of work must be referenced? 
Generally, course work handed in as part of the assessment process such as essays, handouts for presentations, and other written items should comply with the referencing guidelines. 


Exceptions to this rule will be specified by the course tutor/lecturer for non-traditional types of writing such as commentaries, review articles or short reports.


How should I use quotations? 
Generally, you should use direct quotations sparingly. They should not represent a large proportion of the overall text, but should be used as follows. 


To support your argument. The author's actual words are then part of the evidence for your argument.  


For definitions. Very often a particular author's definition is the standard one used by all writers on the subject. 


If the author has expressed something very, very well or exactly and paraphrasing it would be pointless. This should only be done with short sentences or even partial sentences 

If the author/source's wording is important, because it expresses a contentious, dubious or extreme viewpoint, which you intend to criticise.


How do I reference?

Referencing means that the sources you have used need to be acknowledged both in the body of the text and in the full reference list at the end of the text.

You cannot acknowledge a source if you have not noted the details, including the page numbers for direct quotes. Therefore, when taking notes, copying or saving sources on file make sure that you have noted these data.

You need to provide sufficient details for the identification of a source. These include normally the last name and initial of the author, the year of publication, the title, and the publisher. For journal articles you will also need to note the title of the journal, the volume and page numbers.

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