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Referencing and plagiarism

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The OU Harvard guide to citing references (requires login) (PDF version of OU Harvard guide) provides practical advice and examples to help you create references for information sources using the Open University (OU) Harvard style.

As a student of the Open University, you are required to reference your sources using an appropriate referencing style. This is so the reader can follow up items you have referenced and see what you have based your argument on. In most cases, you will be asked to reference using the OU Harvard referencing style. However, you should always refer to your module materials or ask your tutor for advice.

Taking an organised approach with your references, by recording details of your sources, will help you to:

  • keep track of the references you’ve gathered from different sources
  • ensure that you have all the information you need to provide full and accurate references
  • save time in locating reference details
  • track down the original resource, if necessary

People develop their own methods for managing references, and you need to find a method that works for you (e.g. using referencing software, saving source details to a word processing file, using social bookmarking tools etc.). You will find more information about organising your references on the Bibliographic Management page.

Referencing correctly involves paraphrasing, using appropriate in-text citations, and including a complete reference list. Doing this will help you to avoid plagiarism. If you do not know who has written or published the content, or if it is current, then you should first consider if it is suitable for academic work.

Referencing styles used at the OU


“Plagiarism is using the work of other people to gain some form of benefit, without formally acknowledging that the work came from someone else.”

Developing your skills

The Being digital website provides a number of resources to help you to avoid plagiarism, and shows you how to include in-text citations and reference lists within your written work.

My tutor said I was showing signs of serious plagiarism and I should contact Library Services for help. I was really worried because I thought plagiarism was some kind of nasty skin condition.

I had hoped they might prescribe me a cream, but it turned out I needed to develop my skills in referencing the material I use in my assignments.

I was referred to the guidance on the Library website which told me how to use the correct style when referencing my sources of information. I also found out about a really useful online training session.

In it I found out that plagiarism is when you pass off someone else's work as your own without acknowledging the source. Although I didn’t set out to cheat, I could have got into trouble if I’d carried on using other people’s material without making it clear where it came from.

I now know the right way to cite references and how to avoid plagiarism in future. And I’ve discovered some really useful online help and expert advice through the Library helpdesk.

Best of all, my tutor was amazed at what she called my ‘metamorphosis’ – although that sounds quite nasty too…..

Summary: Plagiarism is passing off someone else’s work as your own without acknowledging the source. The OU Library can help you learn the referencing skills you need to avoid plagiarism.

To learn more about avoiding plagiarism go to Referencing and plagiarism

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