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Referencing and plagiarism

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The OU Harvard guide to citing references (requires login) provides practical advice and examples to help you create references in the Open University (OU) Harvard style. The PDF version of the OU Harvard guide does not require login.

Referencing styles used at the OU

Always refer to your module materials to check which referencing style to use for your assignment, or ask your tutor for advice if you're not sure. Listed below are some guides which show you how to use referencing styles common in OU modules.

Additional guidance is available for disabled students on referencing accessible formats.

The Bibliographic Management page will tell you about tools you can use to track and organise your references.

Why is referencing important?

As a student, you are required to reference your sources using an appropriate referencing style. When you reference your sources, a reader of your work can find those sources and see what you have based your argument on. Referencing correctly involves using appropriate in-text citations, and including a complete reference list.

Identifying your sources helps you avoid plagiarism by attributing the contribution of others to your work.

“Plagiarism is using the work of other people to gain some form of benefit, without formally acknowledging that the work came from someone else.”  (The Open University , n.d.)

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.

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