Thursday, 14 January 2010

Plagiarism: The art of referencing...

How do I reference a paper? If I reference a paper can I copy from it? "But that can't be plagiarised, I referenced the paper!!!"

These are all common questions, and misconceptions, about referencing.

Referencing a paper

You have read a paper, and wish to report the facts and findings in your report/essay etc. in need to reference the source. So, how do you reference?

There are many different styles of referencing. If you read papers from different journals and you will see a whole range of styles. On the degrees in the School of Biomedical Sciences we tend (unless you have been told otherwise) to use what is called the 'Harvard' style (please note: this may not be true in CMB3000 and CMB3001, please check your module study guides).

No matter what style is being used the approach and idea of referencing is the same. You write some facts/information in your work and you state from where that information came. For example, you have read a paper on an amine oxidase found in adipocytes and in your essay you wish to talk about the protein. So, the full reference of the paper you read would be:

Morris NJ, Ducret A, Aebersold R, Ross SA, Keller SR, and Lienhard GE. (1997) Membrane amine oxidase cloning and identification as a major protein in the adipocyte plasma membrane. J Biol Chem. 272(14):9388-92. - link

In your essay you state that:

The first membrane bound amine oxidase was discovered in 1997, and was found in adipocyte plasma membranes (Morris et al., 1997).

And in your bibliography (references at the end of your work) you would write:

Morris NJ, Ducret A, Aebersold R, Ross SA, Keller SR, and Lienhard GE. (1997) Membrane amine oxidase cloning and identification as a major protein in the adipocyte plasma membrane. J Biol Chem. 272(14):9388-92

(By the way, please note that et al. should normally be in italics or underlined. Also, please note the full-stop after the al. in et al.)

Now, depending on the referencing style you are using there may be some rules governing how many authors you put in the reference in the text and the bibliography, so that will have to be checked.

And finally, with 'names referencing' there can be the problem of the same name publishing two papers in the same year. So, for example, imagine there were these two papers.

Morris NJ (2010) Everything you wanted to know about plagiarism. J. Plag. 123(10):992-999

and

Morris NJ (2010) How to plagiarise and not get caught. J. Cheats 1(13):10-15

The way you would cite them in your text would be as (Morris, 2010a) and (Morris, 2010b), and in the bibliography as:

Morris NJ (2010a) Everything you wanted to know about plagiarism. J. Plag. 123(10):992-999
Morris NJ (2010b) How to plagiarise and not get caught. J. Cheats 1(13):10-15

If on the other-hand if you were using a numbering style of referencing it may look like this:

The first membrane bound amine oxidase was discovered in 1997, and was found in adipocyte plasma membranes (12).

And in your bibliography (references at the end of your work) you would write:

  1. Morris NJ, Ducret A, Aebersold R, Ross SA, Keller SR, and Lienhard GE. (1997) Membrane amine oxidase cloning and identification as a major protein in the adipocyte plasma membrane. J Biol Chem. 272(14):9388-92

For more details have a look at:

http://www.ncl.ac.uk/students/wdc/learning/conduct/references/
http://www.ncl.ac.uk/students/wdc/learning/conduct/citations/

If I reference a paper can I copy from it?

No. Referencing does not mean you can copy the text from a paper. All referencing does is state from where you got the data, idea, or hypothesis, so that other scientists can check the facts, look up the method etc. Thinking of putting a reference in your text as a link on a webpage, it allows the reader to find additional information.

Referencing does 'protect' against ideas plagiarism because by referencing the source you are stating who originally had the idea and where it was published.

"But that can't be plagiarised, I referenced the paper!!!"

This is a possibly the most comment I receive from students when discussing plagiarised work. Just because you reference a paper does not mean you can copy from it.

If you have any questions about plagiarism and/or referencing please feel free to email me: n.j.morris@ncl.ac.uk.