Referencing your sources

Having started my reading at Uni now, I would have to say that I’ve become much more accustomed to reading articles which properly acknowledge referenced sources than I’ve enjoyed previously. The ability to follow statements through to an originating source makes other content, which makes no acknowledgement of its references feel inaccurate, plagiarized, or that it is simply some random opinion that somebody had at 3AM.  Therefore linking your own content to other originating ideas acts as a great aid in the knowledge/learning process.

So much of the collaborative knowledge management that we do as bloggers requires us to build atop facts, statistics, ideas, and opinions of others in the community.  This is quite apparent when we consider the 5 key knowledge management activities listed by HP’s Stan Garfield in a recent interview [1]:

  1. Share what you have learned, created, and proved to allow others to learn from your experience and reuse what you have already done. This provides a supply of knowledge.
  2. Innovate to be more creative, inventive, and imaginative, resulting in breakthroughs from new and improved ways of thinking and doing. This creates new knowledge.
  3. Reuse what others have already learned, created, and proved to save time and money, minimize risk, and be more effective. This creates demand for knowledge.
  4. Collaborate with others to yield better results, benefit from diverse perspectives, and tap the experience and expertise of many other people. This allows knowledge to flow at the time of need, creates communities, and takes advantage of the strength in numbers.
  5. Learn by doing, from others, and from existing information so you can perform better, solve and avoid problems, and make good decisions. Learning is the origin of knowledge.

When we overlay these 5 collaborative knowledge management activities with the definition of plagiarism as defined by the University of Indiana [2] we can surely see that there is a high probability that much of what we write will have its origins in other sources and, as such, may well be a target for plagiarised content if not properly attributed:

Plagiarism is defined as presenting someone else’s work, including the work of other students, as one’s own. Any ideas or materials taken from another source for either written or oral use must be fully acknowledged, unless the information is common knowledge. What is considered “common knowledge” may differ from course to course.

a. A student must not adopt or reproduce ideas, opinions, theories, formulas, graphics, or pictures of another person without acknowledgment.

b. A student must give credit to the originality of others and acknowledge an indebtedness whenever:

1. Directly quoting another person’s actual words, whether oral or written;

2. Using another person’s ideas, opinions, or theories;

3. Paraphrasing the words, ideas, opinions, or theories of others, whether oral or written;

4. Borrowing facts, statistics, or illustrative material; or

5. Offering materials assembled or collected by others in the form of projects or collections without acknowledgment.

At Adelaide University referencing is enforced to ensure that sources are always properly acknowledged in the things that we write.  Having such strict guidelines around referencing is an effective defence against plagiarism because it requires the writer to be constantly vigilant when writing whereas an ad-hoc approach to citing sources often gives way to tardiness. 

One of the most common forms of referencing, and the one that we use at Adelaide University, is the Harvard author-date system [3].  Using this form of referencing sees references embedded within parenthesis within the text in the form of lookups against a list of citations which appear at the bottom of the page.  This method is fully explained in Wikipedia’s own style guide on citing sources [4].


~ by D on February 6, 2008.

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