Cite it right – and avoid unintentional plagiarism!

standing on the shoulders of giantsYou may think that advice on avoiding plagiarism doesn’t apply to you, because you’re not planning to buy an essay from the internet, or copy someone else’s work. But you may not be aware that it is possible to plagiarise unintentionally if:

  • you’re not aware of the differences between referencing at university and any referencing you may have been used to doing previously;
  • you haven’t been meticulous about keeping records of your reading;
  • you don’t know how to use references in your academic writing to support your discussion and critical analysis.

It’s important to take referencing seriously and not just guess, or assume that you know how to do it. The consequences can be serious with marks deducted and even lead to accusations of academic misconduct.

However, it can be confusing when you have advice and guidance on referencing from so many different sources. It’s tempting to just Google it! But that’s far less likely to give you the right answer than guidance produced at your own university. You should always check your own Course Handbook first for advice (it will be on Blackboard).

Our Citing References guide combines previous guidance from the Library and Study Advice to cover the why, what, when and how of referencing in a single place. Study Advice video tutorials on referencing are embedded in the guide, which includes:

You could also look at The Academic Integrity Toolkit, which shows how understanding referencing is an important part of studying at university and ‘becoming a graduate’ generally. The Toolkit includes tips, explanations and exercises (with answers) to help you develop your understanding of essential skills including:

The guidance below focuses on three important points to help you avoid unintentional plagiarism.

References in a footnote1.Know when to include a reference

Whenever you include an idea that you have gained from your reading in an assignment, you must ensure that you reference it correctly, both in the text and at the end in your reference list or bibliography. If you use the original words you have found in your reading, you must mark them with quotation marks, even if you only use part of the sentence. It is not enough to give the details of where the words came from; they must be marked out, or it will look as if you are claiming them as your own words. If you are writing the idea up in your own words, don’t be tempted to just change a few words. If you use quotations inadequately or paraphrase badly it will certainly be viewed as poor academic practice and may subject your work to penalties. It may even be seen as plagiarism.

Watch this brief video tutorial on using paraphrases.

See Library and Study Advice guidance on using quotes and paraphrases.

2. Develop good note-taking practices

Ever looked at your notes and thought, “I wonder where that came from?” or “I wonder if those are my words or copied from the text?” It’s frustrating when you can’t be sure – but it could cause you problems if you use the material without being able to reference it accurately. To avoid this, make it a habit to have good record-keeping practices. Always note the details of each text you use (author, title, year) when you start writing notes on your reading; include page numbers as you go along, even if you are not copying text directly but writing the ideas in your own words; have a system of markers to indicate if something is a quote (put in quotation marks), an idea explained in your own words, or a query or new idea stemming from what you’re read (perhaps an asterisk *). The Study Advisers have guidance on effective note-taking and a brief video tutorial on Critical note-taking with more suggestions.

If you’re using an e-book, you may be able to make notes electronically as you’re reading the text. See the section in our LibGuide on Studying with e-books for more information. If you have an online reading list, you can also make brief notes on this – our LibGuide page on What else can I do with my list? has details.

You might also consider using reference management software to keep details of your reading including all the bibliographic information. EndNote Web is a basic tool that works with Word to add citations to your written work and constructs a bibliography at the end. It is free too.  If you have a large number of references to manage you might choose the more sophisticated Desktop EndNote. For advice on which version to use, and for self-paced training guides on EndNote, or book a place on a training workshop, see the Library’s web pages.

3. Know what to do if you can’t find all the details of a reference

bibliographic details screencast screencapIf you have a quote but don’t know where it came from, try typing it into Google. You may find it’s better to use a short phrase rather than the whole quote; try to find a grouping of words that is less common. If you have some details of the text, you could try looking at your reading list or searching the Library catalogue. You can also look back through your Library account to see the titles of books you’ve borrowed. If you have the author and title of a journal article or even just the title of the journal and a date it may be possible to find the complete reference in Summon or one of the Library’s databases. What you must never do is invent details, or include things in your assignment if you cannot be sure about the source. This may lead to accusations of academic misconduct.

For more help watch this brief video tutorial on how to find bibliographic details.

Need more help?

If you’re still confused, or you have a specific question about referencing that isn’t answered in our guide, you can always contact your Liaison Librarian or the Study Advice team to discuss this in person. Just remember to do it in plenty of time – the day your assignment is due to be submitted is not ideal!

This is one of a series of tips to help you save time and effort finding or using information.

This tip was written by Helen Hathaway, Library Head of Academic Liaison and Support and Dr Kim Shahabudin, Study Adviser.

MyiLibrary ebook access problems

We are currently experiencing problems with access to MyiLibrary ebooks. The providers are aware and hope to have the problems resolved shortly. We apologise for the inconvenience this may cause and will update you as soon as possible.


Amy Rippon, Trainee Liaison Librarian

Library Refurbishment: works over next two weeks

We’re approaching the halfway point for early works now, continuing to build towards the demolition of the glass-fronted staircase. Work over the next two weeks will largely focus on finishing off the internal hoardings and continued activity around the glass-fronted staircase.

Main works proposed up to Sunday 18 September 2016:

  • Internal hoardings on the Ground, 1st, 3rd and 5th Floors should be completed, with doors added for construction workers to access work areas. It goes without saying that these areas are strictly off limits to Library users, so please keep out!
  • Work around the glass-fronted staircase will continue from the Basement all the way up to the 2nd Floor.
  • The 2nd Floor is expected to reopen for full use during the week beginning Monday 12 September (date subject to change), including the group study area.
  • Once the 2nd Floor has reopened the 4th Floor will undergo the same programme of works that were recently carried out on the 2nd floor. As a result the 4th Floor will be closed temporarily. If you were looking to use the group study area on the 4th Floor, please use the space available on the 2nd Floor instead.
  • Outside, hoarding will be set up around the bike shed area so that ground works can begin.

Additional details can be found in a floor-by-floor plan. In addition, our contractors ISG have prepared a helpful news bulletin tracking progress over the past month.

As usual, the noisiest sections of work will be carried out up until 10:00am.

Please contact Robin Hunter if you have any queries. Additional information about the Library refurbishment can be found at

Library Refurbishment: works up to 14 August

Image of refurbished University Library surrounded by seating, trees and hedges.

Impression of the refurbished University Library. 

Early works for the Library refurbishment will continue to take place over the next few weeks. The majority of activity will focus on preparing the southern (glassed in) staircase for demolition and continuing the erection of external hoardings. Access to Library services, support and resources will be maintained throughout.

Notable works leading up to Sunday 14 August are:

Week 1 (from 1 August): Work began around Cafe Libro to ensure that the café can continue to operate during the works. A new store was created and hoardings were installed to separate the café from the works, ensuring that you can still get your coffee! The vending machines have also been relocated. Work around the southern (glassed in) staircase continued across most floors in preparation for its demolition– this involved hoardings being set up around the stair core and a small amount of furniture being moved. The 20 bike hoops within the Library undercroft have been relocated to the URS undercroft within the gravel area next to existing bike hoops.

Week 2 (from 8 August): Preparations for the demolition of the southern staircase will continue across all floors– hoardings will be erected and a small amount of furniture will be moved out. Elsewhere, former staff offices on the Ground floor will be stripped out, and temporary power and water supplies will be added to the contractor’s temporary accommodation.

External hoarding will continue to be put up around the Library. This will surround the bike racks in the undercroft- so they have been temporarily relocated next to the bike hoops by the URS Building for the time being. The main bike racks to the front of the building will stay in operation until next year.

A floor-by-floor view is available for additional information.

For more information about the project, see our Library Refurbishment Project webpage or for day-to-day information, contact the Library’s Facilities Manager, Robin Hunter.


Amy Rippon, Trainee Liaison Librarian

Ground Floor Group Study Pods unavailable

From Monday 8 August the Group Study Pods on the Ground Floor of the Library will become permanently unavailable as part of the Library Refurbishment Project. Alternative Group Study Pods can currently be found on the 4th Floor and the Group Study Rooms on the Ground Floor remain available. The microfilm and microfiche readers on the Ground Floor of the Library will also be unavailable.

You may have spotted that areas of the Library are cordoned off to allow for building works to commence. These are clearly marked by signage, hazard tape or barriers. Please do not enter any restricted areas as these are now dangerous construction zones. If you need any assistance please speak to staff on the Information Desks.

For more information about the project, see our Library Refurbishment Project webpage or contact the Library’s Facilities Manager, Robin Hunter.


Amy Rippon, Trainee Liaison Librarian for Robin Hunter, Facilities Manager.