Thursday 14 January 2010

Plagiarism: The art of referencing...

How do I reference a paper? If I reference a paper, can I copy 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., but you need to reference the source. So, how do you reference?

There are many different styles of referencing. If you read papers from different journals, you will see a whole range of styles, such as the Harvard and Vancouver styles, to name but two.

No matter what style is used, the approach and idea of referencing are the same. You write some facts/information in your work and state where that information came from. 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).

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 include in the references in the text and the bibliography, so that will have to be checked.

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 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).

In your bibliography (references at the end of your work), you would write:

12. 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

If I reference a paper, can I copy it?

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

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

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

This is the most common comment I receive from students when discussing plagiarised work.

Just because you reference a paper does not mean you can copy from it.

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