Institute for Academic Development
Institute for Academic Development

Referencing and avoiding plagiarism

Guidance and tips on how to avoid plagiarism by citing and referencing.


At university you are expected to read and research, and then to use ideas, information, data and a range of other sources in your own academic work and assignments. However, it is important to make absolutely clear where each idea or piece of information comes from by referencing it (giving your sources) in your own work.

What is plagiarism?

In very simple terms, plagiarism is creating the impression that something is your own idea or your own work when it is not.  Plagiarism is a form of academic misconduct.  It can be deliberate or unintentional so it is important to learn how to reference properly.

What is plagiarism (PDF) What is plagiarism? (Word rtf)

Submitting work you have previously turned in for credit is known as self-plagiarism, and is viewed in the same way as using another author’s work without proper reference.

You should also read the University of Edinburgh’s official guidance on plagiarism:

Referencing systems

Different academic subjects use different referencing systems so make sure you know which one is used for each course you take. You should be able to find this information in your course handbook but if you are unsure, ask someone who teaches you.

A useful guide to several of the main referencing systems can be found online at:

Cite them right

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If there is anything you are not clear about in relation to how you use and cite sources in your own work, it is very important that ask your Personal Tutor or one of the academics who teaches you.

Find out more

To find out more about how you can develop your academic reading and writing skills, look at our Study Hub resources to help you develop effective strategies for learning and studying.