Referencing sources and avoiding plagiarism

When you do research for an essay or report, you will, of course, refer to others’ works.

  • If you use any of the ideas or words from the source, you must tell your reader clearly where you got that information.  You cannot simply write information that is not your own and claim it to be your own.
  • And if you do not acknowledge the source, then by default you “claim it to be your own.”
  • You certainly do not want to be accused of “plagiarism,” so let your reader know whose ideas you are using.

However, writing in your own words, with your own ideas is a much better situation.

When writing a report,  you must provide references in two locations:

  • In the main body of the report
  • In the bibliography

What you are allowed to do

Direct quotation.  You are allowed to copy and use someone’s exact words, but you must provide that information as a direct quotation.

  • Use double quotation marks. 
  • Provide the reference (a)  in parentheses after the quotation or (b) use a footnote number of the reference depending on the style you are writing with.

Your own words.  You can also use your own words to summarize what you have read from another author.

  • This is not your own idea, so you must still provide the appropriate reference. 
  • But because it’s your own words – not copied from your source word-for-word – you  don’t have to use the double quotation marks. 
  • You must, however, reference the author.

Plagiarism is a serious error

Paraphrase.  What does it mean to paraphrase?

  • You can paraphrase what someone writes – so that you are using only the author’s ideas – not the author’s own words. 
  • Learning how to paraphrase is a very good idea and a very good skill.  

Paraphrase.  The word means to rewrite in your own words.  To restate with your own words.  Not copying word-for-word, but relaying the main idea using your own words.

  • Don’t be tempted to try to use someone else’s work or someone else’s words and hope that you will “get away with” the deed. 
  • On the Internet today, it is very easy to check for plagiarism. 
  • You don’t want to be accused of or found guilty of plagiarism. 
  • So, avoid that idea entirely.

Honesty is the best policy.

Write your own words - your own ideas.  However, if you are writing a report, don’t just write a compilation of other’s words.

  • Actually think about your topic.
  • Provide your own point of view. 

That makes the report a valuable one – and shows that you are a valuable writer!  If your reader wanted to read only what someone else might write, he or she would consult other writers. 

The reader of your report will want to read what YOU think – and that is why you are writing the report – to show what YOU think about your topic.

So, tell me what YOU think – not what everyone else thinks!

Referencing styles.  Depending on the reason you’re writing your report, and depending on for whom, you may have to use a particular reference style.  Common reference styles are listed below with appropriate links where you can find more information.

MLA format (Modern Language Association) -

Chicago Style -

APA (American Psychological Association) -

The bibliography.  If you are using a source for your report, remember to include the source in your bibliography. If you would like to include text from another source, make sure that the text is in quotes and the source of the quote is clearly noted.

Use your own words.  When writing a report, use your own words.  Use others’ information or references to support your point of view.  You can provide information from various sources in the main body of the report.  

In the main body.  The main body of your report is where you will either provide a direct quotation – properly acknowledged – or a paraphrase of another writer’s idea, also properly acknowledged.   You must reference each instance where you use someone else’s ideas or words.

At the end of the report.  Then, at the end of the report, you will write the Bibliography or the Works Cited.

  • The Bibliography should include all the references you’ve searched. 
  • The Works Cited can be a shortened version, listing only those works that you have actually cited in the main body of your report.

In that reference page,  list the references in alphabetical order by last name of the author.  Use the standard format for each entry.  There are several references that you can check where you will find the accepted and standard bibliographical reference format:

In the main body of the report.  Learn how to cite your sources in the main body of your report.  If you use MLA format, you won’t have to use footnotes.  The information will be placed right after the quotation in parentheses.  You don’t need the footnotes for MLA format.

If you use APA style, you can add footnotes.  Each footnote in the main body of the report will have a number, and the footnotes will appear at the bottom of the same page where you have the footnote listed.  Again, a specific format is required for your footnotes.

At the end of the report - Bibliography.  All your reports will include a bibliography or Works Cited page at the end.  The bibliography is required, whether you use the MLA format – and provide the references in parentheses after each one – or you use the APA format and footnotes.   Learn how to format each entry in the bibliography of your report.

To avoid plagiarism follow the steps below:

  • If you are including a quote from another work, place quotes around the text, and include the source in brackets immediately following the quote.
  • List all of your sources in your bibliography. List not only those sources that you used for quotations, but you should also include those sources that you used while preparing your report.
  • After you have written your text based on information from another source, check to see that you are not using the same words and same phrases in your report.  Proofread carefully.

For further information, along with some examples, check these sites:

Link - More information on Writing A Business Report.